Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Human Intelligence Versus AI

AlphaGo Zero is a computer program that beat the program that beat the world Go champion. This program, when run on a computer system consuming as much power as a small town, differs from human intelligence in several ways. For example:

First, it performs logical operations with complete accuracy.

Second, it has access to an essentially limitless and entirely accurate memory.

Third, it operates, relative to human thought, at inconceivable speed, completing in a day many life-times of human logical thought.

That AlphaGo Zero has achieved a sort of celebrity is chiefly because it operates in the domain of one-on-one human intellectual conflict. Thus it is hailed as proof that artificial intelligence has now overtaken intelligence of the human variety and hence we are all doomed.

There is, however, nothing about this program that distinguishes it in any fundamental way from hundreds, and indeed thousands, of business computer systems that have been in operation for years. Even the learning by experience routine upon which AlphaGo Zero depends to achieve expertise is hardly new, and definitely nothing superhuman in mode of operation.

Thus, what AlphaGo Zero demonstrates is that computer systems deploying at vastly accelerated pace the analytical processes that underlie human thought, which is to say human thought when humans are thinking clearly, together with the data of experience recorded with complete accuracy and in quantities without limit, exceed the performance of humans in, as yet, narrowly defined domains, such as board games, airline booking systems, and Internet search.

Where humans still excel is in the confusing, heterogeneous and constantly shifting environment of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, and their broader implications — for example, political, economic, and climatic — in relation to complex human ambitions.

I will, therefore, worry more about humans becoming entirely redundant when a computer system can, at one moment, boil an egg while thinking about the solution to the Times Crossword, and keeping an eye on a grandchild romping with the dog in the back yard, only at the next moment to engage in a discussion of  the significance of artificial intelligence for the future evolutionary trajectory of mankind.

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