TED Conversations

Charles Zhang

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Will the human mind always be superior to machines because machines are only tools of human minds.

Admittedly, machines are nearly the synonym of human civilization. General speaking, among human history, machine is a great invention which enhance human productivities, upgrade the efficiency, and then accelerates the development of human society all the time. Machines are the most loyal friend of human. They require nothing but electricity or oil. They never take the emotion when doing their work. They can be as huge as a dam. They can be as fast as a rocket. They can be as smart as a computer. It is machines make us human beings the most advanced residents here on the earth.
However, things changed, since people became aware that we are not the owner of machines, but just a part of machine’s world. In modern times, machines do not really serve men but men have to keep an even pace with the machines. Along the assemble lines, workers take the components and repeat the same procedure. There is nothing different between the workers and machines, except the beating hearts. Even the white-collars in the office building, they are just components of the companies, the big machines built to do the business. Meanwhile, with the leap of technology, the machines become more and more clever. The calculating ability of computers has already surpassed human beings decades ago. And the fast developing of artificial Intelligence seems to show us that there is no doubt that sooner or later the machines will be cleverer than us.
Going further about the issue, what is quite sad to us is that the more we develop and evaluate, the more we conscious about the reality that we ourselves are just a kind of machine. With the development of Gene technology, we can know the exact sequence of the genes which code us. The anatomy has already told us we consists of various organs that work together just like machines. So we cannot claim that we are superior to the machines, as they are just the extension of ourselves.

progress indicator
  • thumb
    Apr 27 2012: Machines are already superior to a human mind, by every measurable metric. You know what our great strength is? We can be wrong. Given the same data, a computer will always produce the same result. A human won't.... Why is that good? Because data is often corrupted, inaccurate, or incomplete, so when trying to extrapolate a theory from such data... often being "wrong" is just what you need.
    • thumb
      Apr 28 2012: Hi, David!
      See you again!.
      I agree with your point.
      To move further into this issue. I think just because the inaccuracy in human beings mind, we can be different from the computers. It is the inaccuracies from some exact results that lead to the imagination and innovation.
  • thumb
    Apr 26 2012: Does your theory apply to physical limits also? Can a bulldozer lift no more weight than its human designer?
    • thumb
      Apr 27 2012: I am sorry, Mr Long. Could you please explain your questions in detail? Which theory? I think even in physical area. We are the same situation with the machines. We have to obey the same laws with them.
      • thumb
        Apr 27 2012: A computer is a tool of human invention. It far exceeds human capacity for calculating speed. A backhoe far exceeds the digging ability of its inventors. Machines are, by definition, human inventions developed to expand and exceed man's capacity for work, both intellectual and physical. I think the answer to your question is no. Unless you are excluding information processing and physical labor, leaving only the metaphysical. If that is your question then I think the answer is yes, simply because machines cannot function in the metaphysical realm.
        • thumb
          Apr 28 2012: Thanks for your helpful replies. I agree with you. Actually, If you read more carefully about my introduction to the issue or the reply to Mr. Mulder. Maybe you can understand my conclusion better.
  • thumb
    Apr 30 2012: We believe that something created was made from something. That something then has a source of living. That source holds the key to the creation's potential being fulfilled. We don't believe anything that has a source can ever become greater than it's creator. A creation will always need the hand of the creator.
  • thumb
    Apr 27 2012: Hi Charles,
    From the discovery of the wheel, machines have been used to multiply (many times) the human senses and our bodily strength. Could machines ever have a 6th sense?

    What would you regard as being alive? Is it the fact that we breath and our heart beats?
    Living, to me, means that we practise what we love. Can a machine love anything or anybody?

    Could we ever create a 'living' machine with a soul??

    BTW we are not human beings because of our body but because of our spirit. The bodies of animals are made of the same material as ours. It is our spirit that makes the difference.

    I very much wonder where you base this on??
    "since people became aware that we are not the owner of machines, but just a part of machine’s world."
    Every single move we make is based on or caused by a love we have. Unless it is a twitch, there is a use and reason for it.

    "It is machines make us human beings the most advanced residents here on the earth."
    Sorry, but it is not machines that MAKE us anything. The fact is that WE make machines, which shows that we human beings are "the most advanced residents here on the earth."
    • thumb
      Apr 28 2012: Hi, Adriaan. Thanks for your questions. They provide me another stand-point to view this issue.
      I one hundred percent agree that it is LOVE makes us different. However, as a science major student, the more I learn, the more puzzled I would be. What is the base of emotion? How can this be just the same as a machine? i am just wondering, especially after I watched the movie Matrix for numerous times.
      As to the emotions of machines, I do not think they are non-sense. Maybe there are not the way as we can understand. I am sorry, but I have to point out that actually, the emotion of human beings can be affected by several hormones, (i can not say decided).
      I respect to the soul and spirit of human beings, because they are the last things left for a pure man.

      I really enjoy the exchange with you!
      All of the best.
      • thumb
        Apr 28 2012: Hi Charles, in case you want to do some more research, this maybe of interest to you. It is the Swedenborg Scientific Association. http://swedenborg-philosophy.org/

        Just one more thing about the brain. There are parts of our body that have been given meaning beyond the physical aspects or use. You know what I mean when I say "You're in my heart" while the heart is really 'just' a pump. I see the brain as just a receiver. It is our mind on the spiritual level that communicates with our total body, through the brain. Even to the point that when one part of the brain might malfunction, the mind finds another section that can do, or made to do, the same thing.

        Thoughts pop into our mind from 'somewhere'. I can say "I'm Canadian" but that entails such a tremendous amount of information, relationships, interactions and areas, it is mind boggling. The same happens when I mentioned that we're spiritual. That is not just a 'cloud' of something (or nothing :) or something physical that is too small to see.
        This book is about the spiritual world we live in.. enjoy

        Thanks for your kind words and good thoughts!!
        • thumb
          Apr 29 2012: Adriaan, Thanks for your share! The links you offer to me are really inspiring. However, I think I need a little more time to read them and then figure them out.
          And I want to say, it is the curiosity about the function and the mechanism of our soul that lead me to the major of science.

          All of the best!
      • thumb
        Apr 30 2012: Hi Charles, thanks so much for your response! Take your time, if you have the time :) Much of what is there to read does not have to be read from page 1. Look at the book's content and find something that either applies or attracts your interest.

        Just wanted to add a small comment. One could indeed see a machine as something that has a 'soul'.
        Everything is made for a purpose. If it has no purpose and takes up space we throw it out. You could say that even a stupid shovel, a knife or a lantern have a use, and see that use as their 'soul'

        I really appreciate the focus of your curiosity toward our soul!! This is no easy reading but, just in case, it is about our soul and mind. I very much hope you like it, and please keep in touch (a_braam@rogers.com).
  • thumb
    Apr 27 2012: Hi Charles.
    You have correctly identified the fact that we humans are also machines. The more we learn about our bodies the more obvious this fact becomes. We basically have a computer program controlling nano machines which operate our body. Not only that, but we are self repairing & self reproducing. You ask if the machines we make will ever be greater than ourselves. Are we anywhere near advanced enough that we could make a human being from raw materials? When do you think we will be able to achieve this; 100yrs; 1000yrs; never ?
    In light of the fact that we are millennia behind in the technology required to make a human, doesn't the old mutation + natural selection mantra seem a little lacking ?

    • thumb
      Apr 28 2012: Hello peter.
      I share most of your opinion on this issue, however, I think it is will not be to long to see the man made form raw materials, of course, soul and spirit are not included. You know, the artificial leg heart, kidney, blood and nearly every organ except the brain has been working in human beings' body. The new innovation of Google, Project glass, has made that day even closer.
      However, I just think this is a result of human evolution, Just like the the train or generator invented hundreds years ago. We will get used to them, sooner or later.
      • thumb
        Apr 28 2012: Hi Charles.
        I understand we can grow hearts etc in the lab, but we are manipulating already living tissue. We could not do it from a pile of dirt; especially if we had to make the dirt from nothing. It's a bit like thinking we can make a computer by cutting & pasting in Word. It's a bit more complex than that.

        • thumb
          Apr 28 2012: Peter, It is true as you mentioned. Anyway, I think technology is marching at an amazing speed. Nothing is imposible.
  • thumb
    Apr 27 2012: If by superior you mean "more masterful", then yes. Whatever we create or invent, we'll make sure we are always the master. However, if you mean "more intelligent (including emotional), more capable, wiser, etc", then I am not so sure. Our brains have an impressive but limited capacity. They evolve slowly over thousands of years. Our machines evolve much faster, over decades or even years. I see no reason why our machines won't surpass our capacity. When we make these machines collaborate, you can add a few magnitudes of capacity and capability.

    It is said the President of the United States has a red button to launch a nuclear attack. In the future he or she will have another red button: the "off" switch. It might be our last guarantee to retain mastery over our creations.
    • thumb
      Apr 27 2012: Mr. Mulder.
      Thanks for your reply!
      In my view, When talking about the masterfulness. Things get quite interesting. Actually, we of course can say we are the master of a car, or any machines. However, are there any intrinsic differences between the machines and our hands? My answer is no. So I think , actually, the machines are just the extension of human body. They are all the machines of our mind, our mind or our soul is the only master. To me, even if the day of Matrix comes, it just the result of human evolution. We do not need to be panic, of course, if the machines are smart enough, they cannot allow us to be panic.
      Sound quite scaring.

      Best Regards,