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Howard Yee

Software Engineer @ Rubenstein Technology Group,


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Can technology replace human intelligence?

This week in my Bioelectricity class we learned about extracellular fields. One facet of the study of extracellular field I find interesting is the determination of the field from a known source (AKA the Forward Problem) versus the determination of the source from a known field (AKA the Inverse Problem). Whereas the forward problem is simple and solutions may be obtained through calculations, the inverse problem poses a problem. The lack of uniqueness to the inverse problem means the solution requires interpretation, which may be subjective. We may also apply a mechanism for the interpretation; this mechanism is known as an AI. However, this facet of AI (document classification) is only the surface of the field.

Damon Horowitz gave a recent presentation at TEDxSoMa called “Why machines need people”. In it, he says that AI can never approach the intelligence of humans. He gives examples of AI systems, like classification and summarization. He explains that those systems are simply “pattern matching” without any intelligence behind them. If true, perhaps the subjective interpretation of inverse problems is welcomed over the dumb classification. Through experience, the interpreters may have more insight than one can impart on an algorithm.

However, what Damon failed to mention was that most of those AI systems built to do small tasks is known as weak AI. There is a whole other field of study for strong AI, whose methods of creating intelligence is much more than “pattern matching”. Proponents of strong AI believe that human intelligence can be replicated. Of course we are a long way off from seeing human-level AI. What makes human intelligence hard to replicate? Can it be simulated? What if we created a model of the human brain, would it be able to think?

Related Videos (not on Ted):
“Why Machines need People”


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  • Mar 7 2012: Intelligence, definitely. Lewis Smart asked about creativity. Is creativity a form of intelligence? Keep in mind some pretty stupid things have been created.

    I think AI can be creative. The programmers simply programs in error and randomness. You know those random playing card programs and random number generators?

    So yes, I believe human intelligence can be replaced by tech. As a concrete example, people used to be smart because they knew the definition of words. We have tech now to replace this intelligence: a dictionary.
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      Mar 7 2012: Chase,
      Your point about how randomness in programs is not truly random brings up a philosophical question. Are humans truly random? There are schools of thought that believe that our actions are very deterministic. In fact, some believe that everything in nature is truly deterministic. If that's the case, then creativity is simply an algorithm we've yet to solve. What you believe is random may actually be very concrete and determined, but it's just seemingly random (like a really good/complex pseudo-random generator)
      • Mar 7 2012: If you want real randomness, you could put together a piece of hardware with a radioisotope in it which spits out numbers on the basis of the number of atoms of it that decay at any given time. Lack of real randomness is not an obstacle to computer intelligence.
      • Mar 8 2012: There is no such thing as randomness, only patterns we do not understand.

        If the odds are complex enough, randomness is achieved. If you can't predict the pattern, then it is effectively random to you...

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