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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: My perspective on this is: No.
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      Mar 7 2012: May you elaborate? Why do you say no?
      There're decades of AI and philosophical research that question the strong-ness and weakness of AI. At this point in time, the two camps are thriving, and we have no definitive answer. I would like to know other opinions to try and tease out this subject.

      "The Mind's I" compiled by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett contains a multitude of short stories and essays which are representative of the problem involved with determining the strength of AI. Both sides have very convincing arguments.

      I am very much interested in why you think no.
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        Mar 7 2012: Intelligence is determined by the context in which it functions. You subconsciously or consciously make decisions in fractions of seconds. You can even consider things in your determinations that you haven't even heard of an hour ago. If you find a technology that can adapt to every situation, find its own solutions and which is transferable to every possible context, then you found an earthly or extraterrestrial being. If you call your child a technology, then I would say yes, but you don't do that and that is why I said no.
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          Mar 7 2012: How would you define technology? If it's something artificial, synthesized by humans, then would you consider a synthetic being technology? What if we went ahead and tried simulating the human brain. We write programs to simulate individual neurons; we link them up to form chains of neurons. We need more space. We move to super computers. Silicon technology does not provide the bandwidth and computational power we need. We go to quantum computers. We still need more. We finally decide to make artificial organic processors. We manually manipulate DNA from the ground up. We build the cells from the ground up. We build the neurons from the ground up. Soon we have a completely artificially made being with a brain not unlike ours. Is it intelligent? Can it think? What if molecularly its exactly the same as a human being, but it's origin is not from some natural process, but from a completely synthetic one where each of its atoms been manipulated by a machine.
        • Mar 7 2012: you don't call a child a technology because its built on DNA through the process of evolution and not by human design. technology is what we build. from my point of view theres nothing stopping us from replicating a human brain with machinery accept a gap in knowledge. Theres no special thing that human intelligence possesses that a machine couldn't theoretically replicate. neurons aren't unexplainable. Theres a pattern. Its all much more complex than a robot ai designed to solve one certain puzzle, but i agree with howard yee that a strong ai is very possible.
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        Mar 7 2012: the latest I heard on this is that those who tried to replicate a human eye absolutely failed in doing so, for its complexity is far to great, alone this task will take a long time.. why not first put all of our energy into real problems and improve the life of billions through more transparency and supporting the right actions like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TABTqmFfe1U&feature=relmfu and http://s3.amazonaws.com/kony2012/kony-4.html before we move on to those luxury problems or even going to space, while our own planet needs support, but if that is what somebody is interested in and passionate about, then that is totally cool, for me its just something different ;)

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