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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 9 2012: No. Human intelligence is half composed of that very viscous and intangible world we call emotion. Emotion is deeply linked to instinct, and intution. Human intelligence is primarily, simply speaking, an unremitting coalescence of reason and emotion. In order for technology to replace the depths of human experience (inseperable from human intelligence), technology would not ony have to empathically tap into human experience, but into even deeper realms. Of course this reveals the question of whether or not it's still "technology" by this point.

    Not to mention, human intelligence is intricately (context based), whereas AI and other forms of tech are primarily (rule based). Because of this, humans are highly adaptable to a wide variety of circumstances. Sitting at the park and watching birds fly by could spark thoughts and ideas in a person, which could link to a variety of circumstances...be it philosophical, poetic, or a break through in aeronautical engineering. Human intelligence is also elastic and ever changing. Neuroplasticity, for instance. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to completely rewire itself: new habits, new languages, new skills, new lifestyle, etc. This debunks the age old fallacy : you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Not to mention, we have the gorgeously controversial (subconscious). Whether you take a Freudian or Jungian approach on the subconscious, or deny it's existence completely, this is is also a great source of intelligence. These are all things that a computer is not, and will not be capable of performing.

    For (anyone) to say that technology can replace human intelligence, is simply ludacris. Such a belief is more full of hubris and fantasy than it is scientific reasoning and serious well-rounded contemplation. Sure, it (could) thousands of years from now. But since science still doesn't know (exactly) how human intelligence works, let alone memory, and emotion...such conclusions cannot be accurately, or reasonably determined.
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      Mar 9 2012: Hey Gerald,

      You bring up a lot of great points. However, you mentioned that emotion is linked to instinct and intuition; do you think that each of these are independent of the brain? If so, what exactly are they? If they are part of the brain, then there must be some neuronal structuring / firing pattern that is responsible for our instincts and intuition and thus emotion. If this is the case, exact replication of that structuring or firing should allow some form of AI to replicate the instinct of intuition of people.

      Furthermore, I agree that AI seems more rule based whereas human intelligence is more context based. But, do you think that there are some overarching rules that govern our context based intelligence? What says that our decisions and intelligence are not composed of quasi-infinitely large conditional statements?

      If we can associate some kind of cause effect relationship between neurons and human behavior, I think we will definitely be able to replicate human behavior with AI. The only question would be how long will it take.

      This article talks about a new machine under development that has the capability to learn:


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