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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 10 2012: I don't think it's a question of "can it" as much as "should we let it happen". If we do, we may find ourselves on the road to extinction. I see many young people carrying their brains around in their pockets. They feel they don't need to learn because they have an electronic device that gives them instant access to information. So they are more interested in entertaining themselves than learning.

    Computers and machines can outperform humans in capacity. Presently, they don't have the capacity to reason, they don't have intuition, they can't feel emotion, they don't love, and they don't have the capacity to compute outside of the range of their programming.

    I believe that intelligence is in the ability to ask questions, to seek answers to those questions, and to expand our horizons from what we learn from the answers. If a computer can be made to do this, then it can be made to become a rational thinking computer. Our right brain is what gives it color and style. that's another component that would have to be factored in. Otherwise you would have a very bland future.
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      Mar 11 2012: I response to your statement about "many young people carrying their brains around in their pockets". Do you also reject the written word? Do you reject books?

      This is what Plato said in response to the advent of writing:
      "If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows."

      I find many similarities between his concerns and our concerns for the current state of affairs with regards to instantaneous access to information. But we've since shown that writing helps the dissemination and creation of ideas, rather than the mere semblance of knowledge and thought. At the same time Plato's concern is well founded as we may choose to write meaningless drivel. It's easy for us to choose what is worth while to read. Computers are no different. It is up to education to teach the future generation how to use tools for the better.
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        Mar 11 2012: Greetings;

        I do not reject any instrument of learning. I am concerned for those who reject learning itself because information is so readily available. That was Plato's concern as well. I do not want to see technology take over, I want to keep it as a tool to help us make a better world. Yet many are letting technology take over.

        There have been movies made about computers taking over the world. This is not out of the question. My statement about young people carrying their brains around in their pockets refers to those who are not using their own brains. They only want to be entertained. they do not want to be part of an integrated, progressively functioning world. They don't even know what that means.

        Computers and machines are helping us make a better world. yet there are countless people out of work because computers and machines are doing the job they used to do. We cannot lose sight of the whole picture. We have to integrate all of the problems into the solution. Just keep this in mind as you go forward.

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