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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 11 2012: On an ethical point of view, I think technological machines or devices lack a lot that is desirable in human intelligence. We tend often to forget that man is not only a deductively processing brain, but also a heart that loves, cares and feels. For instance, these machines produced by technology when confronted with new set of data not pre-programmed are stuck. My position is that technology is a useful tool, but it cannot do without human intelligence. Human intelligence can transcend to reach new heights.
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      Mar 11 2012: Agreed - but couldn´t we teach technology to take care and feel? Two questions go with this:

      1.) Do we really want this? Don ´t we loose our uniqueness then? It is the same with animals - we believe also that man can do specific things that animals can not do... But maybe the delphin in the zoo is playing with us - instead we with him ?

      2.) If we want it, is it really good technology still? Imagine a car that is full of fear to drive at night? A gun refusing because empathy for the enemy... A Strange question, I know - but a question that is logical once you want to make technology more intelligent and more human.
      • Mar 14 2012: I am happy with the way you answered . However, I have this feeling as if you are afraid to concede that technology cannot be given such feelings... Mankind is able to play with the material aspect of nature, but things or aspects beyond this materiality have proven to be beyond their reach. For instance, if you like movies, probably you have watched Bourne, how scientists tried to control man's loyalty, obedience... and later they had to face the sole result reached up to now that these feelings are metaphysical. I am contending that maybe one day we will achieve that, but for the time being... no illusion there.
        The other thing you said about our uniqueness as human being. Do not worry about that... I most of the time argue that the scientific world has repressed more of our uniqueness to the extent that we think that will be the only thing we may loose. I hope you do not think that if given feeling they will be stronger than we are. maybe, maybe not. we are more than what is seen, measured. our uniqueness is beyond the current measures.
      • Mar 14 2012: Interesting, technology that feels might not necessarily be helpful. I think the hardest part to replicating human intelligence exactly is finding a way to copy the emotions and seemingly irrational thoughts of humans. Sometimes I decide to sleep in on a day instead of doing work that I know I have. I can see AI making logical decisions and being more efficient than humans at some tasks, but find it hard to imagine them having emotional responses. I am unaware on how exactly our feelings are activated by our brain, so modeling this might be easier than I know.
        Also, did you know there was a TED conversation similar to this: http://www.ted.com/conversations/1528/artificial_intelligence_will_s.html

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