Finally a few minutes to myself to write a blog. After many months of lying low, the subject of Artificial Intelligence in the media has really been driving me crazy. The recent hype and click-bait around the dangers of Artificial Intelligence being on the verge of taking over the world and wiping out all employment is a constant assault on my own intelligence and has served as a constant media reminder that the task of replacing human intelligence may be easier than I initially thought given what morons our allegedly greatest scientific minds appear to be on the subject.
Here we have the worlds greatest living genius Stephen Hawking boldly proclaiming that;
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
Then we have the worlds richest geniuses Elon Musk and Bill Gates making similar dire predictions about the threat of Skynet to human existence and employment. I know they are really intelligent people, maybe it’s a modern PR ploy for staying relevant with the media by saying this nonsense, but it’s really just nonsense and they probably know it. The human species is nowhere near approaching anything even remotely resembling human intelligence… not even close. Yes we are making bigger and bigger calculators that are better and better at identifying complex patterns than we are, but NONE of that is relevant to achieving actual intelligence. It’s just bigger faster tic-tac-toe. Even if we had an infinitely fast computer with infinite memory we would still have no idea how to program it to actually be intelligent like a human being. WE DON’T KNOW HOW OUR MIND WORKS so we sure as hell aren’t close to programming a computer to behave like one.
Almost all the geniuses working on AI at Google and Microsoft and every VC funded AI startup are almost invariably working with neural networks which are just human programmed tools for finding patterns in complex data sets. Neural networks don’t have any ideas about those patterns, they don’t organize those patterns into complex thoughts, they don’t make observations about those patterns that give them any insight into life, the Universe or anything meaningful, they just spot and categorize patterns. If they actually succeeded in constructing a neural network so large and complex that it could pass a Turing test (which is plausible), they would still have made ZERO progress towards understanding human intelligence because such a machine would be just as intelligent as a tape recording of an authentic human voice. Recording and imitating human behavior patterns by essentially creating a giant lookup table of plausible responses to every possible input is not the same as mastering the process of actual human learning and abstract reasoning.
We may well build computers with so much memory and processing power that it becomes possible to record the entire range of human behaviors long before we actually grasp how human intelligence works. This is not really progress, just a neat computational parlor trick that will not take any jobs that weren’t already exported to India, China or Mexico. By the time such a computational feat is possible, India, China and Mexico’s economies will be sufficiently evolved for them to also be happy to export those jobs to Skynet. Another dire threat to our lives and employment is that autonomous robots imbued with sufficiently versatile humanoid navigation systems will replace us at house keeping, apple picking and garage reorganization… as though anybody living in first world countries will miss those exciting job opportunities as well.
The implication our brightest minds would have us believe is that imitation and recording of menial thoughts and behaviors is equivalent to being intelligent, which tells us more about what they think of us then what they actually know about artificial intelligence. ACTUAL artificial intelligence must ALSO be able to self-program, to identify and solve abstract problems without being directed to do so, to be able to make observations about the world and draw new conclusions from data or situations that it has not been previously trained to recognize. Neural networks and today’s’ deep learning systems are not a step in the direction of doing any of these things. Massive permutation searches for solutions to finite state problems is probably NOT how a brain works.
It’s easy for pointy headed computer scientists like myself to blather on about our deep insights into the nature of AI in the absence of any evidence that ANY of us are actually creating anything really intelligent but there is empirical evidence that everybody is pretty much on the completely wrong track. Brains aren’t used to construct other human brains, cells do that work. Since our simulations of neural networks don’t seem to have ideas about how to cope or innovate in the face of untrained knowledge, our model of thought based on these mechanics is probably flawed. The essence of intelligence may emerge from the machinery inside our cells not from the network of wires they form.
To summarize the blog of an actual smart person who really understands the complexity of computationally simulating a human mind;
We are well over 100 years away from achieving true artificial intelligence. The best we are likely to hope for is that within 20-30 years we will see a day when we can computationally simulate a complete single cell organism. Until then, we really only need to worry about losing all of our precious short order cook jobs to ten million dollar androids…