Man vs. Machine – How Human is Artificial Intelligence?

The number of AIs performing daily tasks for us is on the rise. How close are they to human intelligence already? And should they be feared or cheered? Here’s our thoughts on this matter.

Humankind has gone through multiple transition periods over time. One of the biggest challenges was an industrial-informational transition through which a lot of people lost their jobs. A problem with that era was (and this continues to be a problem) that everything is developing exponentially fast. Therefore, many people are starting education for jobs that will not exist in a few years.

In the present era, every year we are at the doorstep of a new age which is in itself a game changer. We are looking at a time where the CEO isn’t the best person to make decisions. Well, actually, at a time where the one who makes the best decisions isn’t a person at all.

Smart or intelligent?

Every app is smart in its own way, but some apps are smarter than others. But what makes them so special and different?

Normally, an app is designed to “know” what to do when the user takes a specific action. That means every time the user taps a button and certain conditions are met, the app will do a certain thing in the background and show specific results. And on the other hand, there are apps with AI incorporated within their system, which means that they are capable of drawing conclusions from a never-seen-before set of data. Which is why that’s what we call (artificial) intelligence.

What’s the difference between human and machine intelligence?

A few years ago, we would have said creativity. But that’s not true anymore, because there are some AIs today, which are as creative as humans in a specific field. There is, for example, Aiva, a virtual artist which creates classical music for films, ads and games. It has even released its own album (a pretty good one at that) and possesses its own copyrights.

What Aiva does is called deep learning – a higher level of machine learning, which is capable not only of recognising objects, but, you might say, of understanding them as well. Aiva has listened to tons of classical music and, through this process, learned the theory of music and what should sound good to the human ear. Thus, she can now create her own tunes without specified inputs and outputs of data, but instead finding her own way in doing so.

OK, so it isn’t creativity. What about cognitive thinking?

First of all, machine learning is limited to what they are meant to do. Every AI is trained to generate a new set of data from specifically modelled inputs. Everything outside of that box is unknown to them. So Aiva can create beautiful music, but she cannot diagnose a patient, or repair a car.

Humans are capable of cognitive thinking- entering a room, seeing the people and things in it, taking in the scene and understanding what is happening. So that is the thing that’s only reserved for humans? Nope.

One of the systems trying to do this very thing is called IBM Watson, which is basically multiple AIs “thinking” together. It is capable of answering questions and playing a game of associations in natural language. It is also a machine that knows empathy and understands your tone, personality and emotional state. It also has computer vision built into it, so it can look at pictures and understand what they contain.

There is no doubt that such ‘combined’ AIs are going to be upgraded with more AIs to become even more robust systems. In general, AIs are capable of interpreting a huge amount of data and drawing conclusions from it. Not simply results, but predictions about how things will develop in the future, like predicting a weather forecast, the occurrence of a breast cancer and many other useful things. You can call that what you want, but all of it is exactly the definition of cognitive thinking.

To be clear, as a software developer I can confirm that machine cognitive thinking is still far away from the human one, but how far away- we cannot say. After all, the autonomous car was something that only belonged in Science Fiction movies just 15 years ago, and today, there is a bunch of driverless cars all over the world.

So, how human is artificial intelligence?

Well, I would say that the difference between human and machine thinking is the thing that created AIs in the first place. It is that energy which drives people to cross a line. “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

People are not made to work in a production line their whole lives, just thinking about what they are going to eat when they come home. We are made to cross these lines, to improve ourselves constantly – and AIs are great way to help us do that. So instead of being scared of losing our jobs, we should embrace the technology and solve the “machines taking jobs” thought problem through continuous education.

We can make a beautiful symbiosis together, with a virtual Vulcan by our side, which can draw conclusions based on pure facts and exclude the emotional factor, being the humans’ partner and letting us express ourselves fully and accurately without any barriers. There is no doubt that technology has propelled us hundreds of years ahead of the evolution. We just have to be wise enough to use it for a good purpose. Now, there’s a challenge.