I just read the overview webpage of an organization of well-educated folks representing artificial intelligence in the discussion of inventions regarding technology for “technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence”.
Smarter than human intelligence? – this statement assumes that we have charted the boundaries of human intelligence. Sounds like we figured it all out, we put it in a book, got the blessing of some ivory tower academic folks and now it’s official.
Is that really it?
I think there is a lot of unfinished business on the topic of human intelligence and its capabilities. To understand these capabilities we have to take a few steps back and begin with the concept of intelligence itself.
What is “intelligence” ?
Perhaps a better question is what are the different types of intelligence out there?
Where and when does each of these intelligences yield the best results.
Intelligence is not what IQ tests measure. It’s not the ability to identify patterns in shapes. It’s not the ability to identify matching metaphors. It’s not the ability to visualize a multi-dimensional shape in your head. It’s not the ability to calculate mathematical equations in your head or the ability to keep track of complex relationships between many variables. None of these are “intelligence”. Instead they are examples of types of intelligence.
General intelligence is a set of skills whose value depends on context. In other words, some types of intelligence are not valuable in some contexts (and some are). The ability to discern the “when”, “where”, “why” and to what extent to use each type of intelligence is key to general intelligence.
This is where I believe human intelligence has an unmatched advantage over artificial intelligence. Given that a good number of our systems are dependent on human communication. And given that human communication is a complex dynamic system full of subtle assumptions, abstractions, subjectivity and ambiguity, it makes it hard to standardize conceptual relationships into absolutes that can be easily digested and processed via machines and their algorithms.
Human intelligence uses the same system of human communication in its processes. As a result it is equally complex and dynamically adaptable.
To say that you can construct machines that are “smarter than human intelligence” may be a bit short-sighted. Perhaps you can construct a machine that is “contextually smarter” than a human in a particular task(s). But to generalize this statement to the level of “all human intelligence” may be a mistake.
keyword: Dan Montano, user experience design, information architect