I am envious of my computer

My computer has many gifts, unfortunately I miss most of them. As all living beings, my intelligence is based on neural networks. In some situations, they have spectacular successes, but evolution, which led to their creation, managed to give us excellent results only for a few tasks. In the last million years, our ancestors have been hunters-gatherers: therefore we are using neuronal structures, appropriate for these tasks, in completely different domains such as mathematics, architecture, computer science, artificial intelligence, etc. It would be surprising that we are good for these new activities, evolution did not have enough time to adapt us to these tasks.

On the contrary, we are creating artificial beings, which have not our limitations, and are not compelled to use neurons. Hence, they may have much better results in our recent activities. Among the restrictions coming from the use of neurons, we have:

* Neurons are slow, compared with the speed of our computers. The computing power that we can use for many tasks is too small. This may be compensated by the highly parallel operation of our brain, but we will design massively parallel computers.

* The structure of our neural networks is too rigid; it is difficult to modify it for adapting it to a new task. We cannot allocate parts of our brain to essential activities. * The number of our neurons is limited by the size of our skull. This restricts the capacity of our memory, and also the number of specialized modules that could be accommodated. We already have areas for perception and language, other specialized skills would be welcome.

* We can give to other people only a very small part of our expertise. Our knowledge, and the methods for using it, risks disappearing with us.

* We cannot observe ourselves as well as artificial beings can observe themselves.

However, artificial beings are still handicapped because they have not an associative memory as well organized as ours. Due to its organization, we can quickly find useful information in any context. Let us consider the two following sentences:

The teacher expelled the dunce because he wanted to throw paper pellets.

The teacher expelled the dunce because he wanted to have a bit of peace and quiet.

When we are reading these sentences, we are not aware that there is an ambiguity: does the pronoun “he” refer to the teacher or to the dunce? It is evident that it is the dunce in the first sentence, and the teacher in the second one. However, for removing this ambiguity, we must use a lot of knowledge about what normally happens in a school. This unconscious search is so fast that we are not aware of it.

This advantage will perhaps disappear soon, one important goal of AI is to give our systems the capability of finding associations efficiently. Watson and Siri have recently shown significant improvements: they are using the web as a huge semantic memory. When Siri is asked: « Why did the chicken cross the road? », it can answer: « Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends on your frame of reference, according to Einstein » or « To get to the other side ». Moreover, these systems are highly autonomous: to the question « What’s the best cell phone ever? », Siri answers the Nokia Lumina 900 rather than an Apple product!

These recent developments will lead to more and more gifted artificial beings, and I will be more and more envious of them.


3 thoughts on “I am envious of my computer

  1. My own Siri seems to have learnt from Jacques Pitrat’s experiment:
    « What is the best mobile phone? »
    « You have already answered this question. »
    Of course it’s not Siri but its human designers.

    1. You have the right to have opposite viewpoints from my own.
      If you have convincing arguments, I would be very interested.
      Even now, some Chess and Go players could disagree for their hobby.
      For the present time, AI systems are not always very clever, but we cannot change our intelligence, while we or AI systems themselves can increase the intelligence of the present AI systems.
      The problem is: are humans clever enough to succeed? It is our intelligence that has to start the process.

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