Artificial Intelligence…closer than we think?
My favourite movie of all time is The Matrix. I remember seeing it for the first time when I was about 8 years old, and having no idea what the hell was going on. But one thing I did know was that I loved it. I didn’t understand why but I knew that this was something I would remember for the rest of my life, and it would still have meaning years later.
For those who for some bizarre reason have not seen this cinematic masterpiece, it is ultimately the tale of a computer hacker who has always felt like something was off with the world. Through a strange series of events, he is led to a man named Morpheus- the person who will provide him with the truth. What truth? That the world we live is not real. It is a seamless computer program created by machines that has been activated in your mind. Humans essentially became slaves to the machines once they gave birth to Artificial Intelligence. There was a war and the humans lost and ultimately we became numb to reality, drifting through a virtual world called The Matrix. Along the way many questions about reality, philosophy, human nature and technology are raised.
The Matrix was not the first film to depict the downfall of the human race due to technology and it certainly won’t be the last. Call me crazy, but I happen to me one of the many weary citizens who think that we may go too far at some point. But exactly how close to that point are we?
Man Vs Machine
The year was 1997, and here was the battle that many dubbed “the brain’s last stand” (Pink, 2006). Since winning his world chess championship in 1985, Gary Kasparov remained undefeated for the next decade, and in this time, many researchers began building computer programs that could play chess (Pink, 2006). In 1996, Kasparov then beat the most powerful computer that was currently available (Pink, 2006). Finally the following year, Kasparov had met his match in a 1.4-tonne super computer named ‘Deep Blue’ (Pink, 2006). Unable to settle, Kasparov set up a rematch against another more potent computer named ‘Deep Junior’ in 2003 and after six matches, he settled for a draw (Pink, 2006). When Kasparov lost his second match with ‘Deep Junior’, he lost his confidence and started to hesitate, and the realization that the unfeeling machine would never second-guess itself or get tired was what plagued him for the rest of the matches (Pink, 2006). This monumental moment had a distinct realization that maybe we can be outsmarted by a machine. Maybe we can build machines that can outsmart anyone. And maybe we are too smart for our own good.
This concept of technological intelligence that may surpass humans was deemed “The Singularity” in the 1993 paper by scientist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge (The New York Times, 2009). He posited that rapid change in technology would lead to a new era comparable to the rise of humans (The New York Times, 2009).
The idea that machines can become self aware would need further advances in technology, however several automated machines currently exist that can read and understand instruction, learn techniques and answer questions. The Google Self-driving car is one example, along with personal assistants like the iPhone’s Siri. Ten years ago YouTube did not exist. Today it can bring you current events while they are still happening and certainly before they end up on the news. Twitter and Facebook can bring down a nation’s government regime and social media has exploded to the point that we literally depend on it. In other words, internet communication has advanced exponentially…so who’s to say that the next 10 years won’t give rise to another technological growth spurt?
Here’s another example. A Canadian inventor named Le Trung spent $24,000 on an anatomically correct, life-sized female robot named Aiko seen in this photo (Newsline, 2013). Apparently she can read newspapers and maps, recognize a face and even clean your ears (Newsline, 2013). Thank God because we really need our ears cleaned.
Although Aiko is again a step closer, she still lacks a certain something- human intuition (Newsline, 2013). As long as she doesn’t have that, we still remain smarter…although it seems like we are doing everything we can to make inanimate objects as smart as us.
The human brain has about 10 to 100 billion neurons, about 70,000 thoughts a day and can register and read emotions (Newsline, 2013). So how is it possible for a machine to ever reach this capacity? Scientists at the Blue Brain Project in Switzerland are on a mission to discover this as they attempt to recreate the human brain neuron by neuron virtually in a super-computer (Newsline, 2013). Crazy right? We are still in the process, but many people believe that not only will we one day create intelligence equal to our own, but we will create intelligence that exceeds our own…and who’s fault is that really?
For your consideration…
Here’s a video by Newsline in Austrialia:
And just for fun…here is my favourite scene from The Matrix 🙂 Enjoy!
1. Markoff, J. (2009). The Coming Superbrain. The New York Times.
2. Pink, D.H. (2006). A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. New York, NY: The Penguin Group Inc.
3. West, K. (2013). True Artificial Intelligence not so far away. Newsline.