A while back I read Our Final Invention and I was thinking about a few ideas in the book and wanted to discuss them a little more in detail.
There was a line in the book that says something like, “We will need smarter than our brain intelligence to fully understand our minds.” As I said the book I am reading is about the theories as well as the both good and bad potentials for artificial intelligence. I have not totally made up my own opinion about AI but I will get to that later in my reviews of the book.
What I want to talk about is the statement I mentioned above. Breaking it down it basically sates that to fully understand our brains and how they work we will need something smarter or beyond them. While at first glance that mostly makes sense, and it may or may not be correct. It is easy to say that we or something will have to be smarter than us to figure our minds out completely. That is why I labeled this post “A Degree of Separation.” Meaning that we will have to be one step beyond to full understand something. This idea also has been proposed with the universe. Along the same lines because we are imbedded in the universe, it will be hard if not impossible to fully understand it as we are also a part of it. However, if there is a way to get a degree of separation from the universe we could potentially learn more about it by being beyond or outside of it.
So using that same logic some believe that we will never be able to figure out how to reproduce human thought and or consciousness in a computer program. Most of their reasons vary, but let’s just stick with the statement above. Also, let’s assume that it is possible to recreate consciousness and human level thoughts in a machine, as I have not honestly seen any real science or expert say otherwise, or give a solid reason why this may not be possible. With all that being said now let’s focus on the statement, will it truly require greater than human intelligence to figure out how to reproduce human consciousness and or replicate the brain in a computer program?
That is the billion dollar question and depending on who you ask you will get a wide range of answers. While reading this book I find that the topic of AI is widely debated and disputed both in terms of its application and whether or not it is even possible. This is one of the strangest debates that depending on who you ask you could get one answer on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. One “expert” will say that this is in no way possible that the brain is more complex than we can imagine and we will never be able to reproduce it in any fashion. Another “expert” will say that we are on the verge of accomplishing this feat and it will only be a matter of time, perhaps a few years to a few decades and AI will be here. Still others will say that it is possible but it could be closer to the end of the century before we can truly achieve AI. So you see the so called “experts” are all over the board on this one, which I find very surprising and somewhat alarming. I am not sure there is another field of study where the so called “experts” seem to be all over the board on what is possible.
There was a good analogy used in the book that said something like: we did not need to fully understand and comprehend how a bird flies to achieve flight ourselves. Which is true I think for the most part, we more or less out used our intellect to find out a trick that worked. We simply used a wing to create lift, which intern gave humans the ability to fly. So for that reason I think that the statement may not hold any water in that regard.
However, I will say that when it comes to how the brain works there is so much that we do not know, and for that reason this statement could be somewhat true. I do not think that it is entirely true, as if it were entirely true then it would cause a circular argument and could never be achieved unless an alien intelligence of some sort were to grace us with its presence and help us out. If this statement is 100% true we are doomed as we will never fully understand how the mind works. If you assume that in the future we will be smarter than those before us, then to fully understand that smarter mind, we will have to be even smarter which continues the cycle. My point is that we cannot outrun this scenario and will never fully understand the mind as we grow smarter it will take an even smarter brain to understand that mind. This is where the degree of separation comes into play as that is the only way to break the cycle.
If we were to create an AI that had the intelligence of a young child and it continued to learn and grow, eventually becoming smarter than us through some clever programming or learning software. However, this again may not be possible if the “dumb” AI has to have some sort of primitive human brain programming. Perhaps even this is not possible. The programming would have to be extremely clever and allow the AI access to its own programming so as it became smarter it could potentially fix our mistakes. This could also be an answer to the above cycle of smartness. If we had full access to our genetic code perhaps we could essentially “reprogram” ourselves to understand our own brain and how it works better.
The above scenario is how I envision AI could come about. We could create a very very primitive AI, something that has the IQ of a small child but has the ability to learn. Then eventually if that is the case it could become smarter and smarter and almost overnight it could become super intelligent. If this happens then we could satisfy the statement on all accounts. We created a somewhat dumb AI, and it became superintelligence and now it is able to help us figure out truly how our minds work along with so many other problems we have.
So if I have to say whether or not the statement is true, I would say probably not. Ther are too many othe expamles out there of things we don’t quite understand yet we enveutally figure them out, or figure out a short cut. So I will have to put this problem in that category as well. The next 50 years or so could be a very exciting time to be alive in terms of biological science. But I can also remember as a kid all the fantastic things we were supposed to have by the infamous year 2,000. So as always who the hell knows.