What Do You Think About Artificial Intelligence?

As the quality of artificial intelligence continues to increase, it is easy to imagine that it will have a significant impact in many areas of our everyday life. How might it impact your life, and how do you feel about it?

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has long been a staple of science fiction. From Asimov’s robot stories to the computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey, the possibilities of AI has often been the source of futurist stories.

Now, however, science fiction is beginning to merge with science fact. The recent advances in AI-generated text and images have captured the public imagination. People are using AI interfaces to generate marketing text, or to make pictures of any prompt they can think of.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘Is technology neutral?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘Freedom or security?’


But while individuals play with the various interfaces, some have started sound alarm bells. While the output of many of the AI platforms can be spotted fairly easily now, the advances are happening quickly. It is not clear where the technology will go next, and some see a dire future.

Students could generate school essays with minimal research. Any conspiracy theorist can create legitimate-sounding content to dupe unsuspecting members pf the public. And in the ultimate nightmare scenario, AI could become so advanced that it has an agenda of its own, and ignores the wishes and desires of the humans who created it.

But is this all just fear of the unknown? Are the people spreading panic just not seeing — or not choosing to see — the benefits of the new technology? Will artificial intelligence be a tool of mankind, used to multiply our productivity, or is it instead an existential threat? Or somewhere in between?

What do you think about artificial intelligence?

Related questions: Will technology save us? What new technology do you want? What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How can we measure intelligence?

 

What Is Genius?

The word “genius” gets used often these days. But what exactly is genius, and how can you tell it when you see it?

Either a person or an idea can be referred to as “genius”. Typically for a person, it might refer to someone with a particularly high IQ. This can be measured via an IQ test, and at least in theory, can be quantified.

However, it is also used in other contexts. For example, someone might be called a musical or artistic genius. Is there any possible way this can be measured? Is there some sort of threshold to be labeled as such in a creative field? Or is it entirely subjective?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What gives a person value?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes you you?’


When the word is used to describe a creative person, is it used for someone with a high level of expertise in a very specific field, or to someone with a broad skill set? That is, which is more of a musical genius: a guitar virtuoso, or someone who can play a dozen different instruments with a relatively high level of skill? Or perhaps both are?

If both, are we in danger of making the definition of the word so broad that it loses meaning? If everyone can be called a genius (in their own way), does the word cease to mean anything?

How do you use the word? Do you use it frequently, or know people who do? Does it simply mean “I think this is really great” or is it more than that?

What is genius?

Related questions: How can we measure intelligence? What is intelligence? How important are important people? How important is the artist to art?

Will Machines Develop Consciousness?

It is easy to see that artificial intelligence has been improving consistently over the last several years. But will machines ever develop consciousness?

It might seem that society has been anticipating intelligent machines for a long time. Science fiction writers have been envisioning self-directed, thinking machines ever since the word “robot” was introduced in 1920 (and even before then, as well). From Asimov’s robots to Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, fictional thinking machines have been a part of our culture for a long time.

Our modern world has ever-advancing technology. On one hand, simple robots, ones that do a very limited series of tasks, are everywhere. They populate factory assembly lines, and zip around our homes, vacuuming up our spills and messes.

On the other hand, advances in artificial intelligence have led to breakthroughs like Deep Blue beating a human World Champion in chess, or Watson winning handily against past Jeopardy! champions. And Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are becoming increasingly able to understand human speech and respond appropriately to human interaction.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘Is technology neutral?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Freedom or security?’


And yet, true intelligence has proven harder to produce in machines than some have thought. Estimates for the arrival of truly intelligent machines seem to recede further and further into the future.

Of course, intelligence is not the same as consciousness. What we mean when we refer to a human being being conscious is not obvious. And if we cannot define what exactly it means to be conscious, we may not be able to recognize consciousness if or when it arrives, via another species on earth, and alien from another planet, or from an AI we have designed and built ourselves.

Is the era of conscious machines right around the corner? Or is it in some distant future, or will it never get here at all?

Related questions: Will technology save us? What new technology do you want? What are you thinking about?

How Can We Measure Intelligence?

In our society, some people are considered more intelligent than others. But what exactly does this mean, and how can we measure intelligence in an individual?

There are many useful — and several not so useful — skills that individuals possess. For example, one person might be very good at thinking abstractly. Another might be good at reasoning. Yet another might make connections between seemingly disparate things.

All of these things might be considered intelligence. But what of other skills? Does athletic ability make someone intelligent? Artistic creativity? What about someone with social skills who can get along with anyone? If these skills, and others like them, aren’t a sign of mental acuity, then what are they? And if they are, then how might we manage to measure that in a concrete way?

Currently, intelligence is measured primarily through the IQ test, where IQ stands for “intelligence quotient”. However, other than scoring well on a test, what does a high IQ actually enable an individual to do? As the example illustrates, if you test a fish on it’s ability to climb a tree, it will fail every time.

An interesting wrinkle in this problem comes in the form of artificial intelligence, and various efforts to rate just what makes a machine intelligent. Would you consider Watson, the computer that won at the game show Jeopardy!, to be intelligent? How is it different from human winners?

How would you define what it means to be intelligent? Can we measure intelligence? Or is it one of those things we just know when we see it? Alternately, might it be present and we simply don’t recognize it?

Related questions: How important is intuition? How do you judge yourself? What is intelligence? How do you define success?