When computers can reason, will they want us around?

It is so encouraging to see maintream press, like the Financial Times, reporting on what I think will become the the key issue of our lifetime – conscious machines.   Although this article pretty much dodges the most intriguing aspects of the debate over AI, rational computers, and consciousness  it does offer some insights into the state of the science in the semantic web, where AI routines are used to create a better search experience.

One researcher suggests that he’s given up on the idea that simply creating a massive neural network and priming it with some info will lead to conscious thought but I still think that hypothesis has not been tested nearly enough because our computing capacity is still far short of what you and I have between our ears in the three pounder we call a brain.    Brains offer a spectacular number of individual neurons, and in turn a simply staggering number of interconnections between those neurons.   It will be another decade or so before we have that processing capacity in computers, but it will certainly happen.   I’ll be surprised if our consciousness and intellectual abilities are as profoundly amazing as we like to …. think they are.    In fact I’d wildly predict that we’ll have conscious machines within 20 years and that those conscious machines will surpass us in every imaginable intellectual and creative ability within months – probably days – of consciousness.    Is this because I’m hugely optimistic about technology?    NO!   It’s because I’m hugely confident we overrate our feeble human abilities, which I’d suggest are just a few shades richer than those of our dogs and cats.

4 thoughts on “When computers can reason, will they want us around?

  1. 22 years, I’d say.

    I also think the soup in the brain is way underrated 🙂
    So I guess I’d also argue that you have also way underrated the abilities of cats and dogs.

    It’s difficult to extrapolate from organic intelligence to AI because the thought models are so different. Brute-force AI, in particular, will have limitations, but in some ways those limitations may be useful: brute-force AIs, in my experience, are superprograms that do what we tell them to do.

    Making the jump from a brute-force AI that displays emergent behavior based on random factors to a brute-force AI that displays imagination will be an interesting turning point in this hootenanny.

  2. Tommo 22 years is OK – I just want to be here when it happens, even if it means cutting back on the burgers and fries…

    Organic thinking is clearly a a very complex activity , but it appears to come mostly from action in structures that are massive repetitions of dense concentrations of neurons with a few specilized neurons thrown in. Much of what we call “good thinking”, such as strategy gaming, is already done better by the types of AI programs you are thinking cannot replace our thinking, but I think those thinking programs can surpass the thinker with a little bit of help from their …. friends.

  3. I wonder, though, if machine intelligence will even be recognizable by us – that is, based on such different hardware and software, who is to say that it will come about and operate on the same level as organic brains?

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