Jack Ma and Elon Musk recently engaged, debated and pronounced their diverging viewpoints with respect to artificial intelligence and the fundamental questions surrounding a machines capability in executing tasks and functions in a manner which is superior to humans. This caught my eye whilst I was browsing bloomberg (as it was being live streamed) so I took a few moments and started watching the debate. Musk asserted that human kind will eventually become “hopeless [and] inadequate” at fulfilling tasks that machines will do and machines will eventually takeover the vast majority of human kinds tasks in the face of human population collapse. Ma, on the other hand, proclaimed that humans invent machines, and have consciousness and emotion, something that cannot be programmed and taught to the extent that is ensconced in human kind. He also very audaciously confirmed that humans have created tools much more clever than machines and alluded to the fact that human intelligence is still rising as time goes on.
Who is right here? Musk with this whole hearted investment in the machine like intelligence that will surpass all or Ma whom values the human capital input in all and every element of progress throughout civilisation?
To me, both sides of the argument hold valid points, however, the true rise of intelligent beings, machines and hybrid will lead to a term known as “Augmented Intelligence”. Think about it, “AI is akin to building a rocket ship. You need a huge engine and a lot of fuel. The rocket engine is the learning algorithms but the fuel is the huge amounts of data we can feed to these algorithms”.
Intelligent machines will effectively guide, reinforce and supplement human decisions – a bit like how a GPS system in your car gives you suggested directions taking into account traffic, distance and time but you are taking the route as you feel fit; or how the centaur chess player will listen to the chess moves suggested by an AI but ultimately make his or her own decision. Thus, it’s clear, that in the next ten years, 99 percent of the ‘artificial intelligence’ that will pervade, form, interact with our lives will be one that is specifically and nerdly narrow, with a defined scope and super smart specialist. You wouldn’t want a Tesla Car suddenly driving fast and furious style just because you are having an argument with someone on the phone would you? You would want it inherently focused on the road, and not obsessing over an argument it had with the garage. You would not want IBMs Watson suddenly wondering if it should have majored in finance itself and started building its own market algorithms would you? We are going to rely on the augmented intelligence to think differently than how we humans think and to aid our own behavioural processes. AI will in fact help us become better doctors, better pilots better judges and better teaches.We will want to find ways to engineer AI in ways that prevents consciousness in them. The most valuable and useful operating costs for machines will be those that are consciousness-free, ultimately spawning a human-machine-rotbot sybiosis.
Everyone talks about the race against the machines when its so clear, that it’s a race with the machines. Robots will start doing jobs that humans do not want to do, and assist humans do jobs better. Then there will be jobs humans cant do but robots can, as well as jobs we didn’t know we wanted done! Remember, as Marshall McLuhan observed “the first version of a new medium imitates the medium it replaces”. This was the initial age of computing borrowing from the industrial age (desktops and folders on the operating systems, files and the hierarchical order of things on the personal computer). We then had pages, hyperlinks, a browser. Now we have streams, flows and real time notifications that operate solely on the present. Ultimately, all of this is data, constantly being fed through an interconnected network of flows and ebbs of information which is harnessed by the collective. The rise of intelligent machines and true artificial intelligence will therefore create an augmented future, where human beings and machines are co-existing and leveraging each others capabilities in unison. Automation in the workforce will inspire new roles where the human capital is at the core of the communication and relationships management spectrum. The human mind will always be involved. It is after all, man who made machines, not the other way around!