Magazine article The Futurist

10 Questions for Machine Intelligence

Magazine article The Futurist

10 Questions for Machine Intelligence

Article excerpt

Is the Singularity as near as some believe? How might we assess its development? A futurist offers a checklist for comparing machine and human capabilities.

In The Singularity Is Near (2005), Ray Kurzweil postulates that, in 2045, "the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed." It will represent, he claims, the "culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology.... There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality." The nonbiological intelligence created in the year of the Singularity, he states, will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.

I have several philosophical, logical, ethical, historical, and futurological problems with the concept of the Singularity, but for now I simply want to ask 10 questions about machine intelligence to see how it compares with that of humans.

In today's world, human intelligence, in my view, is far superior to the intelligence within computer systems, except in the ability to process, aggregate, calculate, store, and distribute data at blindingly fast speeds. There have been several decades of worldwide research and development in the field of computers, and so it is fair game to dig deep, at this juncture, as to the kind of intelligence that has actually been produced by computers in practice.

Here, then, are 10 questions to help us assess the progress and prospects of machine intelligence:

1. Has machine intelligence ever independently produced an original idea, theory, or philosophy, or discovered any new principle or law of existence? This question concerns the capacity for sustained, original, creative thought.

2. Has machine intelligence ever produced a unique, nonprogrammed story or created any imaginative literary work? This question relates to the power of imagination.

3. Has a computer ever spontaneously said "I love you" and meant it? Q3 is about personal, real-time communication.

4. Has a computer ever said "I'm sorry" and meant it? This question relates to empathy, the skills of listening and emotional intelligence in general. …

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