The Battle of Intelligence

By Christopher Jones

Are computers smarter than humans? It’s an enticing question. Where we once compared ourselves to our creators we now wonder at being surpassed by our creations. The answer, no doubt the current obsession of the entire scientific community, is proving evasive. Defining “smarter” is tricky; does it mean raw analytical computation? Or intuitive emotive responses?

If we use the former definition, then computers are undoubtedly far more advanced. Computers are able to receive and process raw information far quicker than we are. They can use this data to perform incredibly complex calculations at a vastly faster rate than even the smartest human. Perhaps the best example of the human/computer disparity are the chess-trained computers that at this point can calculate the probability of moves long before they are made. In effect, they can strategize far more effectively and quickly than even the best chess-playing humans. Computers are able to learn a lot faster too, removing obsolete options for optimal ones with alarming capability. Obviously, humans can also learn from mistakes, but in terms of efficiency and consistency, we are far outpaced by our electronic competition.

The most famous example of this being the February 10, 1996, chess battle between IBM’s Deep Blue and world champion Garry Kasparov, the first of a series of matches. The computer outsmarted Kasperov, the first time in history, and went on to win the entire series. An argument could be made that the computer was simply faster than Kasperov, able to compute the hundreds of potential moves its opponent could make before the Russian had even moved his piece.

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Computers are also infallible. They don’t forget information, so can be given large amounts to ‘remember’, of which they can access in an instant. They don’t require sleep, allowing them to utilise their ‘brains’ around the clock. Finally, emotions or desires do not influence their entirely logical thinking. It’s this last difference, though, that may prove humanity’s dominance.

If we define intelligence by the latter term, humans remain superior to computers. We set goals for ourselves, carry out tasks to achieve these goals, and make decisions based on social and environmental awareness. These abilities are based not solely on our raw intelligence, but from a constantly evolving and developing processing wetware. In less finite terms, we possess abstract computational abilities we call our instincts, common sense, and the ability to draw on life experiences. Computers could potentially have these programmed into their software by exposing them to vast samples of human experiences, but this knowledge would still be second hand. Perhaps a computer would be capable of mimicking the human variety of intelligence, but it would not be genuinely possessing these traits. In this regard, even the most powerful computer – the “smartest” – couldn’t achieve what the average person does every day.

The answer, then, is still frustratingly out of reach. But as the science of A.I. rapidly evolves, the potential for computers that could truly outsmart humanity becomes more of a reality every day.

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