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Robots will match our intelligence. How difficult that will be?

At a recent conference in Sydney, Australia, Dr. Toby Walsh, an expert in artificial intelligence (AI), said that in a matter of years robots will “match humans” both in creativity and in intelligence. In fact, he said, it is possible that robots matching human intelligence will be a reality before the current young generation reaches retirement age.

Given the fact that Dr. Walsh is recognized as one of the leading experts on AI, whatever he says should be taken seriously. However, at the same time, his statement generates a number of questions. For example, what kind of human intelligence is used to compare the intelligence robots will achieve?

Are we talking about a level of intelligence and creativity comparable to those of Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, or any other great creative and intelligent person throughout human history?

Because one thing is for robot to reach that level of intelligence and creativity and another, very different thing is for robots to be as intelligent as the average citizen, who spends most of his/her time posting online whatever seems to be funny or interesting, or it resonates with his/her beliefs or ideology.

In other words, what’s the baseline being used to say robots are or will be as intelligent as we are? After all, a quick look at our world shows that it won’t take a that much effort for any intelligence, robotic or alien, natural or artificial, of match and even surpass human intelligence.

I don’t want to offend anybody. Yet, let’s look around. Can we seriously say we are “intelligent” when we are exploiting and destroying the planet and we are exploiting and destroying ourselves?

Are we really intelligent if we go to war even for the most superficial and ridiculous reasons and we can solve, mainly because we don’t want to solve, many of the social maladies affecting our world, including hunger and poverty, affecting every day millions and millions of people? The existence of those problems seems to be incompatible with intelligent beings.

Let’s assume the new robots will be as intelligent as the average person (you and I) is. Why, then, we will need those robots? Or, from a different perspective, what we, people with normal intelligence, are going to do when robots with normal intelligence replace us?

And if we assume that the next generation of robots will be more intelligent than the average person, perhaps at the level of a human genius or more, how soon will it take for those robots to realize that we are as intelligent as they are?

According to Dr. Walsh, that will never happen, and we shouldn’t be concerned with robots taking over and eliminating humanity. The reason is simple: since we are creating those robots, they will be as incompetent as we are.

“We haven’t thought carefully about how (the robots) are going to interact with our complex world”, Walsh said. There you have it: we are not even intelligent enough to create truly intelligent robots. 

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