(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
Teaser: Can Intelligence Arise from Silicon?
The current A.I. (neural networks and deep learning) is more biological than the one of the past, but barely so. We are still a long way from understanding the brain. Today's sophisticated neural network architectures are crude simulations of the brain. Just think of the number of neurons and neurotransmitters, and the simple fact that no two neurons are identical. The complexity of the brain is just infinitely superior to the complexity of the neural networks designed by software engineers. One has to wonder whether the whole effort makes sense. There is a complexity to biological matter that (maybe) just cannot be replicated in silicon or any other nonbiological substance. Biological matter naturally grows billions of neurons that are all different from each other and that are connected by synapses that are all different from each other via an infinite number of spontaneous mutations.
A study by a consortium called the Brain Somatic Mosaicism Network discovered that individual neurons differ from each other even in terms of DNA: each neuron has a slightly different DNA ("Intersection of Diverse Neuronal Genomes and Neuropsychiatric Disease", 2017).
Furthermore, a neuron in my brain is not the same thing as a neuron in your brain. A neurotransmitter in my brain is not exactly the same neurotransmitter in your brain. While one can argue that the "function" is the same, one cannot argue that they are "the same thing". Use a microscope and you'll see that they are all slightly different "things".
Biological matter is wildly chaotic, just like no two branches are identical (no matter how many trees you examine) and no two fingerprints are the same. Biological nature abhors mass production of copies. Our simulations, instead, are built of identical zeroes and ones, which are used to create identical (artificial) neurons which communicate using identical messages. It is virtually impossible to replicate the wild chaos of biological forms without using biological matter.
Learning from the structure of the brain (the neural networks) can certainly lead us to build useful machines, but maybe "useful" and not "intelligent" is all that we can get out of this program. Claiming that in any way these machines are "brains" is like claiming that walking sticks are legs.
The human brain is not only complex: each of its billions of units is completely different from the others. While this phenomenon is very common in nature (no two rocks are identical, no two clouds are identical, no two sticks are identical), it is the antithesis of human artifacts, which are instead built out of identical building blocks.
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