Intelligence is not Artificial

Why the Singularity is not Coming any Time Soon And Other Meditations on the Post-Human Condition and the Future of Intelligence

by piero scaruffi
Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence | Bibliography and book reviews | My book on consciousness | Contact/feedback/email
(Copyright © 2018 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")

Human Obsolescence

Both the computer experts and ordinary people fear that we (humans) may become obsolete because machines will soon take our place.

Bletchley Park codebreaker (i.e., Turing's coworker) Jack Good (real name Isadore Jacob Gudak) wrote in "Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine" (1965): "the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make". Hans Moravec in "Mind Children" (1988): "Robots will eventually succeed us: humans clearly face extinction". A 2000 article by Bill Joy was titled "The Future doesn't Need us". Etcetera. Actually, this idea has been repeated often since the invention of (among other things) the typewriter and the assembly line.

When we say that "robots will succeed us" or "The future doesn't need us", we really need to define "us". Assembly lines, typewriters, computers, search engines, steam engines, printing presses and whatever comes next have replaced jobs that have to do with material life. I could simply say that they have replaced "jobs". They have not replaced "people". They replaced their jobs. Therefore what went obsolete has been jobs, not people, and what is becoming obsolete is jobs, not people. Humans are biological organisms who (and not "that") write novels, compose music, make films, play soccer, root for Tour de France bicyclists, discover scientific theories, argue about politics, hike on mountains and dine at fancy restaurants. Which of these activities is becoming obsolete because machines are doing them better?

Machines are certainly good at processing big data at lightning speed. Fine. We are rapidly becoming obsolete at doing that. In fact, we've never done that. Very few humans spent their time analyzing big data. The vast majority of people are perfectly content with small data: the price of gasoline, the name of the president, the standings in the soccer league, the change in my pocket, the amount of my electricity bill, my address, etc. Humans have mostly been annoyed by big data. That was, in fact, a motivation to invent a machine that would take care of big data. The motivation to invent a machine that rides the Tour de France is minimal because we actually enjoy watching (human) riders sweat on those steep mountain roads, and many of us enjoy emulating them on the hills behind our home. Big data? Soon we will have a generation that cannot even do arithmetic.

What is becoming obsolete is not "us" but our current jobs. That has been the case since the invention of the first farm (that made the prehistoric gatherers obsolete) and, in fact, since the invention of the wheel (the cart made many porters obsolete), and jobs certainly disappeared when Gutenberg started printing books with the printing press, the precursor of the assembly line.

Since then, humans have used wheels to travel the world and the printing press to discuss philosophy.

Back to the Table of Contents

Purchase "Intelligence is not Artificial"
Back to Cognitive Science | My book on consciousness | My reviews of books | Contact