Can computers actually possess “intelligence” or “think”?


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Continuing the discussion from Should we Fear Artificial Intelligence?: Pre Readings:

  1. Are “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” nothing more than bad metaphors? Can computers actually possess “intelligence” or “think”?

(Patrick Prabhakar) #2

Sometimes or most of the times, we presume that computers had evolved on their own somehow. Wrong!

They were always made with human intelligence. When the first computers launched, it was naive of most of us to assume that computers were supernatural; they were magic from another world. But sooner, we had realized they were algorithms and programs created by humans that ran effectively in various applications.

Now, with the advent of AI (Artificial Intelligence), we still presume (probably because of the coined phraseology - Artificial Intelligence), that this intelligence (AI) had also evolved from elsewhere. Again, Wrong!

These AI, are similarly learning algorithms created by humans to procure fascinating results. In the case of AI, we often presume it being a different species that could invade us with its intelligence at any time. The truth is we are already coexisting with AI in our everyday lives.

Though these created intelligent systems could leave us overwhelmed with their capabilities, they still continuously depend on further information for further processing. In a sense, they are still dependent on human intelligence and rely on the ‘data feed’ and the various inputs that are constantly delivered by the individuals. We are not making light or underplaying their power in manipulating human emotions in any way. These highly sophisticated algorithms created by humans, when constantly fed with ever generating data, is highly capable of possessing us, so to say in a way (as people’s addiction to social media).

But these intelligences collapse when their highly predicting algorithms receive a highly unpredicted move, action or behavior (so common of real humans exercising freewill: instinct, intuition, emotion). We know the saying that ‘the child is the father of the man’ and this very child could intelligently baffle the Artificial Intelligence as even the renowned physicist Neil deGrasee Tyson puts it, “In science, when human behavior enters the equation, things go nonlinear. That’s why physics is easy and sociology hard.”

Hope the below case-study rings the truth.

AlphaGo is a narrow AI computer program developed by Alphabet Inc.'s Google DeepMind in London to play the board game ‘Go’. This particular board game ‘Go’ is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. Despite its relatively simple rules, ‘Go’ is very complex, even more so than chess, and possesses more possibilities than the total number of atoms in the visible universe. AlphaGo’s algorithm uses a ‘Monte Carlo tree search’ to find its moves based on knowledge previously learned by machine learning, specifically by an artificial neural network (a deep-learning method) by extensive training.

Lee Sedol, a South Korean professional ‘Go’ player who has won 18 world championships was challenged by AlphaGo in a 5 match series held at Seoul, March 2016. AplhaGo won 4 out the 5 games played. Our point of consideration here is the 4th and only game Lee Sedol won.


AlphaGo’s master algorithm helps build strategy by gaining inputs on opponent’s play and hence predicting higher strategies of gameplay. After the first 3 games which AlphaGo won, Lee Sedol suddenly broke rhythm of his usual play style and started making so called ‘ordinary moves’ to the disappointment of every one and suddenly followed it up with a brilliant move. This series of unexpected moves provoked AlphaGo and caused it to eventually resign from the game. AlphaGo’s loss was attributed to the weakness in play algorithms.

Our focus here is on this subtle unexpected strategy that Lee Sedol had employed which shook up AlphaGo’s AI. This move of Lee Sedol was termed by professionals as a ‘divine move’. This unpredictability wired within the human intelligence is what had caused Lee Sedol to win. The susceptibility and yet the sophisticatedness of humans!

Hence, I prefer to conclude that computers don’t posses actual intelligence to think as humans do or to say in the very own words of Winston Churchill:

‘True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.’