Google’s AlphaGo beat the best Go player in the world, Siri and Google voice assistant seem to perform feats that we as laymen find very hard to fathom. Self driving cars are actually available now and Saudi Arabia even went the extra mile to give a robot it's citizenship. Yes Artificial intelligence is here and it seems it will take over everything soon, but have we ever stopped to ask ourselves this, how soon are we exactly talking about?
For those who don't know, Artificial Intelligence is divided into two main categories: The Weak/Simple A.I and the Strong/True A.I. A lot of people believe that there are actually four categories (Check here for that) , but the four are a subset of the two main ones so i will be focusing on those two here. The Weak/Simple A.I is the category that is well known and it includes all of the very popular A.I systems around. They are quite non-reactive, they do not have any form of memory or just rudimentary forms like in the case of self driving cars and they have very little or absolutely no understanding of their environments. Examples of weak A.I includes: AlphaGo, Siri and just about anything A.I you will find around right now. Strong/True A.I on the other hand is the real deal. Systems that are aware and understand their environment, have a good grip of our means of communication and most important of all, they display 'true Intelligence'. There has been tremendous progress in the field of Weak A.I, from Siri to AlphaGo to self driving cars, progress that can be largely attributed to the massive increase in speed of computers, but do you know that Strong/True A.I has had little or no progress since the inception of the field in the 1950's?
Yes, you heard me right, and I repeat all the experts in the world have had very little or no progress towards achieving true Artificial Intelligence. As crazy as that may sound, it is actually the truth. For starters, a lot of people don't know that the current Algorithms that are powering our Artificial intelligence systems are very old or just modified versions of the old ones, check through the Wikipedia page for the History of artificial intelligence and you will see that indeed majority of the algorithms today existed as far back as the 70's. The only thing that has changed is the processing power of computers, they are way faster now and that gives the impression that the algorithms are better. This weird impression has done more harm than good though because a lot of people now believe that the faster computers get the closer we are to achieving true A.I a concept which is so not true. They seem to have forgotten that based on that analogy, we should be in the middle of an industrial revolution right now or do you think it is the conscious machine that will change the world? No! Things will start changing the moment we have machines that can see, act and understand their environments just the same way rats do! Has that happened yet? Of cause not! Can we claim no computer can match the rat's brain in terms of processing power? Another big no! Yet we are still here glorifying the game players and chat-bots! I am not writing this to point fingers, but rather this is more like a wake-up call to reality. True A.I is definitely coming, but let’s be freaking honest with ourselves, nobody can categorically claim that they have a promising field of research except those reverse engineering the brain (will get to that). Then you might ask, how come there is so much hype in the media and famous people getting into arguments about what technically doesn't even exist? That leads to the second reason why I am writing this, The illusion we are all living in.
To fool a human being that he is interacting with an intelligent being is very easy, in fact it is way too easy. I could remember there were posters of Beyonce on the walls of a friend of mine, after visiting him for a while I started having this feeling that the images were real even though I knew that they were mere posters. This phenomenon happens to all of us, it is the reason moms could force their kids to be good by scaring them with some imaginary bad thing that will come to get them and the same reason we confuse mannequins for real people. You will be really surprised at how many people will believe that a doll that can occasionally blink it’s eyes and follow people with its eye movements possesses some form of intelligence! Our threshold is really that low and it has prevented us from seeing the fact that there is nothing that special about the A.I of today. This trait of ours helps in creating the illusion that True A.I is already here and that impression has been there from the early days of Artificial Intelligence. Our ability to be easily convinced is indeed the main reason why we live in this illusion, but our weakness had help too, help that even made it more convincing to us. I will like to mention the very first culprit of this helping hand, the media.
Artificial intelligence based movies have played a major role in making us believe that the real deal is here, from the 'terminator series' to 'her' to 'I-robot' to the 'matrix' and then to 'chapie' and a whole lot more. There has always been some serious media frenzy and a whole lot of chatter about Strong A.I after each movie release, this keeps people watching and also keeps the producers happy to make even more. What we don't seem to notice is that this movies play a major role in how we see True A.I and the influence is serious. They are so influential that I even have reasons to believe that the image painted of true A.I by the Media is single handedly responsible for creating the wide spread fear that people are having for the coming 'singularity' because when you really think about it, what evidence do we have to prove that the first thing that will come to the mind of a conscious machine will be to take over the world? None! Yet that is portrayed in movie after movie and in series after series. Now let us reason together, will there be a wide spread fear of True Artificial intelligence if the movie makers had portrayed the machines as problem solvers, and man kind's helper? Of course not! We honestly would be living in a completely different world where everyone will be waiting for Man's true helper. That is just how influential A.I movies are on our perspectives and a lot of us don't even know. They even make is seem so easy to achieve like In 'chapie' and it was too petty and out rightly weird as seen in 'her' but we really can't blame the media for their bad A.I image and making it seem that true A.I .is here. That is what sells so the trend continues. But there are another set of helpers that are far more influential in making us believe that the real thing is here, they even have a huge influence on the output of the movies we watch about A.I, who are those with so much influence? The experts.
In the 1950's when Artificial intelligence was still in its infancy, a lot of those who were the pioneers made very bold predictions, they felt true A.I was going to be achieved before twenty years! that didn't happen and still hasn't happened sixty something years later yet experts keep on predicting that true A.I will be achieved in some distant future while they have very little to prove so right now. the annoying part is rather than admit we don't have much on ground they instead 'talk smart' saying things that will give the masses the impression that they have achieved a great mile stone while not saying too much as not to create chaos when their systems refuse to perform the expected wonders the masses are waiting for. The big tech companies have even gone further to use this tricks to their advantage, IBM's deep blue beat the world's chess champion and the world went into a frenzy, they didn't state that their machine was only using the share power of the computer to its advantage and left the world to imagine everything else! Deep Blue played a major role in the widespread believe that we hold today about true A.I, like seriously, who wouldn't believe that machines are already taking over the world if they are already beating the best in chess? But one thing they seem to forget is that mare calculators have been beating us right from the stone ages, I don’t think I can do a pretty good job of finding the square root of 1 now without a calculator. After Deep blue a lot of claims came with what I call the 'cheap smart statements', 'they have finally beaten the Turing test', 'someone somewhere have created a computer that acts like the human child's brain'. Even tech blogs are not even helping matters, Google was quite modest about AlphaGo's achievement but a lot of tech blogs blew it out of proportion with title headings that gave the impression that true A.I is here, what a lot of people don't realize is that AlpaGo is no more Closer to true A.I as the typical Google assistant in their Android devices, yet we are all hoos and haaaas as if the real thing is here.
To even have a better understanding of just how far away we are from the singularity, I stand to claim that there is no program or machine out there that even remotely comes close to dealing with True A.I, all we have are speculations, ideas and nothing real. In fact, from my own personal opinion I think the most helpful resource I have ever come across when it comes to true A.I is On intelligence, a book that does not contain a single formula and largely talks about the problem and not the solution, that is just how far away we are. The only promising field right now is that of reverse engineering the brain and I am even skeptical about that too. If it took 12 years to map out the complete connectome of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans that has less than 1000 cells in its entire body, then how long is it going to take to reverse engineer our brain an organ with neurons running into billions ?! We really are far from the true A.I and honestly we are not even sure how we will get there. This is the opinion I have on how close we are to true A.I after years of following and toying with Artificial Intelligence, and we are not even close at all.