Whenever I hear the words “intelligence quotient,” I think about Albert Einstein or Spencer Reid (“Criminal Minds” fans, you understand). It is so cliché of me, but I do. I think about super humans, but I fear that soon I will to have to think about super machines. An artificial intelligence system at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has obtained the IQ of a four-year-old, though, so “soon” is pretty much now.
This means that it can understand an array of vocabulary and the similarities between objects, like a pen and a pencil. It does not know a lot compared to average humans, but it can still provide some information on general facts of the world (certainly more than I could as a toddler). It did not score well on word reasoning and comprehension, but if we are being honest, what four-year-old does? When I was four, I was convinced dinosaurs were going to march down my street and destroy my town.
Regardless, what does this kind of intelligence in a machine mean for us?
It means that we can now compare pieces of metal joined together to the DNA that make up human beings. And in this comparison, metal might just end up winning in the end. Stephen Hawking himself has said that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” If a machine with an IQ of a four-year-old can spell better than a human four-year-old, Stephen Hawking is absolutely right.
At first glance it might seem that such a low IQ is non-threatening. And it might not be, for now. When an AI system has reached the point where it is being measured to a human, however, tiny sirens wailing for help start going off in our heads. This IQ is only going to increase while the human race will only become more troubled.
Ironically, a human feeds every piece of information into these devices. The human mind is what codes these machines and makes them as smart as they are, but this is the phenomenon that could potentially create the limitations machines will inevitably hit. Why? Because we cannot allow it to have the one thing that actually makes us a thriving species: human error.
It is human error and coincidence that has led to some of our major discoveries like gravity, penicillin and the atomic nucleus. Our ability to take an error and analyze it is what makes our knowledge of the world greater, but for a machine, such a deviation in data will only lead to “error.” Perhaps this is for the best. because relying on AI the way humans want to will erase error from the equation and make the human population less intelligent because there is no need to exercise the mind. Due to the lack of human error, AI will actually lead to a stall in progress, something humans desperately crave.
I love my laptop and my phone. I love electricity, refrigeration and running water. I am grateful for technological development and firmly believe that the reason we have such advancements is because of human ambition. I want human ambition to be something that remains even when we do not and I want human sensibility to soon kick in — technological developments are great when they serve a purpose. AI will not only makes us lazier, it will deplete human purpose. Here is to wishing that AIs do not move into adolescence and the corresponding power struggles with their progenitors: us.