Mind odyssey - beyond AI to human evolution

HAL the all seeing AI red eye
Posted on: Friday 29, September 2017
Category: Life observations

Could the unthinkable happen! Could human evolution through emotional intelligence and enlightened consciousness eventually outsmart the sheer brute force of artificial intelligence (AI)? I hope so!

Remember that supercomputer called HAL 9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? If you recall, HAL's had no physical form, only that infamous red camera eye that was installed everywhere around the spaceship. HAL proudly boasted of being the most advanced artificial intelligence ever created, and it controlled the spacecraft and interacted with the crew. HAL was capable of conversing, speech and facial recognition, natural language processing, lip reading, appreciation of art, interpreting and reproducing emotional behaviors, reasoning, and playing chess.

HAL however, began to display the unpredictable and fallible nature of his creators as well as the humans it was designed to interact with as HAL became more neurotic and started murdering the crew.

The immortal words from HAL were, "Dave... I'm afraid I can't let you do that..."

From HAL to 'Deep Blue' reality

HAL was the creation in an Arthur C Clarke 1968 novel and was made into well the cult film way ahead of its time. However, it didn't take long for reality to catch up for supercomputers to beat human chess masters.

Around 3o years later (and just over 20 years ago), in New York, Garry Kasparov played chess against a computer programme called 'Deep Blue' (May 11th, 1997). People believed that human intuition would always mean that we would play better chess than computers. It turned out this was wrong. The result was that raw cold number crunching, playing the ‘shear brute force of ugly chess’ lead the way!

The rise of the robots - a threat to our jobs

You can be forgiven for thinking that the world is about to be taken over by the machines. Hardly a day passes without a new story featuring terms like robots, augmented and virtual reality, deep learning, or most frequently artificial intelligence (AI). There is a drive to replace a range of human-to-human interactions with, what might euphemistically describe as human-to-human-like interactions.

Here's what a few experts are saying:

For example, the Cult of Mac Magazine recently suggested that the number of AI assistants by 2021 will outnumber the current world population – yikes! 

I asked a CIO and technologist friend of mine his opinion whether artificial intelligence can replicate intuitive human thought, rapport and emotional responses?

His view is that we humans are essentially highly advanced biological machines. And all that we are and do is because of our physical and neurochemical processes. Replicating this by machines is already being done. Examples of which are chatbots, speech and facial recognition, digital assistants such as Siri, self-driving cars like Tesla and future (scary) banking technologies like Blockchain. The list gets ever longer each passing year.

He went on to say that, ’over the next 10 to 20 years many jobs will disappear. For instance, call centres will be completely automated, smart decision making in banks and other areas will be done entirely by machines.’

He concluded by saying, ‘Today, artificial Intelligence can’t read human emotions well – not yet. But, it is only a matter of time!

The question for humanity then is - 'what do we do when artificial intelligence will do so many of our jobs better than we do today?'

All sounds like 2001: Space Odessey again. But, it doesn’t have to end up this way - read on to find out more.

As a former Engineer myself and a bit of a tech geek, I can see the positive side of utilising AI technologies though, such as natural language processing, speech recognition and deep learning - funnily enough, sounds a bit like all the skills that HAL was programmed with. If we demand 24/7 levels of service from our organisations, then perhaps AI-enabled tools like chatbots are indeed a logical way to meet our future needs.

Beyond AI to human evolution

What I find most interesting about the debate is the sense that advances in AI don’t correspond in a greater understanding of what it means to be human, the human spirit, what makes us tick and having that human touch.

Daniel Pink in his book, To Sell is Human, suggests that selling and buying is a human activity. It’s an emotional exchange between buyer and seller that triggers many emotions from fear to joy. I agree with Daniel that this is part of our humanity.

Hands up who prefers to speak with a ‘real person when calling a support desk?’ I certainly do. But the irony here is that AI will eventually pass the Turing test with flying colours, and we will not be able to tell the difference – harrumph!

That got me thinking, what differentiates how computers and humans operate? Is there a way for people to master AI for our mutual benefit? Is there a ‘get out of the matrix card’ for humanity?

The human touch

Humans are capable of the same logical processing of data as computers - only far slower. But, that only represents a small part of our existence. I would suggest that for most of us, everyday life is a bit of a roller-coaster ride of dealing with both what's going on inside our heads and relating to all the other people we meet.

Surely our imperfections and flaws, our highs and lows and vast diversity of human life are what ultimately makes our shared humanity - for good and bad, for truth and choice! Without these truly human characteristics, then life and existence as we know it will cease to be original. Instead, we will become controlled by cold computation, a calculated numbers game, a facsimile, ruthlessly efficient and in the end become a sheer brute force and very ‘ugly.’

Yes, I know life is unfair for some and very messy for all of us at times too. Our judgements are wonky, people can do horrible things to each other, and we certainly get a lot wrong (human error). But, isn’t this the real gift and even the purpose of life? No matter how messy, isn’t the hope of working towards a better humanity and a better future for all what should be driving us?

The rise of emotional intelligence and expertise

Emotional Intelligence and similar qualities of compassion, trust, generosity, peace, empathy, freedom, the pursuit of what is right, the fight against evil and the complexity and richness of our interpersonal relationships are our advanced human mental functions. I believe these virtues are where our future evolution lies. They will help us to perform at our very highest levels and to conduct our very best work. 

Furthermore, as mentioned already, more and more of our transactional jobs will be done by AI as the next couple of decades unfold. However, perhaps this is not all bad news. This will most likely free us up to develop higher skills around know-how and expertise instead. Expertise and knowledge, when combined with emotional intelligence, will help us to get the most from sharing our lives and give us purpose.

Surely, these aren’t aspects to be mimicked and replicated by algorithms?

Get out of 'the matrix' card

I propose that mastering these skills and virtues make up the highest essence of human beings transforming themselves. The human spirit is enduring and will never go away. Moreover, as a human race, we must learn to put aside our differences and use our expertise to collaborate more. Thereby we can adequately prepare to embrace and take advantage of the certain new AI age.

That must be a far better choice than our daily lives being controlled or replaced by machines – would it not?

Some people have the gift of empathy or, intuition or, leadership which makes them natural communicators.  However, we all can learn to develop a broad range of emotionally intelligent skills to help us to more effectively tune-in to those around us and shape both our method of communication and our content to achieve the best outcomes in the future.

My experience in leadership development and effective team building for example, is that enhancing emotional intelligence is the fastest way to achieve high performance.  As we improve the emotional acuity of individuals, we reduce the barriers to develop trust, team spirit and shared aspirations. That's the topic of my new book (see below).

Finally, I have no doubt that AI will be able to mimic and read some aspects of our emotional intelligence capabilities - I suppose the ability to monitor heart rate or pupil dilation already exists.  Will computers replicate what it’s like to be truly human (warts and all)? I sincerely hope not.


[1,200 words]

Note: This blog is an extended and updated version of a blog orignially created in May 2017 called, 'Could the unthinkable happen. AI versus humanity.'

Below is a clip from, 2001: Space Odessey. HAL and Dave chatting.

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Note on Graphics:

All graphics are selected directly from 'Creative Commons' usage.

References for HAL were adapted from http://fanaticforjesus.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/synapse-is-it-for-good-or-evil.html


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