Stronger: The Architects of a New Intelligence

The modem world is awash in technology, little of which amazes like artificial intelligence. Siri speaks to us out of our iPhones. Google answers our every question. Watson, IBM’s Jeopardy!-playing supercomputer, is popularly perceived as a hair’s breadth from Arthur C. Clarke’s HAL 9000. But the truth of the matter is that all these technologies are far more artificial than they are intelligent. They are designed to give an impression of intelligence, a ruse at which many of them succeed. But none of them begins to approach the all-purpose intelligence of even a human child. Siri and Watson and Google and all other existing AI is what researchers refer to as “narrow” -adept at one task only. But there is a small community of scientists who are working toward “strong” AI: a synthetic intelligence as flexible, as adaptable, and as genuinely intelligent as any human being. Strong AI is an innately interdisciplinary effort at the intersection of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and computer science, among others. Each of these fields is coming to understand the challenge in its own way, and each has its champions. Little is clear. Few agree on how best to build strong AL, and none can foresee its consequences. But one thing is certain: in constructing this new intelligence we will take our cues from an understanding of the human mind. And so the quest for strong AI ultimately becomes the quest to understand ourselves.

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