AI machines as intelligent as human beings


Earlier this week, we explored the speed at which AI is approaching human intelligence. The maths produced some pretty stunning conclusions. In just over 40 years, we could be face-to-face with a machine that’s as intelligent as a human being.

A machine with the all-round smarts of a human is a pretty shocking thought. But progress won’t stop there. There’s no reason to assume that humans are the most intelligent thing that could ever exist. In fact, it’s far more likely that AI will continue getting smarter – overtaking humans at a breathtaking pace.

As we did in the previous article, we’ll assume that Moore’s law (or something like it) holds for AI. This means that AI can be expected to double in power roughly every 18 months. Therefore, if we have one human-like AI, it won’t take long to make one that’s twice as clever – about 18 months, in fact.

To see how far this can go, let’s imagine a ridiculously, absurdly intelligent machine – one smarter than all the humans on the planet combined. There are roughly seven billion people on the planet. Soon there will be ten billion. Let’s assume crudely that human intelligence is the sum of these minds. How long would it take before we could build such a machine? Could a computer outsmart the whole of humanity in 10,000 years? Maybe as little as 400 years?

In fact, the number is mind-blowingly small – it’s around 50 years. That’s approaching two human generations. And that is for one device. If you look at the speed with which we’re capable of making electronic devices, it’s conceivable that after a further 50 years’ development we will have not just one AI of that power but one each.

Adding these numbers together, we come to an utterly shocking conclusion: a baby born today may realistically own a device smarter than the whole of humanity. I just can’t get my head round a world like that.

But there’s more. We are basing our numbers on the idea that previous progress continues steadily. However, in a few decades we’ll potentially have machines smarter than we are. That might mean we double the capabilities of AI every 12 months, six months, or even every two months. Progress could conceivably be astonishingly fast, once the machines take over the process of innovation.

That’s the power of exponential growth. AI is accelerating towards a level of understanding, capability and creativity that we cannot possibly imagine. And of course we cannot imagine it – because we are mere humans.

With a scale of advance so monumental, it really doesn’t matter that Siri gets all our enquiries wrong today. It’s not about where you start from, it’s about how fast you’re going. In fact, it works just like cost falls in solar power – which is another of my favourite exponentials.

You might fear this future. It may indeed be an AI apocalypse. But this has happened before, and we survived. As a child, my grandmother travelled in a horse and cart. Less than a decade after she died, the first space tourist flew – and we’re all still here.

So, how do you trade this monumental transition in technology?

I’m afraid I can’t reveal the investment plays in Eoin Treacy’s Frontier Tech Investor. But I’ve seen them, and I know you are going to be excited by the AI investment opportunities he has highlighted.

Eoin’s role is different to mine. I look at technologies and trends, but I’m not so bothered about what individual shares are doing. If you’re after the latest, hot-off-the-press company recommendations in AI – you’ll have to subscribe to Frontier Tech Investor.

Nevertheless, I’ll throw you a couple of bones for now, just to help you get in the mood. Traditionally, my focus tends to be on smaller firms – but today I’ll mention two much larger corporations.

The first is IBM, whose “Watson” technology came to the fore when it won the TV game of Jeopardy. Perhaps you thought this was a publicity project. If you did, you were wrong. I’ve recently been face-to-face with IBM, to get the very latest. It’s now being used in real-world applications, in fields from legal to healthcare.

A second firm worthy of a closer look is Google. You’re probably familiar with Android, which is (by far) the world’s most popular mobile operating system. Google are attempting to repeat this conquest with its TensorFlow AI tools. The firm that started by owning search engines, then went on to own mobile, is now trying to own AI.

Of course, these spots aren’t investment recommendations. You should check out Frontier Tech Investor, if you want that kind of information. But for now, you have two firms to investigate – and both of them are going to be a key part of the AI revolution.

Category: Artificial intelligence

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