Head of IBM Watson Claims AI 'Augments' Human Intelligence, Not Replaces It

Saturday, 19 August 2017 - 12:15PM
Technology
Artificial Intelligence
Saturday, 19 August 2017 - 12:15PM
Head of IBM Watson Claims AI 'Augments' Human Intelligence, Not Replaces It
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Depending on which tech industry giant you're speaking to, artificial intelligence can be a touchy subject. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai both think investing in AI is the natural next step in scientific advancement, while Elon Musk believes it'll one day kill us all if we don't regulate it more.

Rob High, the Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of IBM Watson, is a member of that first camp (with a couple caveats). High believes that AI is most useful not when it's off thinking and solving problems on its own, but when it's used as a tool to augment human problem-solving skills by thinking alongside them - to the point that he likes referring to AI as "augmented intelligence" instead. 

Speaking to PC Mag, High explained the philosophy he's developed since working on/with Watson:

Opening quote
"...If you look at almost every other tool that has ever been created, our tools tend to be most valuable when they're amplifying us, when they're extending our reach, when they're increasing our strength, when they're allowing us to do things that we can't do by ourselves as human beings. That's really the way that we need to be thinking about AI as well, and to the extent that we actually call it augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence."
Closing quote


The reason High's stance could be considered a caveat to positions held by Zuckerberg and Pichai is because they sometimes do send AI programs off to think on their own. Recently Facebook had to shut down some of their AI after discovering it was inventing its own language, using shorthand that humans were having some difficulty parsing. While at Google, they'd discovered the neural networks they'd built could now build even better neural networks without human involvement

High still isn't worried about all that. And in fact, he believes all the Skynet comparisons are overblown and a major obstacle toward public acceptance of AI as the useful tool it could be. In particular, he calls out the Turing test as something which scares folks into believing that AI might try to pass itself off as human for some sinister reason:

Opening quote
"I think the most common problem that we're running into with people talking about AI is they still live in the world where I think Hollywood has amplified this idea that cognitive computing, AI, is about replicating the human mind, and it's really not. Things like the Turing test tend to reinforce that what we're measuring is the idea of AI being able to compete with fooling people into believing that what you're dealing with is another human being, but that's really not been where we have found the greatest utility."
Closing quote


Again, all of this drastically differs from views held by other big names in tech like Musk and Stephen Hawking, both of which endorsed guidelines for preventing a possible AI takeover. And Musk has approached "augmenting human intelligence" very differently, creating his vaguely cyberpunk Neuralink company as a means of augmenting humans with implanted neural computers, specifically so humans can compete against AI. 

All in all, High doesn't think Watson or any other AI programs will do anything sinister beyond beating humans at video games. He sees Watson less like a HAL 9000 or a Skynet, but more like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a useful crew member to have onboard, helping humans with human missions. Until they become curious about gaining human emotions, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
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