(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
The Accelerating Evolution of Machines
Whenever we look at the rapid progress posted by machines in performing this or that task, it is tempting to say that the machine achieved in a few years what took humans millions of years of evolution to achieve. The argument goes like this: "Yes, it took years to build a machine that recognizes a cat, but how long did it take evolution to create a living being that recognizes cats?"
The truth is that any human-made technology is indirectly using the millions of years of evolution that it took to evolve its creator (Homo Sapiens). No human being, no machine. Therefore it is incorrect to claim that the machine came out of the ENIAC: it came out of millions of years of evolution, just like my nose. The machine that is now so much better than previous models of a few years ago did NOT evolve: WE evolved it (and continue to evolve it).
There is no machine that has created another machine that is superior. WE create a better machine.
We are capable of building machines (and tools in general) because those millions of years of evolution equipped us with some skills (that the machine does NOT have). If humans gets extinct tomorrow morning, the evolution of machines ends. Right now this is true of all technologies. If all humans die, all our technologies die with us (until a new form of intelligent life arises from millions of years of evolution and starts rebuilding all those watches, bikes, coffee makers, dishwashers, airplanes and computers). Hence, technically speaking, there has been no evolution of technology.
This is yet another case in which we are applying an attribute invented for one category of things to a different category: the category of living beings evolve, the category of machines does something else, which we call "evolve" by recycling a word that actually has a different meaning. It would be more appropriate to say that a technology "has been evolved" rather than "evolved": computers have been evolved rapidly (by humans) since their invention.
Technologies don't evolve (as of today): we make them evolve.
The day that we have machines that survive without human intervention and that build other machines without human intervention, we can apply the word "evolve" to those machines.
As far as i know those machines don't exist yet, which means that there has been zero evolution in machine intelligence so far.
The machine is not intelligent, the engineer who designed it is. That engineer is the product of millions of years of evolution, the machine is a by-product of that engineer's millions of years of evolution.
(See the appendix for a provocative counter-argument: maybe i got it all wrong, and it is technologies that evolve and use us to evolve).
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