Intelligence is not Artificial

Why the Singularity is not Coming any Time Soon And Other Meditations on the Post-Human Condition and the Future of Intelligence

by piero scaruffi
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(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")

The Future of Human Creativity

Maybe we should focus on what can make us (current Homo Sapiens people) more intelligent, instead of focusing on how to build more intelligent machines that will make our intelligence obsolete. Creativity is what truly sets Homo Sapiens apart from other species.

There are two myths here that i never bought. The first one is that adults are more intelligent than children, and therefore children have to learn from adults, not viceversa.

Children perform an impressive feat in just a few years, acquiring an incredible amount of knowledge and learning an incredible portfolio of skills. They are also fantastically creative in the way they deal with objects and people. Teenagers are still capable of quick learning (for example, foreign languages) and can be very creative (often upsetting parents and society that expect a more orthodox behavior, i.e. compliance with rules). Adults, on the other hand, tend to live routine lives and follow whatever rules they are told to obey.

When i look at the evidence, it seems to be that creativity, and therefore what is unique about human intelligence, declines with age. We get dumber and less creative, not smarter and more creative; and, once we become dumb adults, we do our best to make sure that children too become as dumb as us.

Secondly, the people of the rich developed high-tech world implicitly assume that they are more intelligent and creative than the people of the poor undeveloped low-tech world. In my opinion, nothing could be farther from the truth. The top of creativity is encountered in the slums and villages of the world. It is in the very poor neighborhoods that humans have to use their brain every single minute of their life to come up with creative and non-orthodox solutions, solutions that nobody taught them to problems that nobody studied before. People manage to run businesses in places where there is no infrastructure, where at any time something unpredictable can (and will) happen. They manage to sell food without a store. They manage to trade without transportation. When they obtain a tool, they often use it not for the purpose for which it was originally designed but for some other purpose. They devise ever new ways to steal water, electricity, cable television and cellular phone service from public and private networks. They find ways to multiply and overlap the functions of the infrastructure (for example, a railway track also doubles as a farmer's market, and a police road-block becomes a snack stop). They help each other with informal safety networks that rival state bureaucracies (not in size or budget, but in effectiveness). The slums are veritable laboratories where almost every single individual (of a population of millions) is a living experiment (in finding new ways of surviving and prospering). There is no mercy for those who fail to "create" a new life for themselves every day: they stand no chance of "surviving".

If one could "measure" creativity, i think the slums of the world would easily outperform Silicon Valley.

Robots will replace Silicon Valley engineers way before they can replace the humble seller of pillows at the bus station who walks around barefoot trying to locate the most likely customer among the thousands of frantic long-distance passengers.

These highly creative people yearn for jobs in the "white" economy, the economy of the elite that lives outside the slums. For that "white" economy they may perform trivial repetitive jobs (chauffeur, cashier, window washer); which means that they have to leave their creativity at home. The "white" economy has organized daily life in such a way (around "routines") that everybody is guaranteed to at least survive. The people of the slums use their brains only when they live and work in the slums. When they live or work outside the slums, they are required to stop being creative and merely follow procedures, procedures that were devised by vastly less creative people who would probably not survive one day in the slums. Routines maximize productivity precisely by reducing human creativity. Someone else "creates", and the worker only has to perform, a series of predefined steps. The slum dweller cannot be replaced by a machine, but the "routinized" worker can be.

The routine, however, is useful for businesses because it can "amplify" the effect of innovation. The innovation may be very small and very infrequent, but the effect of the routine performed by many workers (e.g., by many Silicon Valley engineers) is to make even the simplest innovation relevant for millions of individuals.

The creativity of slums and villages, on the other hand, is constant, but, lacking the infrastructure to turn it into routine, ends up solving only a small problem for a few individuals. The slums are a colossal reservoir of creative energies that the world is wasting, and, in fact, suppressing.

In our age we are speeding up the process by which (rule-breaking) children become (rule-obeying) adults and, at the same time, we are striving to turn the creativity of the slums into the routine of factories and offices. It seems to me that these two processes are more likely to lead to a state of lower rather than higher intelligence for the human race.

I suspect that removing the unpredictable from life means removing the very essence of the human experience and the very enabler of human intelligence. On the other hand, removing the unpredictable from life is the enabler of machine intelligence.

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