I recently came across an article in the FT, exploring the idea of artificial intelligence or so-called “machine learning”. Yes, amazing what one can get into at seven in the morning on a random Sunday, but nonetheless it is an interesting hypothesis to consider if Arnold Schwarzenegger was right all along. In his sci-fi classic Terminator (1984), the machines have in fact taken over and as part of Judgement Day try to exterminate all human life. So, will the fact that we are using machines to crack the financial code and make lots of money, become our demise when they figure out what it is all about?
A few conclusions I could draw after reading said article in our favourite pink newspaper. For one, I am not going to figure this one out by out-smarting anyone. And nothing could exemplify my exhaustion with all that complexity and pseudo-intellectualism more than the following sentence I read: “That leaves open the possibility that consciousness could be an emergent collective property of physical synthetic neural networks”. Yup, that says it all, and it also means very little. Far be it for me to crack the Enigma code, while I am having my morning coffee, but guess what, I don’t think anyone else is making any progress either.
The second conclusion I drew, is that if we haven’t figured out how to deal with our own intelligence, why would we expect a machine to do any better? It’s not that I think I can do maths better than a computer. I also think the machine has an advantage in calculating millions of probabilities as to which actions to take, and therefore making decisions much more rationally than I could. But, that’s the thing about intelligence, the minute you figure out that there is more to life than zeros and ones, then it gets really complicated. Particularly when we are now talking about machines developing a “consciousness” or awareness that they are “alive”, whatever that means.
We have spent millions of years evolving into the “machine” that we are today, and guess what? We still don’t understand how our conscious interacts with the subconscious, when to trust our instincts, or why our emotions cause us to make “good” or “bad” decisions. And in the immortal words of Tina Turner, what has “love got to do with it”? I say, good luck to the machines and I wish them well. Call me in a hundred million years or so and we can have a chat. Chances are, we will still be as lost as ever, and it will be nice to have some company.