Despite The Hype, Artificial Intelligence Remains Inferior To The Human Brain

Despite the hype, artificial intelligence remains inferior to the human brain in certain aspects. While humans have the ability to think critically and engage in abstract reasoning, AI primarily excels at analyzing vast amounts of data and identifying patterns.

The global infoscape is currently abuzz with alarmist predictions over the dangers posed by artificial intelligence (AI). Billionaire entrepreneurs and their hirelings, who had once gushed over the emerging AI “technopia”, have suddenly turned apocalyptic. As the narrative du jour goes, a sentient AI may ultimately turn against its creators.

But are there any merits to this claim, apart from fictional cues from the Terminator franchise?

One way to answer that question would be to compare AI to an analogue that is already available and sentient, namely – the human brain. AI was designed not only to mimic the human mind but also to out-compute it in certain aspects. Apart from presenting a paradigm shift, AI’s utility is not entirely revolutionary. Rather, it is a continuation of innovations past and present – wheels, cranks, and windmills to surmount our limbic limitations; bows, arrows and missiles to counter remote threats; and the Internet to resolve space-time constraints in (global) communications. 

According to a notable article in the Foglets, “it is postulated that the human brain operates at 1 exaFLOP, which is equivalent to a billion calculations per second”. Mind you, this is just a postulation – a guesstimate likely defined by computing metrics. At the time of writing, Frontier, the world’s fastest supercomputer, reportedly operates at a speed of 1.102 exaFLOP. The difference between the brain and the supercomputer, however, lies in nature and function: one thinks while the other analyses data. 

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We have invented supercomputers to crunch numbers, but our scientists remain baffled by the neural processing prowess of human calculators. Shakuntala Devi, who grew up in a circus environment, was one prime example. Our sophisticated machine-mediated models still cannot fully comprehend how the brain works, beyond the fact that there is an atypical increase in blood flow to particular cerebral lobes when computational tasks are performed. The rest is a plane of scattered studies, suppositions, and data that have yet to be reconciled into a comprehensible whole.

There are too many unknowns with regards to the human brain. This may be the reason why the scientific community casually divides its major functions into eight or 12 primary categories. Where sentience lies within these categories remains an open question. Maybe, it is the result of cumulative interactions between all of them. Or maybe, humans have a sentient soul that makes them innovate in a way inaccessible to other species? Maybe, unlike AI devices and algorithms, the brain is software and hardware rolled into one? Too much uncertainty remains.

If neuroscience is an inchoate field riddled with myriad questions and gaps, what of its simpler subset – artificial intelligence? Can an embryonic technology invented by humans suddenly spring to life and threaten mankind? If we cannot fully understand how the human brain works or even define sentience, why are we cutting and pasting plots from sci-fi flicks onto our reality? 

There is a hypothetical chance that artificial intelligence does pose a real threat within a narrow spectrum. Poor software designs, rushed developmental processes and mismatched updates to algorithms, among others, can lead to various disaster scenarios. Those involve incidents at chemical or nuclear plants, on the stock market, or with experimental self-driving vehicles. But the prospect of an ominous, sentient AI is an imaginary proposition altogether. 

The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, made the announcement during a speech opening London Tech Week that the UK will get ‘early or priority access’ to AI models from Google and OpenAI.

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