Does your intuition tell you that computers can’t develop intuition? If so, then you might want to reconsider in light of this week’s news.
Computers have been better at chess since Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997, but this week Google’s AlphaZero, a general-purpose artificial intelligence (AI) absolutely crushed the reigning computer champion, winning 28 games out of 100 and drawing the rest (no losses at all). It did not win because it computed faster or with a better brute-force algorithm. It won by having better chess intuition than any human. And it developed this intuition all on its own.
Last weekend, I was running an errand in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge is not an easy place to find a parking spot, so when I came across one I nabbed it.
I was in a hurry so I jogged to my destination without taking much note of what was around me. I just followed Google Maps on my phone. It turned out to be much farther than I thought — about 15 minutes at a brisk pace.
I finished my shopping and headed back to my car. There was only one problem: I was not entirely sure where it was! I headed in the general direction (at least I knew that much) and explored the unfamiliar streets of the city. They were all very quaint but as far as I was concerned one was exactly like the other.
After 20 minutes of that, I called to tell my daughter, who I was scheduled to visit that evening, that I would probably be late and might be wandering the streets of Cambridge all night.
Then I had an idea. Sammi, my Samsung Galaxy phone, had helped me out on so many occasions before. Maybe she could help now.
I pressed the button to activate voice recognition. “Where have I been today?” I asked.
Instantly, Sammi told me how to use a feature of Google Maps that I had not known about: Menu / Your Timeline. Up came a map that allowed me to retrace my drive from earlier that day. I recognized the corner where I had parked, and was at my car in two minutes.
I don’t know about you, but I plan to willingly submit to our digital overlords just as soon as they arrive.
Many of us try to live by this simple verse in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1):
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Sound advice, right? Yes, but last night I learned that sometimes we need to do better than that. We need to make a judgment and speak up.
Here’s the most astonishing, scary thing I came across all week. Have a look. I promise that you’ll consider it time very well spent and a real eye-opener.
Armed only with a man’s cell phone number, a hacker skilled in what’s called “social engineering” is able to totally take over his account. She effortlessly convinces a representative of the phone company that she’s the man’s wife, gets herself added to the account, and then changes the password. Bingo!
You didn’t believe me when I said, “In ten years nobody will be able to lie,” did you?
All I can say now is, “Ha!”
In the few weeks since I wrote that series, I have seen many articles touting progress in the area of truth-detection. Here’s the latest one, from The Atlantic: Algorithms Can Help Stomp Out Fake News. You can visit the link for the full story, but here I’ll give you a peek at just a few of the fascinating techniques that are already in use today.
The Singularity refers to that point in the closer-than-you-think future when technology will have so transformed our society that people from today would barely recognize life in the Singularity era. It borrows its name from the singularity at the center of a black hole, where the laws of physics as we know them break down.
In my last post, I forecast one piece of technology that will change society in ways we can’t predict: the ubiquitous, accurate lie detector. Now let’s start to consider how our lives might change when nearly every lie can be detected.
Even if you don’t buy my premise that we’ll have these devices, let’s have fun speculating together, for speculation is all that we can do. In fact, the consequences of these Singularity-era devices are so uncertain that maybe I should only ask questions. Let’s begin with this one:
Within 10 years, nobody will be able to lie. Or more precisely, all lies will be detected instantly, so people will stop lying. Can you imagine how that will change society!?
But hold on a second! How is this going to happen?
Think about it: the technology is all here. We’re only waiting for someone to put the following pieces together.