AI is the big thing right now. But what is INTELLIGENCE?
Every time I see the letters "AI" written now, I wonder what it means. It stands for "artifical intelligence," I realise, but what it really makes me think is "artificial what?" This is because there is no widely accepted common model of what intelligence is.
Mainly, we think that it means "what people do." But in reality, despite decades of trying to figure out how people think, or how well we think, there is no true understanding of this. So what we do is compare other animals to humans, and if they can do what we do, we say that they are intelligent in that way. We are apparently a long way from the scientific establishment accepting that animals have 'intelligence.'
This approach will seem transparently silly to almost anyone who has owned a pet and has observed their pets choices of behaviour, ways of deliberately interacting with people, and obvious preferences for types of food, places to rest, and a whole range of other things.
Recently the Guardian online ran an article about this research. One of the things that really stands out is that people have immense trouble recognising behaviour that is not 'human' as being driven by any kind of intelligence. The link to this article is below .
It seems our default idea is that intelligence is something displayed by a single person - not an non-human animal, not an agglomeration of living things, and not a group of animals. It prompts the question: if we encountered 'alien intelligence,' how would we even know?
Maybe we, as people, feel threatened by the idea of other kinds of intelligence. Maybe we like to think that we are some mystically superior being, exceptions to the natural world that we live in. Whatever the reason, it causes up other problems. For example, when we encounter problems with entities that are not people, or even alive in the conventional sense, we fail to recognise that they will behave in ways that we could predict - they will behave with intelligence. So, say, we find that an organisation, or large multinational company or a political party is causing problems in some way, we fail to recognise that just like a living entity, it will behave in ways intended to preserve the entity and protect it from damage - no matter the consequences of this reaction.
All this makes the idea of "AI" seem very presumtuous. Maybe we are still stuck in the computer metaphor of the brain - after all, what we call AI currently is really just a giant agglomeration of data joined by fast computing, driven by statistical functions. It is essentially rearranging parts of information (or image qualities) in response to user inputs. This might be part of what people do, but it is not intelligence. Whatever intelligence is.