Artificial Intelligence: are we stupid to build machines that can outwit us?

Alan Turing came up with a test for assessing the intelligence of a computer back in the 1950s.

A human being and a computer are engaged in natural dialogue and asked the same questions by another human judge. If that judge is unable to distinguish the computer apart from the human, then we can attribute intelligence to that computer; it is able to think, it is able to understand, it is able to fool a human being.

Was Turing naive to ask whether a computer could ever really think for itself? Well, fast-forward to 2012 and it appears the intelligentsia are still asking the same question. The University of Cambridge has now launched The Cambridge Project for Existential Risk (CSER), a research project investigating whether technology could ever become intelligent enough to destroy the human race. This does, however, factor in developments in biotechnology and impacts on climate change.

Artificial Intelligence has also seeped into the social media sphere. A number of social media data mining companies claim to use AI to sift through data. When cutting data by sentiment, for example, there are tools that are apparently programmed to learn and adapt to the intricacies of colloquial language, turns of phrase, and the finer nuances of language. Much more sophisticated than the old Boolean search.

So, will these tools take over and destroy the social media marketing race?

There’s no question that computers have seeped into all industries over the past few decades, in many instances proving a far more cost-effective and efficient workforce than us humans.

It’s certainly true that social media can be automated – automated scheduled posts, automated data mining, automated follower acquisition. But isn’t it the human element of social media that draws people towards it?

A computer may be able to mine unimaginably Big Data, but can it truly analyse and understand the insights into human psychology that the data reveals? Can it really capture whimsicality, irony, dry wit or rhetoric?

Surely it’s not about replacing, but supporting – combine a computer’s brain power with the human ability to understand and interpret and the real value in data is suddenly revealed.

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