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The Quest for Intelligence
by Richard Jones
(Up to General AI)

I have had a keen interest in artificial intelligence which has been complimented by many modules I have undertaken on my university course. The following is an article I have written expressing my views on the field of artificial intelligence. Any views on this article and comment would be greatly appreciated. Please email me with them.

Intelligence is a subject that has been debated for thousands of years and the debate has no signs of finishing. A dictionary definition of intelligence is "quickness of understanding." Even though this is a particularly apt definition such a simple clear statement has fatal flaws within. There are many definitions of intelligence each with these flaws. These endless flawed definitions prove troublesome if trying to recreate intelligence.

Attempts to recreate intelligence have been the life's work of many scientists. Intelligence can be demonstrated in a software program. However it can have more impact if software is used in conjunction with robotics. A software program that can add up 20 numbers and display a result very quickly can be seen as exhibiting some form of intelligence. A robot with an "intelligent" program that can navigate across a room would be seen as more "intelligent" by the majority. Hence there has been a significant amount of work is developing and using "intelligent" robots.

The main problem with developing an intelligent robot is the many definitions of intelligence. As stated previously a computer program that can add up twenty numbers may be considered intelligent by some but not by others. This results in much debate over whether an intelligent program has been written already.

In society today many people base intelligence on academic achievement. This is highly unfair. People develop at different speeds and thrive under different circumstances. One person may peak academically at fifteen years old, another at twenty-one. Hence their achievements will be different. Everybody has different skills and trying to base a person's ability by global standards in unreasonable. The world today is obsessed with qualifications and obtaining pieces of paper demonstrating that you can use, for example, MS Windows. If someone is an Oxford University graduate people automatically assume they are intelligent. This however does not take into consideration their social ability and also whether they are just intelligent in one particular niche. For example someone could graduate with a First class degree from Oxford University in Computational Mathematics but not be able to spell very well. It could be questioned whether they more or less intelligent that someone who obtained a third class degree in the same subject from a less pretigiuous university but who can spell much better?

This indicates that we only look at someone's ability in a one dimensional sense. For example if the Oxford graduate's intelligence were considered only against a computation mathematics scale then he/she would be considered very intelligent. If it were considered against a spelling scale then he/she would be considered less intelligent. However society does not take into account this one dimensionality of intelligence.

The proof of this one-dimensional view is how we measure a person's intelligence. Many believe in the results of the Intelligent Quotient (IQ). It can be argued there are many types of problem solving questions but again this is only a niche of what can be considered to be judged for intelligence. Is musical ability tested by IQ? Mozart is considered a genius universally but one wonders how would he fare in an IQ test. However it can be argued is a genius intelligent? They can be because they can achieve what many others cannot.

So intelligence should be considered multi-dimensional. What dimensions should be included in the test and how can a comparison be made? This is a very difficult question. For example it could be argued that an intelligence test should test knowledge about a person. Then it could equally be argued that he/she is the most intelligent person in the world. No one knows more about himself or herself than the person in question. Many people would argue that knowledge on a particular person, as one of the dimensions is unfair. However all subjects for the different dimensions would never be agreed upon. They could include musical ability, mathematical ability, social skills, beedsov, etc. Indeed the list could be endless and the inclusion and exclusion of subjects could be convincingly argued by many.

A classic example of how intelligence differs can be seen by considering three people who in their own right have been very successful. Albert Einstein was one of the greatest theoretical physicists ever to live. His theories are considered very important in modern theoretical physics. However he was dyslexic. Paul Gascoigne used to play for the England football team. His ability with a football was enormous. Obviously a lot of practice was needed but he is still considered to have one of the best football brains of his generation. He could do things with a football that many could not and has often been labelled a genius by both the media and the public. Richard Branson is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his generation. He now owns multi-million pound companies which he has built up from nothing. However academically he was less successful which is shown by the fact that he did not pass any O' Levels. Many would believe that not passing any of these qualifications would limit the success of a person. In this case it has not. The question must be posed who is more intelligent; Albert Einstein, Paul Gascoigne or Richard Branson? Before reading this essay most people would probably have said it was Albert Einstein. This essay has surely clouded the issue and each of them can be argued as the most intelligent.

Another aspect of intelligence is that of animal intelligence. Humans consider dolphins to be intelligent. Is it because they are just friendly? There are stories of dolphins helping boats through hazardous waters. Could other animals do this if they were as friendly? Parrots are another animal that we consider intelligent. They can mimic our talking and understand what we say. In fact many animals can. For example when you say "sit" to a dog it can (depending on training) sit. It can link the noise we make with the action of sitting. Can humans do this though with animals? Can we understand the noises that animals make? We can often tell if an animal is in pain but can we tell if an animal is hungry just by its noises? Does this make dogs, parrots and dolphins more intelligent than humans then? Again that is debatable.

In conclusion this essay has shown that the quest for intelligence is by no means trivial. Or is it? Is it trivial to look for something that there is no answer to? The author's main research area deals with artificial intelligence and the quest for the intelligent machine. However it is believed that the goal of an intelligent machine is a long way off. We cannot even attribute intelligence properly to each other. The continuing arrogance of humans wanting to always be superior would limit us from acknowledging a computer's ability. We pride ourselves in greatness and ability to be rule over our world. Therefore if a computer achieves a task better than a human can then this is not seen as intelligent. The classic examples are the chess-playing computers. Chess is considered a complicated game and many of the grand masters are considered very intelligent humans due to its complexity. However when Deep Blue built by IBM beat Gary Kasparov, instead of hailing the world's first truly intelligent computer, it was ridiculed and all its faults pointed out. Man's arrogance does have its advantages. Our power crazy psyche has the flaw in that it always wants to be in control. It is for this reason why truly intelligent machines which could "take over the world" will never happen. Human beings’ own flaw could be our saviour.

© Richard Jones 2002 Version 2

Please note that the views expressed in this essay does not necessarily reflect the views of AI Horizon, but only that of the author cited.

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