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When Will Computers Be Smarter Than Us?
Nick Bostrom   Jun 24, 2009   Forbes  

Intelligence is a big deal. Humanity owes its dominant position on Earth not to any special strength of our muscles, nor any unusual sharpness of our teeth, but to the unique ingenuity of our brains. It is our brains that are responsible for the complex social organization and the accumulation of technical, economic and scientific advances that, for better and worse, undergird modern civilization.

All our technological inventions, philosophical ideas and scientific theories have gone through the birth canal of the human intellect. Arguably, human brain power is the chief limiting factor in the development of human civilization.

Unlike the speed of light or the mass of the electron, human brain power is not an eternally fixed constant. Brains can be enhanced. And, in principle, machines can be made to process information as efficiently as—or more efficiently than—biological nervous systems.

There are multiple paths to greater intelligence. By “intelligence,” I here refer to the panoply of cognitive capacities, including not just book smarts but also creativity, social intuition, wisdom and so on.

There are traditional means of enhancing intelligence, like education, and newer means like biotechnology. Perhaps the smartest and wisest thing the human species could do would be to work on making itself smarter and wiser. In the longer run, however, biological human brains might cease to be the predominant nexus of earthly intelligence.

Machines will have several advantages: most obviously, faster processing speed. An artificial neuron can operate a million times faster than its biological counterpart. Machine intelligences may also have superior computational architectures and learning algorithms. These “qualitative” advantages, while harder to predict, may be even more important than the advantages in processing power and memory capacity. Furthermore, artificial intellects can be easily copied, and each new copy can—unlike humans—start life fully fledged and endowed with all the knowledge accumulated by its predecessors. Given these considerations, it is possible that one day we may be able to create “superintelligence,” a general intelligence that vastly outperforms the best human brains in every significant cognitive domain.

Read the rest here.

Nick Bostrom Ph.D. is Professor of Applied Ethics at Oxford University, the Director of the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute, and co-founder and former Board Chair of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and co-founder and former Board Chair of the World Transhumanist Association (Humanity+).


Nice post and great article. According to my opinion my computer was always more smarter than me till when there is no problem in my computer. I will become so tensed when I even got some small problem in that and it is my good friend.

Yes, humanity owes its dominant position to its brain, but ‘intelligence’ is only one facet of the brain, and I’m not even convinced that intelligence is really is ‘the big deal’ its made out to be.  At least, it’s still not clear that it’s really our most important cognitive ability.

You’ve tried to strech the definition of intelligence to coverother cognitive skills like ‘creativity’, but Nick you surely must know very well that things like ‘creativity’ are not part of the standard definition of intelligence at all.  High IQ is not correlated with creativity, nor with many other valuable facets of the mind.

Despite Singularity Institute dogma, it’s still not even clear that intelligence alone would be sufficient for run-away self-improvement at all, or even that intelligence has the central importance they are claiming.

For example, suppose that the central cognitive skill is reflection and consciousness, for example, and intelligence was only a side effect?  Then it may naively seem to an observer that humanity owes its place to improved intelligence, whereas in fact intelligence was simply a side-effect of the real power.

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