Will AI’s Next Wave of Super Intelligence Replace Human Ingenuity? It’s Complicated

Published on December 15, 2023

OpenAI, the GenAI poster child that unleashed ChatGPT, has its sights set on inventing the world’s first General AI that can outperform human intelligence. While nearly impossible, it’s more likely for next-gen AI to pave the way to new paths by doing what no humans can do. 

Since the 1960s, there’s increasingly been a growing distrust of humans vs. AI – as evidenced by HAL 9000 “going insane” in the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey – among countless other pop-culture imaginations. In fact, it even spawned a new sector of academic study called social robotics – for a new age of human-like robots (Think: “The Jetsons” cartoon) who serve as tight-knit members of the family.

More recently with rapid AI advances going mainstream, the fear and distrust of AI has hit closer to home – from the actors’ and writers’ strikes in Hollywood to concerns about what the future of IP law looks like, and more numerous lawsuits tied to protecting the rights of humans vs. algorithms across a broadening swath of industry sectors.

Adding more fuel to the fire is the ultimate Holy Grail being sought by a new wave of AI pioneers: the design and eventual arrival of general artificial intelligence (AGI). For example, OpenAI’s charter is to develop and commercialize AGI that can “outperform humans at most economically valuable work” – and to do so in a way that “benefits all of humanity.”

The academic and industry definitions of AGI vary, but most revolve around the concept of an eventual evolution to highly autonomous systems that can outperform humans at nearly any task due to their super intelligence. As for AGI’s ETA, estimates vary from decades to more than a century away. Some AI specialists believe that achieving absolute AGI is not possible.

For many of us, AI’s evolution and its ultimate impact on how we live and earn our livings, the idea of an unpleasant hypothetical future where our tech grows out of control and transforms our realities –  dubbed The Singularity – is setting off our “Spidey Sense” alarms these days. For others, there’s a brighter future where humans and machines can co-exist and prosper together.

Why Achieving AGI That’s Creatively Intelligent Is Complicated

If you ask ChatGPT to write you a poem today, it will likely be a mediocre one. Perhaps a technically correct haiku, if that was in the prompt, or one that rhymes in the right spots, but it’s more unlikely to cause an emotional stir like one from a human 

This is because ChatGPT is only using a small sliver of what we, the most super-intelligent creatures on Earth, are programmed to do. The brilliant trick performed by Large Language Models is the amazing speed they can access a massive trove of human communications and model them into the right format for “the ask” in only seconds – much faster than most of us. 

But is it possible for GenAI tools to write true literature, poetry, music, comedy, or screenplays that will create something that’s truly novel, moving, or awe-inspiring? That is a far more ambitious goal and one that is exceedingly more difficult.

Yes, GenAI blended with human creativity and prompting can produce some magnificent “magic,” and rapidly – from spectacular special effects for streaming TV giants to AI-powered art and design, or various plot lines for franchise books and movies. But there is a massive capability gap to having AI outperform Beyoncé or Taylor Swift and their teams’ ability to produce chart-busting, award-winning albums – or to compose a great opera, paint the Mona Lisa, or write the next “Catcher in the Rye” for Generation Z.

That’s because today’s AI capabilities are narrow and more “general” – but not on par with OpenAI’s AGI vision. It is not super-intelligent or wired to be creative to produce something that is novel and interesting. And to push the concept further, the real question is: what is interesting? It is not necessarily interesting if it has never existed before.

AGI will arrive when machines can beat the best of humans in every task: for example, out-performing Lady Gaga and Elton John in the music category in front of an international audience during a Grammy’s or Oscar Awards broadcast.

“The bigger opportunity for AI in the future is not in doing everything better than humans can.”

Programming AI to Provoke and Conjure Practical Magic

While commercialization goals for AGI vary, the breakthrough being pursued by major tech players such as OpenAI is defined as when machines can beat the best of all our humans in every task: to write poetry better than Maya Angelou, a speech better than Dr. MLK Jr., a movie script as provocative as Spike Lee, or a dissent as moving as one from Notorious RBG.

Achieving this during our lifetimes is improbable. However, by using different programming techniques – for example, using a Creative Adversarial Network (CAN) to reduce the need to create something conforming, or following typical conventions 

Over time, AI can be taught to create art, designs, literature, or music that is “interesting” by breaking rules, while providing a framework for the AI to have more freedom. For example, by subverting the main rules about intervals in music, or using more “old fashioned” deep-learning algorithms like my colleagues at Sony Computer Science Lab did for “Daddy’s Car” – a Beatles’-like song that was the first one to be composed by AI, released back in 2016.

The bigger opportunity for AI in the future is not in doing everything better than humans can.

The real treasure for next-wave AI innovators to focus on is using advanced AI systems to do amazing things humans cannot. For example, AI-powered devices can make observations and new associations most humans don’t notice such as pupils growing wider or heartbeats quickening based on different imagery on a screen. And they can mathematically perceive many different spatial dimensions and reams of information that we cannot.

If we, as a global tech community, focus on driving this practical intelligence by designing and tapping into the advanced, non-human capabilities of AI, that could be truly transformative.

Giordano Cabral is a professor at UFPE and the Chairman of the Board at CESAR Innovation Center and School located in Recife, Brazil’s Porto Digital. He is a specialist in artificial intelligence, computational creativity, gamification, and audio and music technology who is currently leading the study of these topics as a visiting scholar at Stanford University.

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