Can computers out-think human beings?

Bright-colored balls
Opinions are divided — sometimes sharply divided — about whether or not computers can or ever will out-think human beings.

In “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” published in a British journal, Mind (1950), Alan Turing proposed a test to determine whether or not machines can think. Ten years later, in a memo to IBM managers, CEO Thomas Watson, Jr. shared these thoughts: “Computers will never rob man of his initiative or replace the need for his creative thinking. By freeing man from menial or repetitive forms of thinking, computers will actually increase the opportunities for the full use of human reason. Only human beings can think imaginatively and creatively in the fullest sense of these words.”

My own opinion is that a far more useful question to ask is this: “How can computers and human beings — working together — achieve metacognition?”

In Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing (Columbia University Press) , John E. Kelly III and Steve Hamm acknowledge that serious challenges have begun to emerge at the dawn of cognitive systems. “We know that big shifts are coming but it’s impossible to fully imagine, now, the impact they will have on computing, business, and society.

“But this we do know: by working in concert, humans and cognitive systems have the potential to dramatically improve and accelerate outcomes that matter to us and to make life on earth more sustainable. This alliances of human and machine offers the promise of progress on a massive scale.”

What is the single greatest barrier to fulfilling that promise? In my opinion, it is cultural incompatibility . Unfortunately, Pogo’s memorable insight remains true: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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