In 1989, the Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov easily defeated the computer Deep Thought (name drawn from the Douglas Adams book). In 1997 Deep Blue kicked his ass, spawning accusations of cheating (which IBM denied). In a million-dollar rematch in 2003, Kasparov fought Deep Junior to a draw.

If, as Marcel Duchamp said, chess has “all the beauty of art and more,” do Kasparov’s break-even results mean that computers have drawn abreast of human creation, soon to overtake our brain’s ability to interpret, create and learn?

Researchers and developers of Artificial Intelligence say yes—yes, it does. Soon, they say, humans will be at best slaves and more likely relegated to distant, digitally archived memory (for better or for worse).

Since 1950 when Alan Turing (see “Turing Machine”) posed the question can computers think? the race has been on to make human beings obsolete. The real question, according to most AI researchers, is not whether computers can replicate human intelligence closely enough to be indistinguishable from it (already, in many situations, it can), but whether quacking like a duck is the same as being a duck—is the exact replication of intelligence actually intelligence? (For more, see the Chinese Room argument in the Thought Experiments section of this book.)

The tools of AI are hugely complex, drawing not only on the idea that more and faster 1’s and 0’s are good, but also on mathematics, economics, probability theory, psychology, genetics (and natural selection), advanced concepts of neural networks and many, many more seriously abstruse technical and scientific concepts. However, the general problems of AI are fairly well defined, breaking the overall goal of “intelligence” into the following eight sub-tasks: deduction/reasoning/problem-solving, knowledge representation, planning, learning, language processing, perception, motion, and social intelligence.

The combination of these tasks would result in Strong AI, or general intelligence. Like astro- and quantum physicists working toward a Unified Theory from the angle of their individual specialties, many AI researchers concentrate on one of the aforementioned problem areas, hoping to solve their tentacle, for later combination with other tentacles to create the full octopus; others consider Strong AI itself a necessary step toward solving any component, citing the interconnectedness of tasks.

No matter the approach, the accelerating pace of AI successes will soon necessitate sending a small pod of humans in search of another planet, and upon discovery, destroying all remnants of technology that traveled with them, in hopes of restarting and thus prolonging the human race.

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