Rise Of The Humans: Intelligence Amplification Will Make Us As Smart As The Machines

In January this year Microsoft announced the HoloLens, a technology based on virtual and augmented reality (AR). HoloLens supplements what you see with overlaid 3D images. It also uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate relevant information depending on the situation the wearer is in. The information is then augmented to the your normal vision using virtual reality (VR). It left a lot of us imagining its potential, from video games to medical sciences. But HoloLens might also give us insight into an idea that goes beyond conventional artificial intelligence: that technology could complement our intelligence, rather than replacing it, as is often the case when people talk about AI.

Robot human image from Shutterstock

Alvin DMello, Queensland University of Technology

From AI to IA

Around the same time that AI was first defined, there was another concept that emerged: intelligence amplification (IA), which was also variously known as cognitive augmentation or machine augmented intelligence.

In contrast to AI, which is a standalone system capable of processing information as well as or better than a human, IA is actually designed to complement and amplify human intelligence. IA has one big edge over AI: it builds on human intelligence that has evolved over millions of years, while AI attempts to build intelligence from scratch.

IA has been around from the time humans first began to communicate, at least in a very broad sense. Writing was among the first technologies that might be considered as IA, and it enabled us to enhance our creativity, understanding, efficiency and, ultimately, intelligence.

For instance, our ancestors built tools and structures based on trial and error methods assisted by knowledge passed on verbally and through demonstration by their forebears. But there is only so much information that any one individual can retain in their mind without external assistance.

Today we build complex structures with the help of hi-tech survey tools and highly accurate software. Our knowledge has also much improved thanks to the recorded experiences of countless others who have come before us. More knowledge than any one person could remember is now readily accessible through external devices at the push of a button.

Although IA has been around for many years in principle, it has not been a widely recognised subject. But with systems such as HoloLens, IA can now be explicitly developed to be faster than was possible in the past.

From AR to IA

Augmented reality is just the latest technology to enable IA, supplementing our intelligence and improving it.

The leap that Microsoft has taken with HoloLens is using AI to boost IA. Although this has also been done in various disparate systems before, Microsoft has managed to bring all the smaller components together and present it on a large scale with a rich experience.

AR experience on HoloLens

For example, law enforcement agencies could use HoloLens to access information on demand. It could rapidly access a suspect’s record to determine whether they’re likely to be dangerous. It could anticipate the routes the suspect is likely to take in a pursuit. This would effectively make the officer more “intelligent” in the field.

Surgeons are already making use of 3D printing technology to pre-model surgery procedures enabling them to conduct some very intricate surgeries that were never before possible. Similar simulations could be done by projecting the model through an AR device, like HoloLens.

Blurred lines

Lately there has been some major speculation about the threat posed by superintelligent AI. Philosophers such as Nick Bostrom have explored many issues in this realm.

AI today is far behind the intelligence possessed by any individual human. However, that might change. Yet the fear of superintelligent AI is predicated on there being a clear distinction between the AI and us. With IA, that distinction is blurred, and so too is the possibility of there being a conflict between us and AI.

Intelligence amplification is an old concept, but is coming to the fore with the development of new augmented reality devices. It may not be long before your own thinking might be enhanced to superhuman levels thanks to a seamless interface with technology.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation.


    Further to this, as humans, we spend so much time learning the basics and building up a base of experience, that essentially a large part of our life is wasted in just gathering that knowledge.
    If we were able to be implanted with a base of knowledge more than the primordial urges genetically encoded within us, then we could advance humanity tenfold.
    When we look at the overlay of civilisation (and such a thin veneer it is), it has not really changed much since the dawn of time.
    We still humiliate, hurt and kill each other, often for merest suggestion of offence. Our greatest inventions typically come from the desire to locate and kill more efficiently.

    Of course, there are strong counter arguments to be made as well. The development of the neural pathways is unique to each, and most of our generational leaps in technology are because someone thinks differently to others.
    The choice to make judgements based on personal experience will be deemed to important, for it makes us characteristic - ala Isaac Asimov's AL-76 robot in Robot AL-76 goes astray.
    Also, the ever present fear of influencing via selective or weighted information within this data store could align people from birth to a particular cause, philosophy or brand.

    Humans are both cursed and blessed with something robots may never have - emotion.
    In an argument, the emotional side always loses versus a logical side and yet, emotion drives the majority of our decisions, in a day to day basis.
    Whilst this develops our humanity (and makes us good consumers) it also hobbles the more ruthless logical aspect of our nature.
    Whether this is a good thing or bad is subjective, but a species survival point of view, I think we may not have the luxury of choice for much longer.
    More so, if IA becomes prevalent, because we will find that normal humans will be locked out of any further decision making, as IA enhanced humans gradually take control.
    If there are not ethical constraints built into IA, then humans could quickly find themselves on the endangered species list.

    Deus Ex touched upon the possibility of AI being like God to people - something more intelligent, omnipresent and powerful, for people to call upon. I'm not going to delve into the theological implications of this, but essentially it outlined the strong ever present need for humanity to look towards something more than ourselves.
    As children, that is our parents, but once we grow up ?

    AI does not have to be malignant to humans, but even if it was, it is just going to do what we have been busy doing for millennia - killing each other off, just with a higher efficiency rate.
    Based on our past track record, it could be argued it is giving us what we've always wanted.

    Last edited 15/10/15 3:39 pm

    It also uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate relevant information depending on the situation the wearer is in.
    No, it doesn't, that's just a description of what would be useful but isn't occurring unless you're passing off some cheap GPS location near-me triggers as AI.
    AI can't identify what situation an apple is in, in a painting of a bowl of fruit.
    It cannot identify the context of a still from a UFC fight immediately prior to a concussing punch. If you are repeating a suggestion it could have function in relation to policing, that's ridiculous.

    For example, law enforcement agencies could use HoloLens to access information on demand. It could rapidly access a suspect’s record to determine whether they’re likely to be dangerous.
    Are you from the 1950s? That's called a computer accessing a database, not AI.

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