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Real vs. artificial intelligence

By RICARDO PAMINTUAN Published Mar 03, 2024 8:58 am

The recent buzz about artificial intelligence (AI) and its endless practical uses has me pondering: did non-humans have a hand in writing these articles?

Every mention of technology replacing humans—whether it’s robots in factories or AI copywriters—brings to mind sci-fi movies where sentient machines battle for Earth’s control.

In our grand human drama, the debate between real intelligence and AI is like a cosmic showdown where wit, satire, and existential musings collide in a darkly comedic epic.

Navigating the future: Seamless connection between humans and technology.

Hollywood has seemingly channeled Nostradamus through films depicting a world where real intelligence faces off against ever-evolving, sinister AI.

From HAL 9000’s human-like traits in 2001: A Space Odyssey to the replicants in Blade Runner yearning for humanity, these movies sparked fascination decades before Facebook ruled our lives.

A scene from Stanley Kubrick’s '2001: A Space Odyssey.'

The Matrix series imagined AI using humans as batteries, leaving us to wonder—if machines are smart enough for that, why not find alternative power sources? And if humans are all in cocoons, how do they reproduce? It’s rather counterintuitive.

James Cameron took things up a notch by adding time manipulation to the mix in The Terminator franchise, where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg character evolves from a nightmarish supervillain to a near-human hero the viewer will actually miss by the time the closing credits roll —a formula that’s been copied countless times.

In 'The Matrix,' AI using humans as batteries.

Despite AI’s raw processing power, it lacks the depth of human emotion and intuition. In films like Blade Runner and The Matrix, AI casts a shadow over humanity’s flame, serving as cautionary tales about relinquishing control to our silicon progeny. Consider the whimsy of Her, where a lonely man finds solace in an AI named Samantha. Despite her vast intellect, Samantha struggles to grasp human emotion, highlighting the essence of real intelligence. The philosophical complexity of these stories can rival concepts only discussed in social science classes. Move over, Ayn Rand.

Blade Runner: Replicants longing for humanity's essence.

In the ever-evolving landscape of human progress, one question looms large: Is real intelligence truly superior? In 1977, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in a chess match that pitted man against machine. But defenders of human intellect will always argue that Deep Blue wasn’t born. It was made. By human programmers and engineers. It won in a game of chess simply because it was fed all the information that any decent chess player could only learn through decades of instruction and experience.

IBM's Deep Blue triumphed over Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in a chess battle, a clash between man and machine.

So, does this make Ultron the ultimate cinematic AI? At the end of Avengers 2, he was reduced to metallic junk by a single zap from Vision, himself an AI imbued with the very human qualities of empathy and love. Not even James Spader’s magnificent voice could save Ultron and bring him to the Infinity Wars.

Unless some computer program reads this piece, AI has no sense of its existence apart from what its human creators allow it to know. Real intelligence, shaped by centuries of evolution, is a tapestry of human experience. An unfettered passion and sense of adventure and boundless curiosity, critical thinking, and the very act of creation—making something out of nothing, like art, music, or this piece—are still very much within man’s domain. No computer can imitate the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Fred Astaire, Murakami, Messi, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, and yes, even James Cameron and Taylor Swift.

Celebrating the essence of human brilliance: Creativity in art, music, and innovation.

Yet, through movies, storytellers manage to weave “what if” scenarios to prevent “what the f***” realities. Unlike AI’s sterile efficiency, real intelligence is guided not only by emotions but also by an interminable, unshakeable survival instinct. Most compelling is real intelligence’s capacity for growth and adaptation. Unlike AI, humans can evolve in response to challenges, to achieve the seemingly impossible when fixated on a single task, as Frodo exemplified in taking the One Ring all the way to the fiery pits of Mordor (of course, with the help of Sam).

So, what can we, as humans with our much-vaunted real intelligence, do in the face of advances in AI? Do we stand idly by and simply marvel at its unrestrained growth, the way we look with envy at our neighbors when there’s a new car in their garage, or do we grow with it? Are we prepared to take our ingenuity to a level where we want to create synthetic versions of ourselves, complete with all human qualities, but without the constraints of time that erode our mortal bodies? Does immortality trump morality and ethics?

More importantly for our discussions, did those Hollywood writers get it right by fearing AI to such an extent that the future of the human race would be determined by a silicon chip?

I’d place my bet on us, for the reasons stated above. I may never be a Neo or a John Connor, but I’m pretty sure that if this laptop I’m using decides on its own to refuse my commands, I can always throw away the accursed machine and get a new, more obedient one.

Sure, AI may have its advantages; it can even make a chess grandmaster look like a sore loser, but it can’t sing with you in a karaoke session, or brew a perfect soju bomb while drinking with your buddies, or say sweet nothings to your boo on a cool night while Marvin Gaye croons in the background.

Being human, making mistakes, aging, and reveling in our memories and achievements: These all sound good.

Cheers to the genuine article!