Sunday, April 23, 2017

Can humans really have a peanut sized brain?

In my personal opinion, maybe years from now, YES, humans may end up with a peanut sized brain.

I had posted my thoughts on Artificial Intelligence in my previous blog post. In an extremely subdued way, I had focused on the economic aspects of AI particularly in the areas of employment in that post. Even after several weeks of that post, I have still been thinking about the topic of AI. My current thoughts have been on the advancements in the field of Internet of Things (IOT), Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and their effects on humans as ‘beings’.

Every advancement throughout the human history has been logically/technically next step over the previous way. If something was done in one way, the advancement was to do it in a better way or a newer efficient way to achieve the same thing. Most advancements have been excellent and much needed; bestowing humans with luxuries their previous generations had not seen. However I think every advancement also took away something from that generation of humans. In most cases that adverse side effect of advancement took its toll on the knowledge, or a process or just the general way of life. For instance, people mostly forgot how to read latitudes and longitudes or even navigate looking at the stars, after the advent of GPS. As cell phone use increased, remembering 8-10 phone numbers became a big thing. Starting a fire rubbing stones which was once a part of daily life is now limited to museums and end of the world survival lessons.

Extending this thought of side effects of technology to humans as ‘beings’, I think technology advancements will have a direct impact on the human brain. As we continue to see advancements in the fields of IOT, AI and ML, I think most people will start using their brains less and less. Computers and AI algorithms will continue to learn and improve to ensure they serve their human masters well; while humans will use their brain less and depend on the AI algorithms more. Truly speaking isn’t that the real reason for AI? To take away the ‘human’ element to maximize safety and efficiency? However, going at this rate I think humans will very soon reach a point where most of us will use our brains primarily (or should I say ‘Only’?) for watching TV, using cell phones, eating, sleeping and such basic activities. Machines will do all the heavy lifting ensuring humans do not stress their brain.


Similar to how a Giraffe got a long neck, I think the human brain will slowly shrink and might become a ‘vestigial’ organ. A vestigial organ as per the dictionary, is an organ which had a use once but has lost its use now.  So a human brain might, in my opinion become more like eyebrow or appendix, a vestigial organ. I do not think humans will end up brainless as we will continue to use our brain for basic needs, but I think as the usage of the brain reduces maybe our brain will shrink in size. If our brain is the size of 2 apples today, maybe it will reduce to the size of 1 apple and gradually to the size of a walnut. Over the next several centuries or millennia’s our brain might eventually reduce to the size of a peanut.

~Narendra V Joshi

Sunday, February 12, 2017

My ‘Artificial Intelligence’ dilemma

My daughter came back from the school the other day and asked me if my father and his father also used to work on computers. I think it was related to some activity they were working on in the school. I explained to her what my father and my grandfather did for a living, which by the way, was not computers.  As I went further in my explanation she seemed surprised and amazed that back in the ‘olden’ days, ‘people’ used to do things and not computers.

I could not get over my own thoughts even long after my daughter had stepped off once she had found her answers. I was intrigued by the thoughts of my childhood. There were not many devices or machines or cell phone apps to do things. Most chores had to be done manually. The most important point, in my opinion, was that back in the ‘olden days’ people had to ‘know’ how to ‘do’ things; unlike today, where people have to ‘know’ how to ‘use’ things. A finance person back then had to write up a journal, a ledger, a trial balance to get to the balance sheet. Today all that a finance person has to do is provide raw data to a software which throws out a balance sheet. Teachers are now ‘virtual’ and ‘online’; while signal lights, cameras and radars are the new age traffic cops. I wonder how many bankers now actually know how to write a balance sheet or how many students know how to write a sick leave letter or how many industrial workers know how to work on lathes and milling machines.

Slowly my thoughts strayed into the world of ‘Artificial intelligence’ (AI), the supposedly next big revolution. With the advancement in the areas of machine learning, self-healing, self - cloning-and-shut down; things are no more just programmatically done. They are now programmatically discovered, built, advanced, cloned, rebuilt and even destroyed. Humans are no more needed in many of the processes. Self-driving cars and trucks are replacing human drivers while ATM’s and teller-bots are replacing banking staff. Robots are replacing human workers in industries, in hospitals and even in armed forces. Maybe 20 years from now, people will have their own robots which will work on their behalf. Maybe ‘my’ robot might take my place as a programmer and program on my behalf; while a ‘farmers’ robot might do farming on behalf of its farmer owner and a ‘lawyers’ robot might argue in the court on behalf of its lawyer owner.

The more I thought about the possibilities of AI, the more endless that list seemed to me. I was amused, fascinated, intrigued, and also terrified at my own thoughts. The opportunities seemed limitless.

As I thought through, one question came up often and has remained unanswered in my head. Assuming that the intelligent humans will get into the task of building even powerful AI systems, what job will an average human do, say 20 years from now? Going by the rate of growth in the field of AI, most jobs that average humans do today, might be done by ‘AI-Bots’ in future. So what will a regular guy like me do?



On a lighter note -
I feel there is 1 job which cannot be take over even by the best AI-bots. Throughout the human history, there has almost always been 1 kind of people who have made their presence felt in almost every culture, in almost every civilization and in almost every country – ‘the politicians’. I think politics is one safe career that the next generation average humans should think about until the intelligent folks come up with something that the average folks can look into.



~Narendra V Joshi