Monday, February 18, 2013

Intelligence Augmentation - IA rather than AI

Technology to extend us


NS-5 Robot from the movie "I, Robot"
What's the difference between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Intelligence Augmentation (IA)? The former means that the machines get smart, and the latter means that the machines help you get smart.

Robots figure fairly heavily in my blog. They have appeared as primary topics here at least 5 times, the most recent of which was Robot Companion in December of 2011. Robotics is not all about AI of course. Plenty of robotics research is about sophisticated or coordinated motion. Still, when thinking about robots many of us naturally think about the combination of sophisticated motion and AI, since a smart and mobile robot could have many important applications.

1970s movie "Westworld"
The idea of intelligent and mobile assistants, for example, can be compelling. It isn't very hard to imagine a humanoid machine assistant that could handle some of our daily to-do lists, from tedious manual chores like taking out the garbage to making simple home repairs, or even helping to keep us safe. But as interesting as this prospect is, there is the nagging concern that fuels so many science fiction stories, from Isaac Asimov's novel "I, Robot" to V.I.K.I. in the Will Smith movie of the same name, with the Terminator's Skynet and Westworld along the way – where "Nothing can go wrong." It's hard not to worry that the AI will come to the wrong conclusions or malfunction in ways that are dangerous to people. 

Don't get me wrong – I'm not particularly afraid of this outcome, as I'm a believer in careful engineering and failsafes. I'm just aware that there can be things about technology that make us uneasy. Novelists and movie studios are aware of that, too.

Another topic of RapidGroove blog posts has been technology that serves to augment us as humans, compensating or extending. I've posted about exoskeletons that help the disabled to walk again, and I've posted about uses of technology that make us smarter and/or improve our memories in a 2-part (so far) series called the rest of my brain.

Fortunately, the path of practical technology advancement over the last few years seems to be more Intelligence Augmentation than Artificial Intelligence. A nice case is made by Shyam Sankar in a recent Ted Talk about man-machine cooperation and the theories of J.C.R. Licklider. It's worth watching, and is embedded below.


It seems clear that technology will continue to extend our abilities. We are better drivers with GPS devices and smartphones that can recognize upcoming traffic and route around it, and with smart cars that communicate with each other to avoid accidents. Wearable computers will make personal communications and fact checking simpler, while simultaneously making it easier to monitor our own health and work effectively with our doctors. 

The age of artificial intelligence may not be as close as we hoped, but the age of human augmentation, and especially intelligence augmentation, is here now and getting ever more advanced.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite example? Leave a comment to share with us.


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