What Makes Us Human: Will AI ever fully replace the human mind?

The subject on what puts us on a different level from the countless other living things around us has been something humankind has debated for ages. We know we’re different. We know we’re special. But why? What is it that sets us apart from our animal counterparts? Why is it that we are the dominate species now and have been for thousands of years? What is it about our race that put us so far on top of the totem pole?

There are countless theories coming from as many sources, a good chunk of which are sometimes completely contradictory. Religious and scientific, personal and global.

I thought about it after reading an article from Deadspin linked by @Wired about how a robot apparently was able to write a better news story than a human. In the end, it isn’t particularly surprising that a program could create an automated report based on facts, data, and randomly interjected descriptive words. But it has people wondering; will human writers be replaced by robots? Is this the start of something we’ve seen way too many times in movies but coming eerily close to reality?

Everything evolutionary can be argued as an adaption for survival. Even some of the most beautiful displays mother nature has to offer have some sort of practical function. Attracting mates, pollination, camouflage. Very few creatures in the animal kingdom display a true creative flare; even less do it for no reason at all.

cogito ergo sum

Humanity’s ability to think creatively and innovate is what I feel TRULY sets us apart. There are still tons of other practical factors, of course. Our bodies’ efficient energy usage, for instance, as being bi-pedal helped us out-endure our prey. Advanced communication abilities. Our intelligence. And then we used tools to help us, we created machines to do what we couldn’t do ourselves, and we dominate the world to work for us. We were able to solve the problems that would otherwise have been our downfall. Irrigation allowed us to rely on plants for food, allowed us to become stationary and create communities. Domestication assured us we’d always have the meat or protection we’d need. This is both a blessing and a curse, but in the end it’s the idea of abstract thinking that I believe puts us ahead.

As an artist, I think the other large part of what makes us different is our ability to create for the sake of creation. At some point in our history, we started to draw pictures. Further down the line, the pictures no longer needed meaning. We create music, write stories, and express our emotions not for survival (although some may argue that in a therapeutic way, it is) but just because. We want to. It feels good. So we do it.

That’s what sets us apart from animals. But what about robots? What about AI?

Computers can do amazing things it’s almost frightening. They can even think, so to speak. Anything involving numbers and algorithms, formulas and facts, a computer can do better than most people. But what they cannot do, not yet anyway, is create. Not truly. Yes, we have robots who draw, but all that is really based on software with pre-set factors and/or  randomization at best.

It’s popular belief that the moment of eclipse when robots take over the world is when one can truly feel something real. Have an abstract thought, question existence, feel love or hatred. I wouldn’t disagree, however, I feel the pre-cursor to this evolution is when AI can truly create something new and beautiful and purposeless without being guided to do so by programing.  It’s a scary thought because while the idea of AI being able to think freely or feel emotion is a long-way off, their ability to be creative seems much closer to home and realistic. What if creation is the stepping stone to emotion?

I don’t know much about science or programming or AI, honestly. But I guess the whole human vs robot apocalypse isn’t so far-fetched after all. There still has to be a lot of factors to allow it to happen, of course. Free-thinking and creative software on its own can, at best, completely shut us out of the digital world. A social shock perhaps, yes, and westernized nations reliant on anything computerized will find themselves extremely vulnerable. But we still have the ability to go outside and farm ourselves food and hunt.

Svedka is turned on by the robo-pocolypse. You should be, too. Maybe. 

What the AI would need is the hardware (body) to function in, and manipulate its environment. It would also need a lot of bodies. Power in numbers, after all. Lastly, an unlimited power-source. So that’s the golden combination. Solar-energy powered self-thinking painterly robots en masse will be humanity’s downfall. One can only hope mercy is a part of that formula.


  • interesting.

    my thoughts : for the AI or Robots, they are different being than human always. therefore if they happen to be able to think, evolve, create or such, would be different from human. Due to the different needs, functions and … such.

    something like ,human will never know how amoeba see the world.

    i guess.

    • Anonymous

      That is true, I guess we can never truly know unless it happens (and I verily hope I’m not around for that)

  •  I have a hard time believing that AI will ever truly be creative by its own initiative. The Turing Test is almost irrelevant at this point because any self-respecting AI will be able to data mine that information and process it. A look at Watson shows exactly that.

    The gold standard for AI used to be that it would “learn”. As long as there is data to mine and results to observe, AI will be able to learn. Algorithms allow it to process the data, select what is relevant, and infer, with great accuracy, the answer or process for most any situation.

    Watson proved very well that enough data in an AI coupled with its insane processing power will trounce human reaction times and pull from a greater data source.

    Essentially, AI can be programmed to do just about anything. Heck, you can even program morality into it. Emotions can be simulated by judging the situation and the stimuli it receives.. It really is magical to watch a decent robot or AI in action.

    Which brings me to my point..

    I don’t think we’re waiting for AI to achieve the same level of intelligence as we have.. I think that we can program anything we want into an AI, the same way we’ve been programmed– by our experiences, parents, instincts, observations, and, depending on your worldview, a Creator’s hand. Are we really that different?

    When in doubt, use an EMP.

    • Anonymous

      Interesting thoughts. Well, for sure, I know that AI is pretty much smarter than humans for many reasons, on top of having no shame / hesitation / other factors humans usually take into account when making decisions or taking action.

      We can program just about anything. But that’s why I figure the point of eclipse would be if they ever are able to create. 

      But you’re right, have the nukes ready. 

      • Well.. define create? Just look at the level generation in Minecraft.. A generator, working with parameters, just goes completely nuts. I guess it depends on how narrowly one defines “create”. Then again, do we live up to that standard, or are our parameters predefined?

  • “Will AI ever fully replace the human mind?” It seems a valid question at first, though I believe it’s just the starting question of what evidently will come next. Judging by our continual need for evolution and our stagnant rise of interest in all sorts of electronics, I personally believe it is not a matter of ‘when’, but more a matter of ‘how’ we will react to it, once we get there.

    Meaning, I think you’re asking the wrong question. It should be more something down the line of “What will we do once we create artificial life?” Will we try to accept it as one of our own and embrace it into our lives as a long lost brother or will we surpress it out of fear for the unknown and by doing so evoke a hostile reaction?

    History teaches us that it’ll most probably be the latter. We as a human, are easily scared for the unknown. There will always be someone who makes the mistake of sticking to the old rather than to the new, and eventually will topple one of the starting domino’s that’ll lead us all into a civil war with artificial intelligence. There’s a lating phrase for that as well: “Errare humanum est. Perseverare diabolicum.” Or in common tongue, “to err is human; to persist is of the Devil).” ‘Course, you can always go ahead and wipe ‘m all out. Use an emp or whatever way there’ll be around to get rid of ‘m. But would that be justified? We would create life only to wipe ‘m back of the face of the planet. Not a lot of sportsmanship in there if you’d ask me.

    There’s always the option that by the time we get there, humanity will actually have evolved into a more understanding, brighter species. This way, the revolution will simply never have to happen. I guess, when you would ask me, it will all come down to us and what we teach our future kids.