The era of Artificial intelligence (AI) signals a total change of socio-economic order, which has not been witnessed since the beginning of the world. It has been inspired by many fears and skepticism of various kinds and degrees. While there is a need to be concerned by the possible application of some AI systems, the aim of Artificial Intelligence is generally to make life much easier for humans. There is no general definition of Artificial Intelligence, however, a number of proposed definitions from various scholars can be considered below viz.:
“It is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs”
“An intelligent machine that would be more flexible than a computer and would engage in the kind of “thinking” that people actually do”
“A branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behaviour in computers.”
”The capacity of a computer to perform operations analogous to learning and decision making in humans.”
“The ability to learn or understand things to deal with new or difficult situations”
Science fiction has for long portrayed AI machines to be beings having will totally independent of their creator’s, and has shown possible worst case scenarios of a conflict of interest between these beings and humans. Some of which include, an eradication of the entire human race. This has fundamentally contributed to a popular (negative) perception of what AI is, or could become. By the law of accelerating returns, in principle, such super intelligent machines can be realized if general Intelligence is attained. However, this does not mean that the general consensus amongst expert is against achieving general intelligence, since it is in fact the primary goal of AI.
While general intelligence is at the top of the list of goals, care must be taken to prevent the occurrence of the negative scenarios portrayed by Sci-fi stories, or ones generally speculated. This is the general position amongst scientists and industry experts such as Elon musk, has who spoke about the dangers of a conflict of interests between a super intelligent A.I system, and a Human being. It must be stated further, that the general intelligence is predicted to be achieved within a period of a few decades, leading up to the 22nd century. And the perception of it being an imminent goal varies amongst scientists.
Currently the more realistic concerns raised on AI integration into the everyday human life relates to subjects such as accountability and transparency; legal liability; societal biases and prejudices; and issues arising from the skill market and the replacement of jobs formerly performed by humans. While it is tempting to buttress further on the various issues that comes to mind when A.I is mentioned, this piece shall focus on the attainment of general intelligence using the biological approach, as opposed to the strictly engineering approach. The biological approach generally relates to the simulation of the human body, or a part of it, to build an AI system. The later on the other hand, is centered on the employment of strict engineering tools to build A.I systems, albeit, both focus on the same goals. So, the goal of this work is to give an exposition on the relationship between the human mind, and AI systems, while considering the approaches or concepts, which are needed to attain artificial general intelligence. The later part of the work will further reiterate the position of Prof Murray Shahanan, in relation to this subject.
The mind is a set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, perception, thinking, judgment, language and memory. It holds the power of imagination and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions resulting in attitudes and actions. Historically, the mind has been associated to the soul, or spirit under theories of “Life & Death” and Cosmology. Further developments, in studies about the mind have been motivated by Religion, Philosophy, Psychology and Cognitive Science. The “Mind-body Problem” is a subject, under which attempts have (and are still) been made to find the relationship between the mind, and the physical brain & nervous system. While some older views has expressed that the brain is nonphysical, much modern views believe that the mind is roughly identical with the brain, or a physical phenomenon, such as neural activity. Also, while some view it as been exclusive to only humans, others believe it can be ascribed to non-living entities. Prominent computer scientists, such as Alan Turing, have provided influential theories on the Mind, with consideration of some other interdisciplinary studies. This certainly has led to the exploration of the idea, that there can be a non-biological mind, in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Further, with Cybernetics and Information Theory, information processing by non-biological machines can be examined comparatively with the human mind. Fields such as Neuroscience, and Cognitive Linguistics, has been employed to achieve A.I goals such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Automated Learning. Although, it cannot be said conclusively that these goals have been entirely perfected, improvements can been seen in several recent technologies. For instance: Apple’s Siri, and Sophia the robot.
There are certainly known and numbered goals of Artificial Intelligence, which includes, Automated Reasoning, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, etc. however, Artificial General Intelligence (also known as AGI or Strong A.I) is believed to be the primary goal. Artificial General intelligence denotes the ability of a machine to perform an intellectual task, like a human being. Lots of researchers believe that, it is one which adds other functional features (or goals) towards single handedly producing intelligent results. There are prominent but inconclusive tests on what should constitute Machine Intelligence – there are no general criteria. It is however widely accepted, that Artificial General Intelligence should be capable of the following: employing its senses to solve real life issues as it pertains to its surrounding; communicate in natural language; reason; and learn. Further, it must be added that already existing machines, (i.e. the so called weak A.Is), are able to perform some of these individual functions, as their features allow. General Intelligence however lies on the making of intelligent decisions – under laid by a considerable level of autonomy.
Researchers have employed several approaches towards the end of producing a working Artificial General Intelligence machine. Some of which includes the Whole Brain Emulation. This approach is one in which a low-level brain model is built, by scanning and mapping a biological brain in detail, and copying its state into a computer system, or another computational device. The computer then runs a simulation model very much likeable to the original, which should behave in essentially the same way as the original brain, or for all practical purposes, indistinguishably. Whole brain emulation is discussed in computational neuroscience, amongst a few other related interdisciplinary studies for several purposes, (especially as it relates to solving health problems).
There is currently a hypothesis on whether general intelligence is sufficient for consciousness; however, the growing corpus on the subject mainly lays emphasis on the amount of intelligence that the machine displays, and not on whether it is conscious. It is yet very exciting to see that there are recent advancements on the understanding of human consciousness.
On overcoming the obvious limitations that current models have, to produce a machine having general intelligence, Professor Murray Shanahan recommends the focus on two concepts, viz: common sense; and creativity. According to Murray Shanahan, to have common sense, in this context, is to display an understanding of the principles of operation of the everyday world, in particular the physical and social environments. For example, one of such principle is that if you walk all the way around something, you end up back where you started. Another is that if you walk back along a path you have just followed, you encounter the same landmarks but in reverse order. Principles such as these are useful because their application is not confined to narrow domains. They are universal and reusable. He further explains that there must be a manifestation of this knowledge by the machines, through actions, and not merely a representation of having awareness of them.
His Illustration: The cockerel that lives behind a house likes to fly up and over the gate, escaping his enclosure. But he is never out for long before he wants to get back in to rejoin the hens. All he needs to do is fly back over the gate. Yet this never occurs to him. Instead, he paces anxiously up and down in front of the gate. He seems to lack the commonsense principle that certain actions are reversible.
To the extent that such blind spots in understanding do not show up in an animal’s behavior, it might be said to possess common sense. He further posited that a shared understanding of the everyday world is at the core of language. For instance, there should be some level of common sense deducible from words, purporting to explain reasons for actions.
Furthermore, Shanahan explains that creativity is the ability to innovate, to generate novel behavior, to invent new things or devise new ways to use old things. It might be exploratory, or playful, as when a child improvises a dance. But it might be more goal-directed, such as planning the layout of a garden, or devising ways to reduce household spending. Little creative acts such as these may not seem novel in the grand scheme of human affairs, but in each case they require the individual to go beyond his or her established behavioral repertoire, to reshape its elements or to assemble them in previously untried combinations. He added that, Creativity and common sense must complement each other. Creativity enables the individual to come up with new actions, but a commonsense understanding of the everyday world is needed to anticipate the consequences of those actions. On one hand, creativity without common sense is nothing more than thrashing in the dark. On the other hand, common sense without creativity is inflexible. But an intelligence that can wield both is a powerful thing.
Concluding, it must be reiterated that big tech companies should not only focus on spreading the advantages of AI to industry, and to human lives; but also extend their study of AI ethics to the daily production of these systems, towards the end of reducing the chances of making products, that poses a fundamental threat to human lives. An ethical approach towards innovation is always a welcome development. This writer further commends Google’s announcement of their established AI ethical principles; and also the works of non-profit initiatives such as OpenAI.
Furthermore, it must be stated that this writer looks forward towards the wider spread of the position of Professor Murray Shanahan in his book, as it brings clarity on the approaches already adopted (on attaining general intelligence), and helps to fundamentally strengthen some existing conceptual frameworks. The writer looks forward to several debates in this regard. It is reasonable and more so, agreeable to posit, that a human-level Artificial General Intelligence must display a similar blend of common sense and creativity, if it is to perform comparable feats.

By Kevin Arua Enyinna


Kevin is a Final year Law Student from

Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo