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Artificial intelligence

Microsoft executive believes artificial intelligence ways away from replacing human intelligence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 April, 2016, 1:18am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 3:28pm

Artificial intelligence will likely not reach the level of intelligence that allows it to think like human beings, even if technology now is able to surpass humans in specific tasks, according to a senior Microsoft executive.

“Artificial intelligence currently learns in a very controlled, monitored environment, it learns through data [given to it],”Rui Yong, assistant managing director at Microsoft Research Asia, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “But that is not how humans learn.”

While artificial intelligence technology today has surpassed human ability in certain tasks, such as AlphaGo’s ability to beat humans in the game of Go or Microsoft’s computer vision technology that recognises objects in images more accurately than humans, these technologies are tailored to achieve specific tasks and cannot adapt quickly to new problems.

“When humans encounter a new situation, we can adapt and use our imagination to find a solution. But for computers, if they have never encountered a certain problem, then they cannot solve it,” he said.

He added that artificial intelligence is still considered “weak” artificial intelligence, in which it is programmed only to complete specific tasks within a set of parameters.

Advanced artificial intelligence would come about when a software programme is able to independently create a new programme to complete tasks, but technology is still “very far” from that day, said Rui.

Despite this, it is likely that artificial intelligence would soon be able free up more time for humans to better enjoy life by replacing methodical tasks that humans do manually, such as the updating of legal documents, according to Rui.

“Repetitive work is something that humans dislike and are not good at, but machines are excellent at that sort of work,” he said. “Completing such tasks do not require creativity or imagination.”

Speaking at the Global Mobile and Internet Conference in Beijing, Rui also highlighted that artificial intelligence is not about pitting software against humans. Instead, humans should use artificial intelligence to increase their capabilities.

Microsoft Research Asia is currently experimenting with ways to incorporate its artificial intelligence technology to help humans accomplish tasks that they could not succeed at before. For example, it is currently experimenting with using computer vision combined with smart glasses that can capture images and describe objects in the image to provide richer experiences to the blind.

Other applications for artificial intelligence include Microsoft’s Skype translator, which allows two users who speak different languages in a Skype call to understand each other through speech translation technology.

“I can’t say if making artificial intelligence to surpass humans is the end goal … but [for Microsoft], the algorithms and products that we create should help make our lives better,” said Rui.