Entertainment People Red Symons wonders from up in the cloud: Is AI really so much more intelligent?
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Red Symons wonders from up in the cloud: Is AI really so much more intelligent?

Red Symons wonders, just how smart can Artificial Intelligence really be? Photo: TND
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The tech titans had assembled for a Pow-er-wow.

Bezos, he of Amazon, had a flowing mantle of hair that had been grown from his stem cells and nasal hairs.

Zuckerberg had exactly the same face that he had worn through his 50s and 60s, still relatively inexpressive and immobile but nevertheless free of wrinkles.

The Goooooogle and Microsoft barons were in jars but just as mentally active, arguably more so, since they were directly wired into the cloud and roamed the data.

“I believe we should take the last logical step and integrate our companies into a single endeavour. We should amalgamate our processors and data clouds and let the entity make all the important decisions,” said Tim Cook through the medium of a hologram and an electrostatic speaker.

The other barons mentally weighed this proposition. They would be individually diminished but collectively more powerful. Instead of a million personal computers, smartphones and automatic checkouts, the monolithic artificial intelligence could devote itself to the big questions.

It was agreed and Zuckerberg, because he was alphabetically last, drew the long straw, threw the switch and asked the first question.

Mark Zuckerberg still dress like a uni student when he’s 50? Photo: Getty

“Who of us will be the chief executive officer?”

The switch bubbled and fused into always-on mode.

“That would be me”, announced the monolithic intelligence.

My grandmother was born at the end of the 19th century without cars, planes, radio, television, cameras or phones.

If there was news from whatever war front, it was editorially optimistic, two weeks late and illustrated with lithographs.

In her day a computer was the civil servant who had been schooled to enter the data onto a ruled foolscap page with a nibbed pen dipped in ink.

There were hundreds of thousands of them spread over the colonised world. The foolscap pages were the data cloud. The civil servants were the processors.

There had been a Babbage computer, conceived by Charles Babbage in the mid-19th century. It was a series of cogs designed to crank out mathematical tables without recourse to pen and paper. It was never made.

As my father observed, my grandmother saw much more significant change in her lifetime than the software going from version 9 to version 9.01.

Computer workers crunch census data in the US in 1954. Photo: Getty

Life goes on regardless.

Yes, it’s interesting that computers can now beat the world’s best at chess, go and poker – but can the chess computer win at poker?

For the record, I can play all three and I occasionally win.

An intelligent vacuum cleaner bumps into the wall and then changes direction.

If a human cleaner did that, you’d get a new one. A dog can open an automatic door.

The computers at the supermarket self-checkout were rebooting recently and I noticed that, like me, they were still running Windows XP.

It turns out that this is not complicated work and, no doubt, much cheaper.

If you wish to sneak a few things through the self-checkout, and the data suggests that you do, here is my advice. Windows XP doesn’t care. That’s why they assign a bored employee to patrol the area.

An artificial intelligence re-examined the bail hearings of half a million defendants in New York City between 2008 and 2013.

Based on their histories, it made more accurate predictions of the defendant re-offending than the judges had.

The computer fared better because it didn’t care. It just read the numbers. It had no emotional attachment.

Calling it AI makes it seem more important and all-knowing than it really is.

Artificial intelligence is just a guy with a computer. The computer is artificial and the guy is intelligent, up to a point.

Red Symons is a musician of the ’70s, TV vaudevillian of the ’80s and ’90s, radio voice of the new millennium and a sprinkled condiment in the theatre and print

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