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    Saturday, April 01, 2023

    Human intelligence vs. AI

    What is artificial intelligence anyway? I mean, I have enough problems trying to grasp basic human intelligence -- something that all too often eludes me. And now they are developing an artificial kind of intelligence?

    I mean, would you rather have a real wood roll-top desk or one made out of artificial, faux wood? Real sugar or artificial sugar? An artificial friend or a real friend? An artificial lover who fakes an artificial … well, you get the idea.

    Maybe I'm too old school.

    My brilliant son Dillon is way smarter than I am, and now is getting his Ph.D. in engineering and artificial intelligence. He tries to explain to me what he does. I say: "Please, can you dumb it down for me." His response: "Dad. I AM dumbing it down."

    He and his team are teaching a computer to interpret stethoscope recordings to detect congestive heart failure as accurately as an invasive cardiac catheterization. OK, a computer listening to a heart with artificial intelligence is probably way better than my deaf ears, and a helluva lot cheaper than a cardiac catheterization, so score one for AI. (Yes, it’s true. I sent my kid to school so he can put me out of a job.)

    Which is not to say that I never use AI. My Chevy truck has a GPS in it that can calculate the best route to get to, say, the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren, Maine. (They make old fashioned hand-tools for woodworking.) My Chevrolet’s GPS has a woman's voice -- not a very attractive one, but rather a sort of school-principal type of voice. And when it says that I missed my turn, I hear all those other things inherent in her rebuke: "Young man, you weren't paying attention, you need to focus and listen and learn. You should study more…" So when my my truck’s voice told me I should turn around because I missed the exit, I actually felt my throat go dry and said, sheepishly, "Oh, sorry, ma'am."

    My much smarter wife, on the other hand, thinks my Chevy's GPS is stupid because once when driving in NYC, it thought we were on the Cross-Bronx Expressway when we were on a service road and it sent us down a very wrong road. My wife got mad at it and started arguing with the truck in Italian. Rather colorful Italian, I should add.

    "She doesn't speak Italian!" I said to my flustered wife. But she was still giving a piece of her mind to the inanimate GPS while we, utterly lost, turned around in the driveway of a shady-looking chop-shop guarded by mean-looking, barking and charging pit bulls in a very, very sketchy section of the South Bronx.

    We read about how computers with AI can write books, make original art that people like, or write a college essay. But we also hear how self-driving cars have been causing multi-car accidents. I think I’m gonna stick to my imperfect, old-fashioned, ever-elusive attempts to master human intelligence rather than embrace AI.

    My wife is a much better driver than I am so she drives my Chevy truck if we ever go anywhere and she prefers to use her own iPhone to navigate, claiming that Siri has better AI. Just to mess with her, I sometimes set my Chevy’s GPS to navigate simultaneously. I find it hysterical to watch my wife get mad when my truck gives different directions than her iPhone. As the different AI algorithms argue, my wife expresses herself colorfully in Italian and I sit back and laugh, reminding her that neither of our AIs speak Italian.

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