Founder’s Blog by Frank Casale

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September 14, 2016 • IMDO - In My Digital Opinion

What happens when intelligence becomes a commodity?

I recently read an article about a twelve-year old boy who scored higher than both Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking on the Mensa Test. Immediately, I thought of how many companies are already lining up to hire this bright young mind; possibly even before he ventures on to college.

I went on to think about the importance of knowledge and education as my own daughter recently departed for her freshman year of college. Fortunately, she graduated top of her high school and was accepted to some very select universities. After the sticker shock of paying her first semester’s tuition, I smiled realizing the bright future she will have. After all, a solid education and high intelligence is what the market has always sought, right?

But wait a minute…

As AI and cognitive computing continue to improve and expand, there will inevitably come an inflexion point, when the super smart machine will surpass our mere mortal intelligence. At this point in time, smart machines will be smarter than Einstein, Hawking, or that twelve year old prodigy.

Is it possible that intelligence and knowledge may soon be ubiquitous and hence commoditized?
Will this mean that human intelligence will be less valued, maybe even unnecessary since most of what we need will have been digitized and at our fingertips? If so, what will employers of the future be looking for?

And by the way can I get a refund on that first semester’s tuition?

Let me know your thoughts. All of you. Not just the smart ones.

9 Responses to " What happens when intelligence becomes a commodity? "

  1. Goran Strangmark says:

    Interesting thoughts. And somewhat scary. However, I think that people will always find something new. 150 years ago 99% of population were producing food. They would have worried if they knew that today only 1-2% are in food production. Also, it would have been impossible for them to envision why we don’t have 99% unemployment now.
    The new opportunities do not become visible until old needs are satisfied easily. This is not to say that we will not face problems when technology becomes smarter and better and more and more of our needs are solved better and much cheaper with machines. The transitions for individuals can be challenging. Education and training helps but it is hard to give good advice – my daughter is also a college freshman – on what to study. Generally speaking, learning to learn quickly and continuously seems to be a good choice. Also, learning to find meaning and purpose not necessarily connected to work is a key life skill. This speaks for a classical liberal arts education. Large parts of population may become “free” from having to work. This may sound scary but it was the norm for aristocracy some hundred years ago. Some of them spent their time well with intellectual pursuits and had great free lives. Potentially that could be a positive vision. Not sure that it scales well to a whole population as not everyone will have the talents. But maybe medical technology will fix that too.

  2. Mohsin Khan says:

    Human created computers -> Human became more intelligent with the computing power of the machines and AI functionalities -> Computers created more jobs -> but wait …. computers and machines became so powerful and took over human brain — Process automation is here and soon the brightest minds who needs minimum 5 to 6 hours of sleep will be replaced by 24/7/365 working models 🙂

    After RPA we might need brain upgrade software 🙂

  3. Mohsin Khan says:

    Human created computers -> Human became more intelligent with the computing power of the machines and AI functionalities -> Computers created more jobs -> but wait …. computers and machines became so powerful and took over human brain — Process automation is here and soon the brightest minds with requirement of minimum 5 to 6 hours of sleep will be replaced by 24/7/365 working models 🙂

    After RPA we might need brain upgrade software 🙂

    • Goran Strangmark says:

      Not taking any stand on if Geniux is a scam or the “brain upgrade software” you are looking for (or joking about) but there is a lot of interest in this and people like Stephen Hawkins claims he is already using it successfully.

  4. Thomas Griebel says:

    A thought provoking short article.

    In my opinion, intelligence (as a very broad term) will still remain important and even gain in importance.

    However, at a nuanced level:

    – intelligence in the form or regurgitating existing information or analysing data will lose its importance (being outsourced to machines); whereas
    – intelligence in the form of understanding how to best apply information on new problems (underlying stakeholder requirements) will become essential.

    These times seem like a modern era of enlightenment where we can start cutting the cords form memorising information in order to progress towards applying essential information in order to advance in areas yet to be discovered.

    Don’t be so quick in asking for a refund, if you are sure your daughter’s university prepares her well for this exciting future.

    • Goran Strangmark says:

      I agree with your nuanced bullet points. Luc de Brabandere at BCG and Ecole Centrale Paris has a beautiful online course at Coursera that supports your assessment by distinguishing the brain’s deductive and inductive capabilities. Professor de Brabandere does not think induction that creates the mental models human’s create can be artificially created.
      On the other hand, proponents (e.g. Ray Kurzweil) of singularity (when technologically-created cognitive capacity far beyond that possible for humans) are convinced it can be a reality within a few decades.
      As of for RPA, I would say that automation of deduction is a huge step that can bring huge efficiency benefits. After all many white-collar jobs rely largely on deduction.

  5. Padhi says:

    Very interesting thought … But let’s take a step back and think we all are using very fraction of our brain and just to replace 1/100 th of that brain it needs so many Robots. As robots do the basis work, we will have more time to think how to utilize our full brain. May be one day a feedback loop from Robots intelligence to human brain or our smart university will figure out course of study which will start improving our brain utilization. Point is stay positive and keep thinking , because we are Human 🙂

  6. extreme cfnm says:

    Great article! We are linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the great writing.

    • Goran Strangmark says:

      This TED talk (“Why are there still so many jobs?”) brings in some sobering perspectives. Bottom-line: Automation is great but we need to pay attention to how we as humans adapt to it. Fortunately the increased wealth created by automation productivity enables us – as a society – to invest in human development.

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