Machine Learning

The question of the century is whether or not machines can actually learn, and how well can they learn. Will they ever reach the ability to learn the same way a person learns? I am one of the people who believes we may actually be able to achieve the goal of building an intelligent machine, but I also believe that it is not a good idea. There are a couple of reasons I feel that way, and one is because of my belief that the Bible is the true word of God and I stake the claim on one verse in particular. In Genesis 1:26-27, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the the earth.”

There has been much debate over the real meaning of the verse; some Bible translators believe that it means we are to be the image of God, or the mirror that shows creation what God is like. Others believe it means we are created with the same rationality, morality, creativity and ability. Either one, or both, may be the correct view and both support my belief that we have the ability within us to create intelligent machines. God created us in his image, or to represent his image and either would mean we have within us the ability to create in our image as he created in his image, either as a representation of God or because of innate ability provided by God.

Why do I think it is a bad idea? Firstly because being created in the image of God, even if our first intent is to create an intelligence that we control, eventually we will come to the place where we will love our creation, just as God loved us, and want to allow our creation to have free will. Just as God created us and called us good, when he chose to give us the freedom to make our own decisions, among the first things we decided was that we did not like to live within the constraints of his rules. I would argue that we are not God, or even anywhere near his level when it comes to our creative abilities, so we would definitely create a rebellious intelligence, which in all likelihood would exceed the capabilities of man. The reason I believe it would exceed our capabilities is because it will be the combined efforts of many men and have access to the knowledge of all men, which is something impossible for any individual.

I know it is a bit of a strange introduction to a very technical topic, but I felt it was important to let you know where I stand as I begin a short series on machine learning and artificial intelligence, in order to give you some time to draw your own conclusions as I cover the topic in detail over the next few weeks.

Machine learning is only a small subset of Artificial Intelligence focused around two main principles, and these principles are used in practice everywhere computers are used today. Almost every new development in computer science today is related to machine learning, and it has a lot to do with the fact that we have gathered more information than we are able to process or comprehend. Data is everywhere and computers are very good at finding patterns in data; this is the primary use today in the field of machine learning. My favorite example is one we all see if we do any shopping online. If you have seen the message, “Other people who have bought this product also purchased these items,” the list of items was generated by a machine learning algorithm. There is not a person learning the shopping trends at Amazon and suggesting additional purchases; it is all driven by artificial intelligence. Next week we will get into some details on how systems like this work.

Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.

Scott Hamilton is an Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to shamilton@techshepherd.org or through his website at https://www.techshepherd.org.