Artificial vs human intelligence

Lubna Abdel-Aziz , Tuesday 21 May 2024

The Envoy of God
The Envoy of God


For thousands of years man has obsessed over the confines of his capacity.

Never contended, he pushed forward, onward and upward, in constant motion, to extend and enlarge his boundaries. Toiling and troubling for over 300,000 years, the Homo sapiens developed a set of interactive skills to apply their knowledge and understanding.

Those are the factors that have captured the essence of what we describe as intelligence. Now, defined by smartness, understanding, reason, sharpness and wisdom, man wanted more. Unsatisfied with his intelligence, he further ventured into the realms of a counter intelligence, towards creating machines. Henceforth was born artificial intelligence (AI).

For more than a century, intelligence has been the debate of energising competition of the biopsychological meaning of machines. Do we approve elements of competing machines? Society has been rattled by the exclusive domain of a competing intelligence. Despite much trepidation, we set off on the road to AI. It was too tempting; it was inevitable. The cast is drawn and there is no returning. No more competition; it is cooperation, collaboration and coordination.

Human intelligence is powerful and omnipotent, in his predominance of intellect and authority. Supreme in judgement, intuition, communication and imagination, man has no equal.  

AI is inferior to man, they say. It is only a means to an end. This accelerated pace of AI is unworried. Rest assured that humans excel in various capacities; AI only outperforms humans in a limited range of unimportant capacities. Machines will outperform a human at most tasks that have been trained to compete by many orders of magnitude, admittedly. Just a few minor points to remember, such as machine algorithms, speed, endurance or integrating new information — that is all.

Come what may, human intelligence is more proficient, more skillful, more talented. This most miraculous quality of humans is the ability to learn new concepts and ideas.

Three major levels of comparison are beyond the bounds of possibility.

The first level: Man can identify the picture of an object instantly, at most within one or two times. AI would spend millions, even billions of samples to learn a level beyond that of an average human.

The second level: Imagination is a fundamental human ability. It is routinely conjured in the minds of virtually every human, with a set of challenges, threats, and problem-solving, AI has no imagination. AI only recites.

The third level: Human intelligence has the ability to receive and quickly integrate information from all our senses. Sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, meld seamlessly into a coherent understanding of where we are and what is happening around us and within us. The typical human is able to respond to these perceptions with complex reactions that are based on different sensations.

Up to 2023 most intelligence systems were unable to learn in like manner, except for an insignificant input forms of ChatGPT, for example.

All is well, they say; AI is a boon, working together with human intelligence, to get the best of our world, they say again. Why then are we alarmed?

They placate us, they admire us, they help humans find solutions with their innocent artificial machines. Everything is lovey-dovey, fine and dandy. AI is not only our best hope, “but one we will find irresistible.”

Not so fast. There are a myriad definitions of AI — this ability to think and act like humans. AI lets computers do the work by making decisions for you.

The father of AI John McCarthy, computer scientist, exploited “The Science and Engineering of Making Intelligent Machines”. Is it now the new Garden of Eden? Until then, we were innocently content with dreams of fantastic voyages of science fiction.

AI is no simple matter. Its technology proved its prowess in fields far and wide, although only the areas of medicine and education are effective.

A million questions arise, leaving us perturbed and perplexed. Has AI crossed its human boundaries? Uncertainty prevails.

Why are the big moguls parting ways with big business?

In April 2024, there is growing evidence of slowing down the AI frenzy.

According to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report, AI is replacing 85 million jobs. A world without work would be desolate.

The range of customer jobs were nearing danger, at the end of the line for human forces vs the ingenious machines.

All was planned for the endless possibilities in automobiles, factories, computers, graphic designers, financial traders, lawyers, paralegals, and more. Think of teachers, nurses, therapists, social workers, artists, writers will be struck out. They even considered dabbling in a little AI playacting in the movie industry.

Is there nothing sacred?

It has now revealed that ChatGPT has been used to write cover letters, create a children’s book, and help students cheat on their essays. The possibilities are both overpowering and overwhelming.

What then will happen when humanity falls?

Questions often engage in amusement, while yet some in earnest, wondering if AI will destroy humanity. A few weighs on an eight per cent chance of annihilation within five years. Some have said AI could destroy humanity “within one year”.

It may not be the end of the world as we know it, but it would invariably wreak havoc in our future. It is time to pull the break of our brave new world.


“Artificial Intelligence is the science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by humans.”

John McCarthy (1921-2011)


* A version of this article appears in print in the 23 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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