Who Are You Calling a Moron?
Now that IBM’s supercomputer Watson has reigned supreme on “Jeopardy,” pundits are wondering whether computers may soon surpass human intelligence.
Inventor and author Ray Kurzweil, for one, maintains that “we’ll have human-level intelligence in a machine by 2029” and “ultimately, we’ll be dominated by nonbiological intelligence.”
Yet Peter Drucker scoffed at such a prospect. The computer, Drucker wrote, is “a total moron.” That, he explained, is “because it makes no decisions; it only carries out orders.”
[EXPAND More]Drucker certainly recognized that computers are powerful, with their ability to extend “our capacity more than any tool we have had for a long time.” But the only way to do this effectively—as we noted in a post earlier this week—is to make sure that computers are supplying truly useful information and not overwhelming us with reams of needless data. “If the computer doesn’t enable us to simplify our organizations,” Drucker declared, “it’s being abused.”
And therein lies the real secret of the computer, as Drucker saw it. Machines, when properly used, compel humans to decide on their information needs. And the only way to do that, Drucker asserted, is to “understand our operating processes, and the principles behind those processes.”
Stephen Baker, author of the book Final Jeopardy, takes a similar view. “Machines like Watson are going to become part of our lives,” he says. “Each one of us will have to figure out how to leverage these smart systems for our own good—and not be replaced by them. Our brains are still the most intricate, complex and brilliant thinking machines on earth. But we have to figure out how to use them in concert with the machinery we’re building.”
Drucker was even more blunt. The computer “forces us to think, to set the criteria,” he wrote. “The stupider the tool, the brighter the master has to be—and this is the dumbest tool we have ever had.”
What do you think: Are computers becoming more intelligent than humans, or are they forcing humans to become ever smarter?[/EXPAND]