When it comes to the possibilities and possible perils of artificial intelligence (AI), learning and reasoning by machines without the intervention of humans, there are lots of opinions out there. Only time will tell which one of these quotes will be the closest to our future reality. Until we get there, it’s interesting to contemplate who might be the one who predicts our reality the best.

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”— Stephen Hawking

Will computers eventually be smarter than humans? 
Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI) – in the media, at conferences and in product brochures. Yet the technology is still in its infancy. Applications that would have been dismissed as science fiction not long ago could become reality within a few years. With its specialty materials, the Electronics business sector of Merck is contributing to the development of AI. 


Who’s smarter — you, or the computer or mobile device on which you’re reading this article? The answer is increasingly complex, and depends on definitions in flux. Computers are certainly more adept at solving quandaries that benefit from their unique skill set, but humans hold the edge on tasks that machines simply can’t perform. Not yet, anyway.

Computers can take in and process certain kinds of information much faster than we can. They can swirl that data around in their “brains,” made of processors, and perform calculations to conjure multiple scenarios at superhuman speeds. For example, the best chess-trained computers can at this point strategize many moves ahead, problem-solving far more deftly than can the best chess-playing humans. Computers learn much more quickly, too, narrowing complex choices to the most optimal ones. Yes, humans also learn from mistakes, but when it comes to tackling the kinds of puzzles computers excel at, we’re far more fallible.

Computers enjoy other advantages over people. They have better memories, so they can be fed a large amount of information, and can tap into all of it almost instantaneously. Computers don’t require sleep the way humans do, so they can calculate, analyze and perform tasks tirelessly and round the clock. On the other hand, humans are still superior to computers in many ways. We perform tasks, make decisions, and solve problems based not just on our intelligence but on our massively parallel processing wetware — in abstract, what we like to call our instincts, our common sense, and perhaps most importantly, our life experiences. Computers can be programmed with vast libraries of information, but they can’t experience life the way we do.

Some of that’s rethinking how we approach these questions. Rather than obsessing over who’s smarter or irrationally fearing the technology, we need to remember that computers and machines are designed to improve our lives, just as IBM’s Watson computer is helping us in the fight against deadly diseases. The trick, as computers become better and better at these and any number of other tasks, is ensuring that “helping us” remains their prime directive.

The important thing to keep in mind is that it is not man versus machine. “It is not a competition. It is a collaboration.”