A computer visits the doctor

Such a title can only be a joke, right?

Or a dramatic story about a computer cheating because its program has a virus. But why would a computer still go to the doctor? Isn’t a computer much smarter than a doctor? Through artificial intelligence and deep learning, computers are able to detect early tumors on X-rays. These computers score better than radiologists who have trained for 10 to 15 years and make fewer mistakes.

Deep learning is also used in many other areas. Forecasting weather, traffic and earthquakes are well-known examples. Facial recognition is another example, and the computer easily beats humans in any game, up to the Go that was deemed too difficult for the computer until 2017. Artificial intelligence creates paintings, colors photos and films and composes music in the style of Chopin. Mediocre music, but still. Fully autonomous driving cars already exist and will also appear on the road, if we can accept that they will occasionally cause an accident. But a computer still cannot tell a good joke.

The question is whether the term artificial intelligence covers the load. A computer can do a lot, you can teach it a lot, the computer can also teach itself a lot, but does that mean the device is intelligent? A first step towards AI is the analysis of data, which provides insight. The next step is machine learning, where the computer can learn from the processed data or use data to perform better. Artificial intelligence is said to be the third step, in which a computer can independently invent and apply new insights in a new environment.

It won’t be long before the factory of the future becomes reality. Only two living creatures will be left in that factory. A guarddog and a man. The man must ensure that the dog receives his food on time and the dog must ensure that the man is kept from touching any machines and buttons . Also a joke. For now.

But even if that factory becomes reality, human intelligence and social interaction will continue to play a role. Do we really want a computer to tell us we have cancer and only three months to live? 
Hang out at a bar with your friends and a mediocre joke just got a lot funnier. Work is impossible without social interaction. During the corona crisis, a number of people appeared to function well at home, but that certainly was not the case for everyone. Formal business can still be done successfully via video call. But solving complex problems or negotiating a difficult subject proves to be more difficult. Informal conversations during coffee breaks often lead to a breakthrough. Chatting about everything and nothing during a joint lunch can result in a brilliant business proposition . Interactive intelligence? Collective intelligence? Human intelligence? Call it whatever, I don’t think we can live without it for the time being.

A lot of time, money and research is invested in artificial intelligence. But let us also continue to use the human intelligence and the brainpower of our employees, citizens and customers. If necessary, give it a fancy name like “Investment in human capital”. Above all, just do it.

Hans Damen

Hans Damen

SPARQ360 associate, guest blogger

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