Thursday, 11 March 2010

Artificial Intelligence vs the human brain

Here is a plea to all people working on Artificial Intelligence.

Please think about what you are doing, and try to avoid loose wiring.

My wife has suffered from Post-Natal depression ever since the birth of our son 4 and half years ago. Yesterday, I took her into hospital again to ensure that she is safe (she is plagued by voices at the moment) whilst the new medication ramps up to a level which is therapeutic for her.

This, as you may expect, is quite distressing for all of us. We have support systems in place though, and my work are being frankly fantastic about it all.

It gets me thinking though. I can program computers to get them to behave in particular ways, but how do you rewrite the programming in a brain.

I recently read 'Pragmatic Thinking and Learning - Refactor your Wetware' by Andy Hunt (

This is great for yourself, or even trying to suggest to others. I have found some easy to apply tips and some which I need to get round to trying, but one thing it shows is that we have set ways of doing things. Our Logic/Linear-mode (L-mode) tends to be dominant, and seems to have the most influence, unless, as the book suggests, we deliberately try to get information from our Rich-mode (R-mode).

The key thing with this though is that we control the flow of information, we determine if we will do it. We seem to have a controlling Sensible-mode (S-mode).

And this is what I like about Computer Programming. A computer really only sources from L-mode, and it allows the L-mode to control it. So I can write a program that is logical, instructs the computer, and it doesn't get anything else influencing it (well, assuming I have taken care of external running factors such as OS, file locations...)

My wife though, is not controlling her own thoughts. What is, we don't know, but not her. Her S-mode seems to lose it's control. Whether the thoughts are L-mode or R-mode based (traditionally, it would look like those things are "Right-brain" thought processes, although when she explains her thoughts, you could argue the Logic-mode is having a say).

Luckily, this time, my wife's S-mode seems to be working enough to stop her finishing the act, but she is getting somewhere close to it (popping enough pills out of a blister pack, but at the last minute, throwing them in the bin instead of taking them).

So where am I going with this.

My opening request is to think about AI, and not introduce loose wiring. Truly Artificial Intelligence should be able to think both in L-mode and have R-mode, but with an overriding S-mode to control all the thoughts.

I like programming because what I produce only has to act logically. I am in turmoil because my wife has some 'loose wires' which are not allowing her to act completely rationally, and I can't fix the bug in the program to correct it.

If AI is a true goal of the computer technology industry, then lets hope that the coding which goes into it won't allow for the loose wires which screw up the controller, or else we might just have a lot of depressive machines which need careful looking after whilst we feed them lots of pill programs to try to make them better.

Here's hoping that the pills my wife is now taking soon start to sort out her programming. I'm glad I never became a psychiatrist.

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s1n said...

I am studying Intelligent Systems at the graduate level right now, so I feel semi-qualified to repond.

The first thing to understand is that Modern Intelligent Systems is not attempting to simulate the human psyche but rather make decisions quickly on intractable problems similar to the human brain (i.e. natural language translations and image processing).

It's also a mistake to assume anyone will model the human brain with intentional mistakes (AI isn't programming but a mathematic model). We don't understand how the brain functions as it is, otherwise AI would be a Simple Matter of Programming.

Andy Brown - SetitesUK said...


Thanks for your response.

This post/essay was not really about whether Intellgigent Systems were or were not trying to model the Human Brain. Or make assumptions that people would try to model with intentional mistakes.

More that it is frustrating that I can't work out how to help my wife since it seems to be illogical thoughts which are controlling her, rather than the nice safe logic of a computer program.

And as such, I hope Marvin the Paranoid Android just stays in Fiction (as I am sure he will).


avadhraj said...

Oh it was such a interesting article about human brain and software development, thanks allot for shearing this blog.

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