Are humans the new supercomputer? Team blurred the boundaries between man and mac

Are humans the new supercomputer?
A screenshot of one of the many games that are available. In this case the task is to shoot spiders in the "Quantum-Shooter" but there are many other kinds of games. Credit: CODER/AU

The saying of philosopher René Descartes of what makes humans unique is beginning to sound hollow. 'I think—therefore soon I am obsolete' seems more appropriate. When a computer routinely beats us at chess and we can barely navigate without the help of a GPS, have we outlived our place in the world? Not quite. Welcome to the front line of research in cognitive skills, quantum computers and gaming.

Today there is an on-going battle between man and machine. While genuine machine consciousness is still years into the future, we are beginning to see computers make choices that previously demanded a human's input. Recently, the world held its breath as Google's algorithm AlphaGo beat a professional player in the game Go—an achievement demonstrating the explosive speed of development in machine capabilities.

But we are not beaten yet—human skills are still superior in some areas. This is one of the conclusions of a recent study by Danish physicist Jacob Sherson, published in the journal Nature.

"It may sound dramatic, but we are currently in a race with technology—and steadily being overtaken in many areas. Features that used to be uniquely human are fully captured by contemporary algorithms. Our results are here to demonstrate that there is still a difference between the abilities of a man and a machine," explains Jacob Sherson.

At the interface between and computer games, Sherson and his research group at Aarhus University have identified one of the abilities that still makes us unique compared to a computer's enormous : our skill in approaching problems heuristically and solving them intuitively. The discovery was made at the AU Ideas Centre CODER, where an interdisciplinary team of researchers work to transfer some human traits to the way computer algorithms work.

Quantum physics holds the promise of immense technological advances in areas ranging from computing to high-precision measurements. However, the problems that need to be solved to get there are so complex that even the most powerful supercomputers struggle with them. This is where the core idea behind CODER—combining the processing power of computers with human ingenuity—becomes clear.

Our common intuition

Like Columbus in QuantumLand, the CODER research group mapped out how the human brain is able to make decisions based on intuition and accumulated experience. This is done using the online game "Quantum Moves". Over 10,000 people have played the game that allows everyone contribute to basic research in quantum physics.

"The map we created gives us insight into the strategies formed by the human brain. We behave intuitively when we need to solve an unknown problem, whereas for a computer this is incomprehensible. A computer churns through enormous amounts of information, but we can choose not to do this by basing our decision on experience or intuition. It is these intuitive insights that we discovered by analysing the Quantum Moves player solutions," explains Jacob Sherson.

The laws of quantum physics dictate an upper speed limit for data manipulation, which in turn sets the ultimate limit to the processing power of quantum computers—the Quantum Speed Limit. Until now a computer algorithm has been used to identify this limit. It turns out that with human input researchers can find much better solutions than the algorithm.

Are humans the new supercomputer? Team blurred the boundaries between man and mac
This is how the "Mind Atlas" looks. Based on 500.000 completed games the group has been able to visualize our ability to solve problems. Each peak on the 'map' represents a good idea, and the area with the most peaks - marked by red rings - are where the human intuition has hit a solution. A computer can then learn to focus on these areas, and in that way 'learn' about the cognitive functions of a human. Credit: CODER/AU

"The players solve a very complex problem by creating simple strategies. Where a computer goes through all available options, players automatically search for a solution that intuitively feels right. Through our analysis we found that there are common features in the players' solutions, providing a glimpse into the shared intuition of humanity. If we can teach computers to recognise these good solutions, calculations will be much faster. In a sense we are downloading our common intuition to the computer" says Jacob Sherson.

And it works. The group has shown that we can break the Quantum Speed Limit by combining the cerebral cortex and computer chips. This is the new powerful tool in the development of quantum computers and other quantum technologies.

We are the new supercomputer

Science is often perceived as something distant and exclusive, conducted behind closed doors. To enter you have to go through years of education, and preferably have a doctorate or two. Now a completely different reality is materialising.

In recent years, a new phenomenon has appeared—citizen science breaks down the walls of the laboratory and invites in everyone who wants to contribute. The team at Aarhus University uses games to engage people in voluntary science research. Every week people around the world spend 3 billion hours playing games. Games are entering almost all areas of our daily life and have the potential to become an invaluable resource for science.

"Who needs a supercomputer if we can access even a small fraction of this computing power? By turning science into games, anyone can do research in quantum physics. We have shown that games break down the barriers between quantum physicists and people of all backgrounds, providing phenomenal insights into state-of-the-art research. Our project combines the best of both worlds and helps challenge established paradigms in computational research," explains Jacob Sherson.

The difference between the machine and us, figuratively speaking, is that we intuitively reach for the needle in a haystack without knowing exactly where it is. We 'guess' based on experience and thereby skip a whole series of bad options. For Quantum Moves, intuitive human actions have been shown to be compatible with the best computer solutions. In the future it will be exciting to explore many other problems with the aid of human intuition.

"We are at the borderline of what we as humans can understand when faced with the problems of quantum physics. With the problem underlying Quantum Moves we give the computer every chance to beat us. Yet, over and over again we see that players are more efficient than machines at solving the problem. While Hollywood blockbusters on artificial intelligence are starting to seem increasingly realistic, our results demonstrate that the comparison between man and machine still sometimes favours us. We are very far from computers with human-type cognition," says Jacob Sherson and continues:

"Our work is first and foremost a big step towards the understanding of physical challenges. We do not know if this can be transferred to other challenging problems, but it is definitely something that we will work hard to resolve in the coming years."


Explore further

Atlas of thoughts

More information: — Jens Jakob W. H. Sørensen et al. Exploring the quantum speed limit with computer games, Nature (2016). DOI: 10.1038/nature17620

www.scienceathome.org

Journal information: Nature

Provided by Aarhus University
Citation: Are humans the new supercomputer? Team blurred the boundaries between man and mac (2016, April 13) retrieved 22 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-04-humans-supercomputer.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
1093 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 13, 2016
it's always been boring to read about "fast growing techs". yes, computers can beat humans at many narrow-field tasks. But Just make comparisons between those "savvy" machines & humans by their POWER CONSUMPTION & SIZE/MASS. Another criterion is survivability ==>> harsh conditions(temp, radiation..) need to use hardened cpu's, but their price is insanely higher than whatever cots + their factual performance gets 10X+ less. In fact, IT has had upcoming catastrophe: bloating codes are about to have become extremely slow & glitchy as well.

Apr 13, 2016
Descartes was referring to the fact that he couldn't doubt his own existence (cogito ergo sum) to prove he wasn't being "tricked by an evil demon" (i.e. he's not in the Matrix).

Apr 13, 2016
Wouldn't a more appropriate headline be "Are humans the old super computers?"

Apr 14, 2016
Neither AlphaGo or DeepBlue can win their game without human heuristic. Winning a Go or Chess using a purely textbook/formal AI algorithm with our grossly inadequate existing computing power is impossible.

Apr 14, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Apr 14, 2016
yes, computers can beat humans at many narrow-field tasks


And we don't have to forget that computers are nothing more than the result of human needs and design. In this sense a computer (with a program) is nothing more than a sort of "canned human solution".

It's much like comparing a pair of tweezers with our hands, yes, the tweezers will be us every time at holding something very tight or cutting it...

Apr 14, 2016
Neither AlphaGo or DeepBlue can win their game without human heuristic.

Deep Blue used a heuristic (position strength) and a deep search database.
AlphaGo, on the other hand, developed its own heuristics by playing millions of games against itself (i.e. unsupervised learning).

Apr 15, 2016

AlphaGo, on the other hand, developed its own heuristics by playing millions of games against itself (i.e. unsupervised learning).


Thus basically an improved version of Michie's MENACE

Apr 15, 2016
yes, computers can beat humans at many narrow-field tasks


And we don't have to forget that computers are nothing more than the result of human needs and design. In this sense a computer (with a program) is nothing more than a sort of "canned human solution".

You're extremely right upon it. actually i've never seen glitch-free codes/solutions, furthermore to dev absolutely bug-free codes ain't possible ==>> we can only minimize a such magnitude of that sadness. :)

Apr 18, 2016
Anything a human mind can solve a computer should be able to do with the correct software. The human brain is massively parallel in operation but can be emulated without requiring quantum computers that I am not sure can be made to work for general use.
This required software is also not very complicated but is really just a massive database of connected objects. The program might only be small but the database is not and will grow. The trick is to prune the database to maintain speed. The computer with the correct software will learn the same way a human baby does although it has the advantage that it can be copied at any stage to another computer and preloaded with much data.
I do not see humans as anything special except for consciousness which a computer does not need anyway.

Apr 18, 2016
The computer with the correct software will learn the same way a human baby does although it has the advantage that it can be copied at any stage to another computer and preloaded with much data.
I do not see humans as anything special except for consciousness which a computer does not need anyway.

huh, let's take a some look into:

* human has less mass/size, power consumption is much less too.
* human can perform wider range of tasks.
* machine is just NOTHING w/o humans.
================
w/ db growing, it becomes physically impossible to run AI due to crazy load of I/O operations ==>> just try to write program, where all vars are reading/writing directly from hdd ;) another side is, so huge data cannot be efficiently debugged -- hidden vars become the very insurmountable obstacle. In short, AI mostly has been glitchy/retardy/narrow-functional. :D

Apr 18, 2016
What would life be like if we stopped handicapping humans?

For instance, when a child is told about global warming and the consequences, the reaction is, "Great, when will we start riding bikes and save the world?"

What kind of damage is done that, by the time a "graduate" is produced, all they can do is slog through another pointless day of creating nothing of value and then haul their idle, useless bodies into their hulking mobility assistance scooter (cars) and then surf the internet to have the hive mind think for them, and become helplessly snared in the web of conventional social and cultural rituals that dominate their tiny corner of the world?

I mean, really, aren't adults just damaged computers running buggy cultural programs after having their I/O systems squelched and their hard drives wiped and reformatted for an operating system designed by a greater computing/industrial complex that is essentially a parasite attached to a planet?

Apr 18, 2016
, and become helplessly snared in the web of conventional social and cultural rituals that dominate their tiny corner of the world?

I mean, really, aren't adults just damaged computers running buggy cultural programs after having their I/O systems squelched and their hard drives wiped and reformatted for an operating system designed by a greater computing/industrial complex that is essentially a parasite attached to a planet?

do you want to know WHAT IS THE SENSE TO LIVE FURTHER??? :D globally life has no sense at all -- it's just up to You to choose whatever reasons for own existence :)

Apr 19, 2016
A
I do not see humans as anything special except for consciousness which a computer does not need anyway.


You Kurzweil fans realize that this ideal "Computer" is as illusional as an unicorn, right?

Do you know what's behind a database? A whole lot of DBA work, and the more complex the database (or any other system for that matter) the more IT guys it needs keeping the plumbing working.

For somebody from outside modern cloud based systems look like magic. You may have come across the term DevOps, do you? Check it out. It literally means a whole bunch of guys changing the system constantly, customizing where it's needed and making it work so that it continues looking like magic. That's my job mate ;)

Apr 19, 2016
EnricM, just some adds to your above post: AI gets running even not db, but kb (knowledge base) == the difference is strikingly huge because kb has minimum ratio AD/MD..

AD == actual data, MD == metadata. for instance, AD could be 1Mb at size, overall size of kb easily may be 100-1000Mb or even higher (dependent upon specific tasks of kb).

Apr 23, 2016
Interesting approach & it seems on variations derived from groundswell of developments since cybernetics introduced to university curriculum circa 1980's, the recent trends in data analytics also play into arena well Eg Woodside in Western Australia (WA) & a Meetup link I just received today near me @ Perth WA
http://www.meetup...?gj=ej1b

Relevancy:-
Few kms west there's an AI development co
http://brainchipinc.com/
moving into this area in a big way re hardware only neural processing, they're on Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) & I'm disclosing I'm a shareholder (ie no conflict of interest...).

Their profile & recent technical as well as commercial announcements can be found here,
http://www.asx.co...do#!/brn

& appear to be on Qualcomm's interest list, oddly their stock is surprising cheap comparative to others eg on Nasdaq etc... I said this here about Hazer @ 20c, it hit 80c ~ 4 weeks later eek ! :-o)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more