Measuring Intelligence

Apple fans who make use of the iPhone's famous virtual assistant, Siri, were probably elated to hear a more human-sounding voice emerge as part of iOS 11. While sounding more human is a plus for any artificial intelligence (AI) system, thinking like a human being would be even more so. According to a new study that compared the intelligence of today's AI systems, that's one area where Google's AI appears to be out-performing Siri.

A team of Chinese researchers, led by Chinese Academy of Sciences' Research Center on Fictitious Economy and Data Science executive deputy director Yong Shi, wanted to "address the issue of AI threat" by coming up with "a standard intelligence model that unifies AI and human characteristics in terms of four aspects of knowledge, i.e., input, output, mastery, and creation," as stated in the paper's abstract. They looked at and ranked the intelligence quotient (IQ) of AI systems vis-á-vis human intelligence.

The researchers found that Google's AI had an IQ of 47.28 in 2016. While Google's AI is intelligent, it's still not as smart as a regular six-year-old child — whose IQ average at about 55.5, and even less than the average 18-year-old with an IQ of 97. In fact, none of the AI systems they checked displayed IQ's greater than these measures. Chinese search engine Baidu had a score of 32.92, Microsoft's Bing measured at 31.98. Apple's Siri scored just 23.94 — less than half the IQ of Google's AI.

Learning to be Smart

These IQ scores don't seem to lend credence to concerns experts like OpenAI co-chairman Elon Musk have expressed about AI's capacity to end humanity. Of course, the measurement used by Yong and his colleagues is just one among many — and as the researchers acknowledged, AI systems do seem to be getting smarter. Google's AI had an IQ of 26.5 in 2014, while Microsoft's had a 13.5 — meaning that in the last two years, Google has increased the intelligence of its AI.

This shouldn't come as a surprise: artificially intelligent systems are built to continually learn, and as Google's DeepMind has shown, it's getting good at it. Google has even trained the system to have an imagination, and make sense of its surroundings. It also helps that Google, Microsoft, Apple, as well as Amazon are all investing heavily in AI research. As the company's CEO Sundar Pichai said at this year's Google I/O conference, Google's focus currently is on AI. Similarly, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has shifted the company's focus to AI, as well; the company has already set up a new AI research lab.

So, expect even smarter AI systems and virtual assistants in the near future. Already, the simplest smartphones today are powered by machine learning algorithms that work to enhance usability and performance to improve user experience — which is, at least for now, very much to our benefit.

While we might be using Siri primarily to look up something fairly simple, like the rating of a restuaraunt we're considering, we may soon find these assistants even more helpful. Some AI companies are even working on the development of virtual assistants that can read emotions, which would make interacting with them more pleasant. As the technology continues to develop, it's likely virtual secretaries will play more pronounced roles in our lives —  like Tony Stark and Jarvis.

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