Computing continues to advance at such a rate that it can sometimes seem as though humans are about to become obsolete thanks to supercomputers. Just look at how a piece of artificial software beat a human champion at Go, the world’s most challenging board game.
However fast machine capabilities continue to develop, there are signs of hope for human beings. Computers may now be able to make choices that humans previously had to make for them, but we retain our superiority in some areas.
Study shows human intuition still unique
That is according to a recent study by Jacob Sherson, a Danish physicist whose results were 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 Sherson.
The physicist and his research group explored the interface between quantum physics and computer games at Aarhus University. The team identified that humans can look at problems heuristically and solve them intuitively, which marks us out as unique from computers.
Researchers in Denmark marry best human traits with algorithms
The team was working at the AU Ideas Center CODER, where scientists try to introduce human traits to computer algorithms. They were working on quantum physics because the field has huge potential to help us advance technologically.
However one issue is the fact that the problems in play are so complicated that even supercomputers struggle to handle them. As a result the researchers tried to combine human ingenuity with the awesome processing power of supercomputers.
In order to do so the team got volunteers to play the online game “Quantum Moves.” It maps out how we solve problems based on intuition and accumulated experience.
“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 analyzing the Quantum Moves player solutions,” explains Jacob Sherson.
Humans still have some advantages over supercomputers
While supercomputers churn through information at high speed, humans can choose not to carry out certain operations based on intuition.
“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 recognize these good solutions, calculations will be much faster. In a sense, we are downloading our common intuition to the computer” says Jacob Sherson.
Computers can only ever work so fast, known as the Quantum Speed Limit. However by combining the human cerebral cortex with computer chips scientists have found a way to get the best of both worlds and break that speed limit.
One interesting fact is that the project has broken down the walls that surround science and invited ordinary citizens to contribute to research.
“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.
In conclusion the research has shown that despite advances in technology, computers still lack human intuition. As a result they explore every possible solution to a problem, whereas humans skip bad options based on intuition and past experience.