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The future's bright

A recent study has shown that a group of little children - aged from three to seven - were easily able to outwit the best technology has to offer in many problem-solving tasks

Friday, 26 January 2024, 17:17

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People who have jobs which are called things like 'coder' and 'programmer' have, for some time now, been running around excitedly, flapping their hands in the air and telling anyone who'll listen that artificial intelligence is about to take over the world. Human beings will, we're reliably informed, soon become subserviant to a cabal of malevolent robots and villainous machines which will rise to rule the roost while we stare blankly at I'm Strictly A Celebrity Traitor, dribbling steadily from the mouth and swiping aimlessly at the small screens we're clutching in our trembling hands. Not that much different to now, then.

But wait - not so fast you computer boffins. A recent study has shown that a group of little children - aged from three to seven - were easily able to outwit the best technology has to offer in many problem-solving tasks. Phew!

An example of one such assignment involved both the kiddiewinkies and the machines being given a stove, a ruler and a teapot and then being asked to use them to draw a circle. Eighty-five per cent of the little ones cleverly used the base of the teapot to draw the correct shape, while seventy five per cent of the AI weirdos insisted on going for the ruler time after time and getting nowhere fast. Dimwits.

The researchers concluded that "Discovering novel functions in everyday tools is not about finding the statistically nearest neighbour from lexical co-occurrence patterns. Rather, it is about appreciating the more abstract functional analogies and causal relationships between objects that do not necessarily belong to the same category or are associated in text". Obviously, nobody had the slightest clue what that any of that meant - including, I suspect, the researchers themselves - so we've been left to draw our own conclusions.

It seems that, for all of its amazing capacity to find patterns and to copy them, AI lacks that most human of characteristics - ingenuity. As anyone who has tucked in to a packet of supermarket own-brand cornflakes expecting them to be as good as those of the market leader knows, a copy is never as good as the original.

So, it seems we're safe for now - well, unless a group of ingenious three-to-seven-year-olds decides to take over the world armed with their circle-based teapots and runny noses.

Now there's a truly scary thought.

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