Why Humans Won’t Be Replaced by Machine Learning

Courtesy of VentureBeat

Laura Teller, guest-posting at VentureBeat makes the case that human domain expertise will never be replaced by smart machines.

For starters, smart machines need human experts to correct their mistakes and provide the closed loop feedback that makes machine learning possible.

But the bigger reasons why Teller believes humans will always remain preeminent have to do with the three levels of cognition developed by Prof. Terrence Deacon, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley.

The three levels are iconic, indexic and symbolic.

Iconic cognition happens when a computer identifies something. For example, facial recognition software can distinguish human faces from everything else.

Indexic cognition takes place when we make associations. Pointing your thumb at your chest means you’re talking about yourself.

Iconic and indexic rely on patterns and rules and both readily scale.

Symbolic thought focuses on abstractions and the human tendency to “complete the picture.”

We think symbolically when we brainstorm, daydream, listen to our instincts, and question the status quo. In so doing, we rely on emotion, experience, visions, and logic… and create the conditions for innovation.

Fans of Star Trek will be familiar with this dichotomy of the iconic and indexic versus the symbolic in the characters of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.

(In fact, this analogy is a form of symbolic cognition :))

Mr. Spock thinks logically with the ability to mentally process vast storehouses of data quickly. Captain Kirk, while in need of Mr. Spock’s prodigious powers, always saves the day when forced to “go with his gut.”

Realizing this, imagine you had more of the iconic and indexic tasks of your business covered by machine learning. What would this free you up to do? Share your thoughts below…

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