April 14, 2020

Narrow band of intelligence

There’s a meme in society that geniuses exist, popping out brilliant and ruminating about patterns from birth. Society generally believes there’s smart people and dumb people and a wide spectrum of intelligence in between.

But I think intelligence delta in humans is minuscule and barely (if even at all) perceptible.

Think about our attempts at building self-driving cars.

We’ve spent over three decades, millions of man-hours, and tens of billions of dollars trying to teach computers how to intelligently stay between the lines.

Yet, a few years before Alan Turing built the first computer, my grandfather was on a tomato field in rural Virginia. In two weeks, out of necessity, he figured out how to slip the red stickshift tractor-trailer into first gear, and then back to neutral. Into first gear again, and then back to neutral. Then all the way up to third gear and into town, to haul the tomatoes off. He was 11 years old.

Nearly any human who has tried to learn how to drive has been able to do so in a short amount of time. Over 70 years since Turing’s first machine, we still don’t have self-driving cars.1

When Tesla does crack it, when their combination of 8 cameras and radar and dual-fault self-driving computers achieves self-driving, it will quickly be far superior to human drivers. Twenty years from now, it will be insane we ever let humans drive these death machines.

All human drivers exist in this narrow band of ability. All better than computers today, all worse than computers in a couple decades.

The breadth of ability is an illusion.

  1. I’m rooting for Tesla!

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