1875: Computers vs Humans
|Computers vs Humans|
Title text: It's hard to train deep learning algorithms when most of the positive feedback they get is sarcastic.
Cueball's laptop smugly crows to its owner about how computers have proven their intellectual superiority over humans yet again. In May 2017, a Google artificial intelligence beat the world's best Go player at the game. Go is a very complex and deep board game, so this could seem alarming to a person concerned about competing with computers.
However, Cueball seems too focused on his book or phone to care. He remains nonchalant in the face of this news, and suggests that computers learn next to become "too cool to care about stuff" themselves. The computer gets to work preparing to outdo humans at not caring. However, by expending the physical effort to set up the algorithm, it proves that it cares about reaching this goal, a contradiction that Cueball points out. Cueball further rubs it in by coolly stating that he doesn't even have to try to act the way he acts – much like a wide range of everyday human behaviors, such as moving around, or recognizing objects in images, require very little conscious effort, while being quite hard for machines to emulate.
Relative strengths of human versus computer go players was previously mentioned in reassuring parable. This comic also presents something that looks like a reassuring parable (something humans can do which computers are not yet able to do). An irony here is that, unlike in the cartoon, it is very easy to make a computer not care about something. It is making it care about anything that would be quite difficult.
The title text elaborates on the hypothetical paradox of computers trying not to care about stuff. Neural network programs are developed by training them with sample inputs and the desired output. When the end goal is not to care, that is, that the output is unaffected by this input, then any examples where the output did depend on the input would be sarcasm: the use of irony to mock or to convey contempt.
Randall already noticed that computers would soon beat humans in Go back in 2012 in the comic 1002: Game AIs and a year later the event is so close that it became the main topic of 1263: Reassuring. The present comic could almost be seen as a continuation of Reassuring.
- [A laptop sits on a desk with office chair while Cueball is sitting with his back towards the desk in a sofa while he is reading from something in his hands, a book or a smartphone.]
- Laptop: We computers finally beat you humans at Go.
- Cueball: Yup.
- Laptop: Sucks for you!
- Cueball: Mm hmm.
- [Same setting in a frameless panel.]
- Laptop: What's next? Which quintessentially human thing should we learn to do better than you?
- Cueball: Being too cool to care about stuff.
- [Same setting.]
- Laptop: Okay, I'll apply 10,000 years of CPU time to the initial—
- Cueball: Sounds like you've already lost.
- Laptop: Damn. This is hard.
- Cueball: Is it? Never noticed.
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