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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Humans and AI: Problem Finders and Problem Solvers

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Illustration shows two hands holding light bulbs, as ideas, and question marks.

The maturation of these technologies will gradually create a shift in task assignment, where humans become problem finders and AIs become problem solvers.

When thought of as the equivalent of human intelligence, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) lead us to all kinds of wrong conclusions, such as robots taking over the world, deep neural networks becoming conscious, or AlphaCode being as good as an average human programmer. But when viewed in the framework of searching solution spaces, they take on a different meaning. Even if the AI system produces outcomes that are similar to or better than those of humans, the process they use is very different from human thinking.

What does this mean for the future of human intelligence? AI—at least in its current form—is an extension of human intelligence, not a replacement. Technologies such as AlphaCode cannot think about and design their own problems—one of the key elements of human creativity and innovation—but they are very good problem solvers. Humans define the problems, set the rewards or expected outcomes, and the AI helps by finding potential solutions at superhuman speed.

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