Thought Metric

I just had a thought. I was reading chapter 2 of Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence” (a bit out of date now but feels like a classic). He has been describing various ways an AI might be created (modelling evolution, modelling the brain, self-improving programs etc. but finishing the section saying how AIs would not much resemble the human mind and that their cognitive abilities and goals would be alien. This follows the idea about AIs being able to improve themselves, for which there obviously needs to be a metric about what improvement means.

My thought is about thinking; a meta thought perhaps. What are the units of thinking? Seems like it might be a useful unit to have when comparing cognitive abilities. What is the total number of these units that the human race has produced over the length of our history? Is the computing metric of MFLOPS a useful starting place or just an indication of the alien nature of computers, i.e. not useful to us. I think the latter.

If we just say, for the sake of argument, the unit is ideas per lifetime. Individuals will vary widely with great minds producing tens of thousands or maybe millions of ideas (without any qualitative limitation on “idea”). There will be an average which we can use to multiply by the number of people that have ever lived to generate a number which is the total “idea output” of the human race.

So how might an AI compare; specifically, how long would an AI take to have all the ideas that the human race has had, or would it even be capable of having the same ideas as us?

Is this a potential reason for an AI to keep us around? If an AI values ideas, and it probably would, do we collectively provide an “idea resource” that an AI can use, particularly if we are capable of producing thoughts and ideas that an AI can’t, because of it’s nature.

Perhaps we can take some comfort from the fact that we have amassed a huge idea bank, which an AI might not be able to reproduce via it’s own thinking, either because of capacity or cognitive architecture. It might *absorb* all the ideas we have produced, but having a level of general intelligence, unless it were able to reproduce the ideas itself, it would recognise that we have a unique ability.

Comforting, I think.

Chalk up a couple more ideas for the human race, even if someone else has had the idea already!