Science of Intelligence: Human Intelligence to Computational Intelligence

Prof. Risto Ilmoniemi, Head of Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, Aalto University School of Science, Finland participates in Risk Roundup to discuss “Science of Intelligence: Human Intelligence to Computational Intelligence”.


It is said that what we cannot create we do not understand.

While the very nature of human mind and the science of intelligence is difficult to understand, there is an intense effort going on across nations to build a conscious computer mind out of computer chips. Do we know enough about science of intelligence to build computational intelligence? Perhaps not!

As a result, there are growing concerns and questions about building a computer mind from electronic pieces when there is so little clarity about the human mind, science of intelligence and the very nature of human consciousness.

From the beginning of human times, the power of imagination has helped, we the humans, explore the unknowns, evolve, and change the world around us. We have fundamentally transformed the geospace. The same power of imagination will perhaps, continue to help us explore, the unknowns of the cyberspace and space, and change the reality around humanity.

Imagination has always been an indicator of human intelligence. While imagination is a creative power that is necessary for inventions in cyberspace, geospace and space (CGS), the same power of imagination is driving neuroscientists today to understanding human intelligence, imagination and where ideas originate from– the human brain and mind better.

The power of imagination can transform the reality around us because new ideas enables us to innovate. We, the humans, and the human mind carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better, and imagination makes it possible to experience a whole world inside the human mind, which we can then go and create outside in the cyberspace, geospace and space.

Irrespective of human intelligence or computational intelligence, knowing what determines intelligence is perhaps the biggest question humanity faces today. It is therefore important that we evaluate the fundamentals of the science of intelligence.

What is Intelligence?

There are many theories of intelligence. While it is not the scope of this initiative to discuss all relevant theories of intelligence, intelligence basically seems to have a broad meaning covering many human mental activities. Intelligence is not just a single general ability. From problem solving, thinking abstractly, learning, understanding, reasoning, and more; human intelligence seems to be a whole collection of mental processes.

While human mind seems to be a set of cognitive capacities that includes consciousness, perception, thinking, judgement, and memory; it seems they are all interrelated and interconnected. While, we still don’t have a clear understanding of all the cognitive capacities that allow us clear understanding of human intelligence, perhaps they collectively determine the level of human intelligence.

What is the relationship between learning and intelligence?

In recent years, it is reported that the structure of the adult human brain changes when a new cognitive or motor skill, including vocabulary, is learned. This perhaps changes the level of intelligence and nature of intelligence as well. It is important to understand and evaluate how is the evolution of human intelligence is closely tied to the nature of the human learning.

If we identify what individuals across nations are learning today than we can define and determine the collective intelligence of a nation.

What controls intelligence?

It is reported that as a species, we, the humans exhibit a broad range of intelligence, of which heritability (through genes) can account for 50 percent. The fact that there are genes which control human intelligence provides us a foundation for natural evolution and natural selection to act upon.

While genes certainly play a role in human intelligence, is the other 50%, the role of environment?

Intelligence Evolution?

There is a genuine concern that the human brain evolution is stagnant and will likely cease. Why is that so? This is largely because, with this technology driven rapid growth and expansion, the human need to do most manual and mathematical work will be greatly diminished. As a result, there is a growing concern about evolution. There is also a growing belief that while the work for day to day survival will be greatly lessened, the fear of survival of the human species will be greatly increased. May be this will keep the evolutionary pressure on!

It is important to evaluate how will this impact the evolution of human brain, mind and intelligence?

De-coding Human Intelligence to create Artificial Intelligence

There are some who say that we don’t understand how to effectively create artificial intelligence (AI) because we don’t understand human intelligence. However, the question is whether we need to understand human intelligence clearly before we create artificial intelligence?

Although, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives, understanding how the human brain produces intelligent behavior, is still perhaps one of the greatest challenges in science and technology today.

While science knows no boundaries or borders, and neither does human imagination and innovation, how are innovations in science and technology from across nations helping us decode human intelligence?

  • Do we have enough understanding about human brain processes to be able to define and describe human intelligence process accurately?
  • Where are we in the understanding of the science of human intelligence that can help us understand and advance computational principles of intelligence?
  • What is it about brain intelligence that seems to be losing to computational intelligence?
  • Will we be able to grow human memory and will human memory be able to compete with the advances in computer memory?
  • Based on the understanding of brain, will there be evolution in computers where irrespective of electricity they are on?
  • While computers will be intelligent, will we see computers capable of imagination and consciousness and be able to innovate?
  • While both brain and computers are used for storage and processing of information and execute tasks using either electrical signals in computer and the human brain through neuron to neuron, can the brain be updated? Will we be able to update brains rapidly?
  • How does brain process short term and long term memory? Why is not all the memory active like in computers?
  • Will we be able to replicate human ability to learn, into computers?
  • What are the barriers to progress in cognitive, behavioral, or neuroscience that would be targets of opportunity for computer science research?
  • Where are we in the whole brain emulation capabilities?
  • Do the complex human brain computations rely on relatively simple mathematical logic?
  • What computational tools and environments are needed to support replicable, scalable science extending beyond a single experiment or a single laboratory?

Since there are no limits to intelligence imagination, there are no limits to progress and advancement in humans. It is the imagination that will help us create the worlds, that never were, in cyberspace, geospace and space (CGS). But without intelligence imagination, we go nowhere.

It is important that we understand the science of intelligence to understand human intelligence to computational intelligence.

For more please watch the Risk Roundup Webcast or hear Risk Roundup Podcast

About the Guest

Prof. Risto Ilmoniemi, is currently the Head of Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering at Aalto University School of Science, Finland. He is currently developing novel brain imaging methods; and using them to reveal some secrets of the brain. His focus is on developing methods to diagnose and treat the brain.

He received his PhD from Helsinki University of Technology, in 1985 on Solid State Physics. He and his team were awarded Innovation Prize by the New Technology Foundation (Turku) for “Multichannel magnetic brain stimulator”, 15000 FIM, April 14, 1997

He serves on the Board of Brain Research Society of Finland, 1990–1996. He is also a member of the Board, Graduate School “Functional Studies in Medicine”, 1995–2003. He is Chairman of the Board, Nexstim Ltd., 2000–2003; Member of the Board, 2000–2006. Member of Editorial Board: Journal of Psychophysiology, 2003–2007. Member of Specialist Panel “Ymmärtäminen ja inhimillinen vuorovaikutus” [Understanding and Human Interaction], FinnSight 2015, The Academy of Finland and TEKES, 2005–2006. Member of Commission K (Electromagnetics in Biology and Medicine), Finnish National Committee of International Union of Radio Science (URSI), Jan 21, 2006–. Member of the Board, Finnish Society for Natural Philosophy, 2009–2012. Chairman, Finnish Society for Medical Physics and Medical Engineering, 2010–2012; Vice Chairman, 2007–2010; Member of the Board, 2006–. Member of International Advisory Board for Bernstein Focus Neurotechnology, Berlin, 2010–2013. Member of Advisory Board, Medtech West, Gothenburg, 2010–. Member of the Board: Instrumentarium Science Foundation 2010–. Founding Member, European Society for Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2011–. Topic Editor, “Manipulative approaches to human brain dynamics”, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2013. Member of Advisory Board for Berlin Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, 2014–. Member of Finnish National Committee for Medical Physics and Medical Engineering, 2014–. Member of Advisory Board, University of Eastern Finland, 2014–. Member of the Board, Neuroscience Center, University of Helsinki, 2014–. Member of the International Advisory Board, International Conferences on Biomagnetism, 2014–. Member of Scientific Committee, Institute for Advanced Biomedical Technologies (ITAB), Gabriele D’Annunzio University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy, 2014–. Member of the Advisory Board, Aalto Ventures Program, 2015–, Member of the Academic Committee, Aalto University, 2010–2013 and more.

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