Man and the Machine!

I read about a flight that was required to land in the Hudson River in New York. US Airways Flight 1549 was an Airbus A320-214 which, in the climb out after takeoff from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, struck a flock of Canadian geese, just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and consequently, lost all engine power. Unable to reach an airport, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane to a ditching in the Hudson River off Midtown Manhattan. All 155 people aboard were rescued by nearby boats and there were few serious injuries.

This is the animation video of the incident. While reading about the incident and after watching the video and the video clip from the movie Sully (2016), questions came to my mind how far can a machine (based on AI- Artificial Intelligence-) take over human jobs and are they good enough to interpret the tricky situations. In this case, the incident occurred at the height of 2800 feet which is considered very low to handle such incidents. The pilots showed fantastic skills and managed to land in the Hudson River in very chilly conditions.

When various parameters were analyzed by different agencies, they used data from the black box and created simulations based on the data retrieved. Initially, they concluded that there may have been a pilot error because the auto simulations proved that the pilots should have acted differently and could have landed on either of the two airports which were in the vicinity. Both these airports had cleared the flight for emergency landing. But the pilot declared that he could not make it to the airports. Then data was loaded on simulators and two pilots “flew” the aeroplane, based on data captured. About 13 such pairs “flew” the plane on the simulator. Seven pairs could not reach the airport.

But when the pilot Sully was being interviewed, he said that he did not agree with the findings because the findings were applied to the situation, immediately instructed the pilot to turn towards the airport. But when the actual bird hits happened, the pilots were stunned and by rough estimate did not react for 35 seconds. The plane ultimately landed in the river 218 seconds after the bird hit. Out of this, 218 seconds 35 seconds were lost in the pilots recovering from the shock. Another important aspect was that the procedure stipulated by the plane manufacturer Airbus had written it with the assumption that the flying height would be 33000 feet at such times. At this height, humans have enough time to react. But at 2800 feet height, time left to react was less than four minutes before either landing or crashing. When 35 seconds of “no action”  time were considered in the simulation tests, the results matched with the pilots’ actions in deciding that not enough time was left for them to go back to any of the airports. Both pilots were honoured by many authorities for their heroic efforts which saved all 155 lives. See this interesting clip below, from the Movie “Sully” based on the incident with Tom Hank in the lead road.

Now the question comes to mind who is better Man or Machine? Would machine have required 35 seconds of reaction time? Maybe no. But unless this real-life situation was available in the database for the AI system, how would a machine have reacted? The pilot could see that there was the river Hudson around, which he thought would have become a spot for “soft landing”. At any other place in New York or New Jersey, the aeroplane would have simply crashed into buildings and maybe exploded. Would an AI system have known at the time of the incident, the option for a soft landing? Another question that comes to mind is how many combinations would be required to be present in AI database, for the system to understand that combination of 2800 feet height, time remaining of (218-35=) 183 seconds, wide enough river Hudson being around and there were no taller buildings in the path etc, etc. By analyzing hundreds of such options, the AI system would have arrived at a conclusion, what would be the “safest” option to save lives and the aircraft. At least in this case, with the current level of technology, the human decision was a superior decision.

The way humans react, their mind thinks out of the box! AI system decides only based on what data is available with it. The human mind applies its thoughts and extrapolates to arrive at the correct conclusion. It automatically does the risk analysis and tries to take the best possible decision under the circumstances. How far AI systems will be able to extrapolate, it is difficult for us to judge. 50 years hence, who knows?

I will share another example from the Aviation field. The incident is known as “Gimli Glider”, this happened in 1983 and the plane was Boeing 767 used by Air Canada. There were series of errors in the measurement of fuel, manual, gauges, dip stick, at every stage. There was a transition going on from the FPS system to MKS system in Canada at that time. One thing led to another ending in the incident. See the link below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider

Incident is too technical to be explained here. But the end result was all the fuel tanks were suddenly empty, half way to the destination. We can say that all these errors and complications probably could have been avoided by AI. Yes and no both because AI stuff takes time to “learn everything”! After many such incidents, AI would become “an expert” in this area. But what happened later is where human intervention will show us the limitations of AI over human intelligence. When the pilots felt some issue, they decided to do an emergency landing at Winnipeg. But when they realized that there was zero fuel, the copilot and the pilot started thinking fast. The pilot was a gliding expert and he calculated that the plane could glide 16 times the height at which the plane was flying. The copilot was from that area, and he had worked on a Royal Canadian Air Force Station in the area. He judged the parameters and decided to land at that Ex-air force station at Gimli. Only problem was that both the pilots and air traffic controllers were not aware that the station had become a racing track. But it was only because of the knowledge of the pilots and the way they applied it sensibly, the plane ultimately landed safely with no major injuries to anyone on the flight as well as on ground.

This brings out the same question, AI or Humans who are better? This discussion is going to go on forever but AI systems will become better and better but nobody really knows what is stored in the Human brain and what the humans will retrieve from their brain, is going to be really difficult to judge. But we should not forget one thing, humans are the ones who are creating an AI system!

I read somewhere about the movie Sully! The copilot  Skiles is asked in the end what you would have done differently if the same incident were to occur! He smiles and says, “I would make sure that we landed in Hudson River in July and not as we did in January!”

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What is the mind?

This is a song from Hindi movie Chitralekha from 1964, sung by Mohmmad Rafi and Music by Roshan, written by my favourite lyricist Sahir. The song explains beautifully about the Mind which in Indian language is मन !

Can you arrest the Sunlight?

From rising and receding!

Can you imprison the colours?

Who has shackled the beauty?

All dictionaries define MIND in 2/3 ways.

  • The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.
  • A person’s ability to think and reason; the intellect.
  • A person’s attention.

Obviously, it is not a physical thing, it not an attribute but it is something which exists but cannot be seen. It is supposedly having a great depth, sometimes it is said to be deeper than the ocean. The way we cannot see things deep down the ocean, we don’t know what is happening in someone’s mind. It is unpredictable. People jokingly say that it is very difficult to predict how a lady will react to a situation but (jokes apart) same is true about men too, in fact, it is predictable about the human race that unpredictable nature of human facet is predictable!  This is one of the pictorial depiction of the Mind!

mind

The mind is a data bank within the humans, with unlimited gigabytes or terabytes of ever expanding memory. Human mind always compares new things, new events with old data in mind! When we talk of mind, we point our finger towards our head but in the head, we have a brain and not mind! So where is the mind? Mind to me is the human intellect which during “thinking” accesses the data bank, compares and gives out the result by way of actions; these actions may be verbal, in writing or by physical action. To give an example, someone is being interviewed for a job. After various stages, the person is offered that the company will pay 20% less salary than demanded. That person recalculates in his mind and says Ok, I am good. What did his mind calculate? First, it calculated how much was the final expected figure in his mind? What was it based on? Expenses, EMI’s emergency expenses and savings! Based on such variables the mind recalculated the new situation.

How can we develop a mind which is very passionate and always questioning? Probably when we constantly inquire anything and everything, our mind becomes a free mind, which has a lot of data and a lot of flexibility. When the flexibility is gone, the questioning is reduced or stopped, our mind starts accepting everything at face value. Such a thought process then starts calling many things as traditions, which are to be just accepted. Our mind may be gets covered with some kind of rust; this rust coating does not allow our mind to remain active and ensures that we accept everything as beliefs and traditions.

I told my granddaughter the other day that it is not a good idea to watch YouTube or TV while eating food. She has a very sharp mind and mind which does not have cover of rust. She said please tell me what happens if she watched YouTube or TV while eating food. I could have given two answers. One, it is a tradition, which is really true; till 50 years back there was no TV and till 10 years back there was no YouTube. Hence the tradition was not to distract your mind while eating. But for a five-year-old girl both these things have been around from the day she was born. So, telling her that it is a tradition is incorrect! I explained to her scientifically and she was happy with the answer. So many times, beliefs and traditions are something which we use to hide behind instead of facing the truth, challenge an event or a thought process. Because thought is the way we respond to something with old data and current data,  then mixing the two to bring out an appropriate response.

I feel that the brain and mind are synonyms. But the  brain physically exists and in the case of mind, there is no physical existence. As the brain is made up of several materials, it can be studied. On the other hand, it is hard to conduct studies on the mind as it is not made up of any material. The brain is an important organ in the human body whereas the mind is equally important. It is in the brain that all the functions and activities take place. The brain, which is the center of the nervous system, coordinates the movements, thoughts and feelings. But these are put forth or felt through the mind. We all use the mind to think, feel and respond. The Mind refers to a person’s understanding of things and also his conscience. Mind also refers to a person’s thought process. The brain has a definite place in the head. But with regard to mind, it is only supposed to be in the brain. The brain may be affected with diseases and can be diagnosed whereas mind does not have such complications. But yes! If your mind becomes corrupt about something then it is very difficult to eradicate such a thought process.

The mind never sleeps. It is always preoccupied with something; it is preoccupied with thoughts and these thoughts keep on changing all the time. Now the beauty of the mind. This non-physical entity controls many actions and reactions of humans, some good, some bad and some are really ugly. These actions and reactions can result in some fascinating outcomes and some horrible outcomes. The preoccupied mind wears out humans to a great extent, even when they are asleep. A person is worried about something and the mind goes in overdrive. Mind keeps on churning out thoughts to arrive at a correct solution. Till this solution is reached, the non-physical entity tires human body! The result can be that the humans are  not able to go to sleep, or are tossing and turning even when they finally fall asleep. As described in the song above the mind or मन cannot be controlled, cannot be arrested; it will follow its own path at its own will! In the famous song from Sound of Music, “How do you solve the problem like Maria”, there is a line “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?” That’s mind for you!

There is a phrase a “Mind Over Matter”! This phrase is one of the most important statements in our lives. What does it mean? Mind over matter is —used to describe a situation, in which someone is able to control a physical condition, problem, etc., by using the mind, the ability to keep going, even when he is tired, it is a simple question of mind over matter.

We have seen and heard of many examples of Mind Over Matter. Lance Armstrong is one best-known athlete who overcame his cancer to win many cycle races. (Unfortunately, he was later caught in doping scandals and stripped off all his medals!) Oscar Pistorius had both his legs amputated in while he was a baby but he overcame these issues by having prosthetic limbs. After becoming Paralympic champion, he took part in normal races too, representing South Africa! (He is currently in jail for murdering his fiance!) We had a co-passenger when we took Alaska cruise. He needed 100% Oxygen support because of his medical condition. But he not only was on the cruise but also took all the land excursions!  I know a couple of people with this condition, who simply died after a few months!

I am still amazed by this human “organ” which is invisible! It controls human reactions, it decides important things in life, it gives great support to humans along with Adrenalin, during excitable situations! There is a lot of discussion going on these days, about Artificial Intelligence becoming very powerful and may do most of the things better than us humans. But I don’t agree. How can an algorithm or any code decipher human mind? Humans themselves cannot fathom the depth of the mind, they don’t have real knowledge about how the mind behaves; so, don’t worry we are safe in the hands of the mind!

 

The Other side of the coin!

The other day, Jaya and I went to see an exhibition called देणे समाजाचे! The exhibition was organized by Veena Gokhale in memory of her late husband Dilip, who wanted to do such activity. This was an exhibition of various products made and services provided by organizations run for the downtrodden, by people like you and me! Maybe I used a wrong word! Most of “You and me” don’t do these things. The people who run these organizations are driven by some secret energy to help people who need help. What I observed was that more than 50% of such organizations were from Marathwada and Vidarbha region. Some have been running for around 25 years! These were formed after the horrible earthquake with epicentre at a place called Killari. Around ten thousand people died in this earthquake.

The earthquake hit the region at 3.54 am, when most were asleep, on 30th September 1993 and its intensity was 6.2. It was a major earthquake but the intensity was not so large to kill ten thousand people. The region has been known for its poverty and people lived there, at least in those times, in houses which were made by keeping stones on top of each other, with no cementing material. The earthquake shook these homes and people were crushed under the stones. A lot of people and material was rushed to that area to rehabilitate people. Though this was a commendable effort, dead don’t come back, ever. Last week I saw a picture of a woman who is now a teacher in a school in that area. She was caught under the debris as a child during the earthquake and was saved by a valiant army officer. The army officer went to look for the child and met the lady! What a reunion it must have been! These types of human stories make it worthwhile to be in this world.

Along with army officers and jawans, there have been many such volunteers who did the yeomen service to the cause. These large-hearted people took up cudgels to bring back the lives of affected people to normal! These people have given long-term commitment and devote a lot of time to continue doing this work. I have given an example of Killari but let me assure you all other people, organizations are equally committed and devoted to whatever cause they have taken up. It is not only rehabilitation of broken homes, in the long term they are all running schools, creating artisans, sometimes using technology and other times using common sense. They are helping people to stand on their feet. It was heartening to meet a student who came out of this “university’ of social work and giving back to his alma mater; he works as their Pune office, besides his regular job, and takes care of various things. I also met an engineering graduate from my alma mater COEP, who has also joined one of the organizations as an advisor! He gives about a week every month for this work!

What drives these people to take up such work as a lifetime commitment? Are they born in a different world? Are they people with a lot of money? No, I don’t think so. Each person looks at the same issue from a different angle. It is like the Elephant and five blind men. People look at issues from the lens of their own experiences in life. Some just dive in to help people, you and me sometimes donate, but in most cases we only give lip service!

Here is another angle to look at the world in a different way, it is the other side of the same coin. There are doctors, engineers, architects and many such professionals who have taken up different kind of giving it back to society. They are highly accomplished professionals and have acquired tremendous knowledge, skill sets. Should giving back to the society be done only for the benefit of the downtrodden? Should it be only for those who have nothing in life? If these highly accomplished people keep their knowledge to themselves it does not help anyone. I have seen people giving back to society in their own way. I sincerely hope that this movement also catches up. This is going to give a great satisfaction to the professionals who are helping others. This is going to help the person/organization which is taking advise from these people. In the end, with this movement, India will move forward on the world technology map and in the value chain.

A classmate of mine, Veerendra,  comes every winter to India and shares his knowledge by teaching people here about his knowledge in super computing area. Supercomputers are the name of the game in future, as new technology is coming in very fast. New technology is getting ready for day to day use. But all this needs people from their respective fields to use this technology. The people maybe from science, arts, engineering, medical fields. There are a couple of ways of doing it; one can charge fees or one can do it, Pro Bono!

For various reasons, different professionals are giving this type of service. Sathya Saibaba Institute has been a leading organization giving great service. World-renowned doctors from all over the world come there for between 2 to 4 weeks, offer their services. Mind you these are not the Indian diaspora but there are many renowned experts of different caste and creed, who take part in this program. They come here at their own cost and perform diagnostics and surgeries free of cost. This is simply because of their love and respect for Sathya Sai Baba. People are blessed to get services of the world’s professionals.

World’s best-known philanthropist, Bill Gates and his Wife Melinda have set an example to all of us. Besides donating billions of dollars for the betterment of humanity, they also use their project management expertise to ensure that whatever projects are taken up, reach a proper conclusion. Many times, it so happens that some good projects are started but many times they fail due to corruption and lack of management expertise.

Near home, Jaya has taken up sharing of information about modern technology like IOT, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual reality with everybody! Her theme is that general people also should know what to expect because these things are going to come anyway. Another important angle is that,  she is suggesting to professionals, that this new technology is to be developed not by computer people but by Mechanical and Civil Engineers, Architects, Artists or whoever has good subject knowledge about their field of expertise. Computers and computer people are tools and service providers. My dear friend Nayan, has been teaching English to non English speaking immigrants who arrive in the United States. He has been doing it for many many years. He was honored by the President of USA for his meritorious service!

Friends, one the best way of feeling enchanted, feeling happy is to give! Some give money, some give clothes, some give time and some share their valuable knowledge and expertise. In life, some are takers and some are givers. It is our choice what we want to become! I would rather be a giver! How this can be achieved? We need to find our own path.

What is really intelligent? Intelligence or Artificial Intelligence!

In the last ten years, terms like AI, AR, VR et al are coming in news and in discussions. AI is artificial intelligence whereas AR is augmented reality and VR is virtual reality.

Augmented Reality is an interactive experience of a real-world environment whereby the objects that reside in the real-world are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory.  Virtual reality completely replaces the user’s real-world environment with a simulated one.

Virtual Reality is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with, in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

Artificial Intelligence is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. I will be writing today only about AI, in the language that I can understand.

Enough of tech things, hopefully, these definitions have indicated what these things really are. Coming back to the title, an obvious conclusion will be Intelligence is more intelligent than Artificial Intelligence. The answer is both yes and no! Yes, is because after all the creator of artificial intelligence is a human. When we talk of intelligence it is about human intelligence! QED! No, because Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence are two different animals and supposed to handle different things. Hence making this comparison may not be the right thing. In human life, decisions are not taken as 1 & 0 every time. AI activity is about a decision-making activity, always, as 1 & 0!

Consider the BOTS. BOTS are Web Robots. When we go into a Chat mode with a site like Amazon, chats are handled by BOTS, these days. How do the BOTS work? During chat customers usually, ask a certain set of questions. Depending on the standard questions asked BOTS are trained to give replies. Generally, it will say, “How may I help you?” Depending on the what the customer says, about a certain order or delivery issue or a quality issue, BOTS system (yes, it is a system though initially it is trained to say I am Vijay or some such name!)  in Nanoseconds, will run through its database and type an appropriate reply. Maybe in 70 to 80 % of cases, BOT can find the answer. But in certain situations, it cannot find a reply. In this case, it is trained to say, “let me ask my seniors, could you hold on, please?” Then a human supervisor, who handles about 20 BOTS, takes over and resolves the issue. This is like self-checkout counters in foreign countries where there is one supervisor to support ten machines used by us!

What really is AI? Even the most sophisticated AI technology is, at its core, no different from other computer software: bits of data running through circuits at super-fast rates. Where AI falls short is thinking in the abstract, applying common sense, or transferring knowledge from one area to another. For instance, Zomato might be very good at reserving restaurant tables, a narrow and a very specific task. There are many proven instances in which AI models fail in spectacular and illogical ways as soon as they’re presented with an example that falls outside of their problem domain or is different from the data they’ve been trained on. The broader the domain, the more data the AI needs to be able to master it, and there will always be boundary line cases, scenarios that haven’t been covered by the training data and will cause the AI to fail.

Contrary to computers, humans are terrible at storing and processing information, comparatively. For instance, you must listen to a song several times before you can memorize it. But for a computer, memorizing a song is as simple as pressing “Save” in an application or copying the file into its hard drive. Likewise, un memorizing is hard for humans. Try as you might, you can’t forget bad memories. For a computer, it’s as easy as deleting a file.

When it comes to processing data, humans are obviously inferior to AI.  Humans might be able to perform the same tasks as computers. However, in the time that it takes for a human to identify and label an image, an AI algorithm can classify one million images. However, humans can make abstract decisions based on instinct, common sense and scarce information. A human child learns to handle objects at a very young age. For an AI algorithm, it takes hundreds of years of training to perform the same task.

There are robots in Japan to take care of senior citizens. They handle routine tasks. But if it is suddenly asked which was that movie you had seen in 1960, it will not know. But if you ask this question to a human who is your friend from childhood, he will suggest to you the names of five different movies from that period. This is the difference between Human Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence. The robot, in this case, is not expected to give a reply. Artificial intelligence is good at processing data, bad at thinking in abstract whereas Humans are bad at processing data, good at making abstract decisions.

Humans can invent new things, including all the technologies that have ushered in the era of artificial intelligence. AI can only take data, compare it, come up with new combinations and presentations, and predict trends based on previous sequences.

Humans can feel, imagine, dream. They can be selfless or greedy. They can love and hate, they can lie, they forget, they confuse facts. And all of those emotions can change their decisions in rational or irrational ways. They’re imperfect and flawed beings made of flesh, which decays with time. But every single one of them is unique in his or her own way and can create things that no one else can. Robots do not have all these properties. They will keep on doing a repetitive job, every time. They don’t get old but their component may fail. They are emotionless.

While chatting with friends, one of the friends, who is in the same field as Jaya, was pulling Jaya’s leg.  He asked her, “What is the difference between AI and real Intelligence?”  Jaya smiled and told him, “You are artificially intelligent, I am really intelligent”! So, it’s simple, never compare AI and human Intelligence; they are oranges and apples!