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Humans, Computers and Intuition

Most of us would have played against a computer in a game of chess or checkers or anything of that sort. And we would’ve lost half or maybe even three quarters of the games played. A new research suggests that, we humans still have an edge over computers when it comes to solving tricky problems all thanks to our trait of intuition.  Now, intuition and logic are 2 different strategies to solve problems and predict outcomes. We know that computers run on Boolean logic and logic is also used to program them. Logical methods have many advantage. They can be used to make long term and high precision predictions, such as predicting masses of elementary particles to the fifth decimal before experiments to establish the masses have been conducted. But like everything, logic has its limits. It requires theory and idealized conditions.

Anyone who has read a text on Physics or Mechanics would’ve come across this sentence: “Neglecting air resistance or weight of the body”, “All else being constant…” etc. This is how these subjects avoid systems that are constantly adapting to an environment that it can’t be separated from (Bizarre systems).On the other hand, intuition is what we do “without thinking”. It is fast and theory free. But it can’t do long term predictions (advantages of logic systems). Scientists in Denmark have found that people who played a game that simulated a complex calculation sometimes did better than their silicon counterparts.  They created a game called Quantum Moves, where players had to do the same task by using their mouse to simulate the laser beams that pick up the atoms and move them around. The game is based on intuition and not on recognizing any patterns. The human players were able to outsmart the computers just because they relied on their intuition. We humans have an inborn ability, to forget and filter stuff. Sometimes it’s a boon and sometimes a bane.  Obviously in this case, it’s a blessing. There might be complex problems that are hard to finish if we follow some systematic method. In Quantum Moves the players did well since they didn’t try every possible solution unlike their rivals. Intuition came into play and resulted in quick solutions which may not be mathematically perfect but is definitely practical. This research has paved way to new possibilities in quantum computing and comes in the backdrop of the Alpha-Go challenge last month. It’s encouraging that there are problems where we humans are still superior to computers. Who knows, for how long…..