For millennia, we surpassed the other intelligent species with which we share our planet — dolphins, porpoises, orangutans, and the like — in almost all skills, bar swimming and tree-climbing.
In recent years, though, our species has created new forms of intelligence, able to outperform us in other ways. One of the most famous of these artificial intelligences (AIs) is AlphaGo, developed by Deepmind. In just a few years, it has learned to play the 4,000-year-old strategy game, Go, beating two of the world’s strongest players.
Other software developed by Deepmind has learned to play classic eight-bit video games, notably Breakout, in which players must use a bat to hit a ball at a wall, knocking bricks out of it. CEO Demis Hassabis is fond of saying that the software figured out how to beat the game purely from the pixels on the screen, often glossing over the fact that the company first taught it how to count and how to read the on-screen score, and gave it the explicit goal of maximizing that score. Even the smartest AIs need a few hints about our social mores.