Sometimes Humans Can Still Outsmart Machines, NASA Test Proves

For the longest time, there’s been this trend to see which is better – human or machine. Over and over again we’ve seen competitions of some sort or another pitting human players against artificial intelligence.

What seems like forever ago, an AI was able to beat humans at chess. Not too long ago, there was an AI that managed to beat the world’s best Go player, and another AI that managed to fly a plane better than a human.

Now, we can finally see that in some instances, the human brain can still beat that of a machine. NASA tested the limits of artificial intelligence by putting the world’s best drone racer in the world, Ken Loo, against an AI-operated drone.

The test was supported, in part, by research funded by Google, and took place in California. With the drones flying some 40 miles per hour, the two competed against each other. At first, the AI won, mostly due to the difficulty of the task. Loo admitted that this was the densest track he’s ever flown in. By comparison, the AI was guiding the drone smoothly through the track without any issues.

In no time, however, as Loo became accustomed to the track, he became more bold, taking more risks. “You can actually see that the AI flies the drone smoothly around the course, whereas human pilots tend to accelerate aggressively, so their path is jerkier,” said Rob Reid, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

While the AI controlling the drone kept going steady, doing the same thing over, keeping the gadget on a safe path, the human was taking more risks.

This, if you will, is pretty much what we should expect from the world when driverless cars will be commonly found the streets. Human drivers will be the ones cutting other drivers off, speeding up when the traffic light is yellow, taking turns without flipping on the blinkers; much like it happens now. Driverless cars, on the other hand, will always abide by traffic laws, respect speed zones, signal when making a turn, and so on.

The essence of this test is that while AI is great at following commands and finding solutions to problems as they are required, they are still limited to what they can and cannot do. The human mind and the competitive streak will always make people try to do everything in their power to come on top, to succeed.


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