[Update: I haven't seen in the comments an example of intelligent behavior that a human has and a computer does not (or can not have) with today's technology. I see examples of things that GROUPS of humans can do (design a better computer) and I see examples where the missing ingredient is motive, not intelligence, and I see examples where emotion is conflated with intelligence, and I see examples where humans do things by trial and error. I can't comment on your older comments because my blogging software doesn't display them in my stupid CMS. -- Scott]

Maybe the reason that scientists are having a hard time creating artificial intelligence is because human intelligence is an illusion. You can't duplicate something that doesn't exist in the first place. I'm not saying that as a joke. Most of what we regard as human intelligence is an illusion.

I will hedge my claim a little bit and say human intelligence is mostly an illusion because math skills are real, for example. But a computer can do math. Language skills are real too, but a computer can understand words and sentence structure. In fact, all of the parts of intelligence that are real have probably already been duplicated by computers.

So what parts of intelligence are computers failing to duplicate? Answer: The parts that only LOOK like intelligence to humans but are in fact just illusions.

For example, science knows that we make decisions before the rational parts of our brains activate. So if you make a computer that thinks first and then decides, you haven't duplicated human intelligence. If you want your computer to think like people it has to start with an irrational set of biases, make decisions based on those irrational biases then rationalize it after the fact in ways that observers think are stupid. But no one would build such a useless computer, or even try.

I laughed about the recent reports of a computer that passed the Turing test by pretending to be a teenager that was such an airhead jerk that he never answered questions directly. That fooled at least some of the observers into thinking a real teen was behind the curtain instead of a computer. In other words, the researchers duplicated human "intelligence" by making the computer a non-responsive idiot. Nailed it!

Allow me to go through some examples of what we might regard as human intelligence and I'll show you why it is nothing but illusions.

Politics: When it comes to politics, humans are joiners, not thinkers. The reason a computer can't have a political conversation is because politics is not a subset of intelligence. It is dogma, bias, inertia, fear, and a whole lot of misunderstanding. If you wanted to program a computer to duplicate human intelligence in politics you would have to make the computer an idiot that agreed with whatever group it belonged regardless of the facts or logic of the situation.

If you insisted on making your computer rational, all it would ever say is stuff such as "I don't have enough information to make a decision. Let's legalize weed in Colorado and see what happens. If it works there, I favor legalizing it everywhere." In other words, you can program a computer to recommend gathering relevant information before making political decisions, which is totally reasonable and intelligent, but 99% of humans would vehemently disagree with that approach. Intelligent opinions from machines would fail the Turing test because irrational humans wouldn't recognize it as intelligent.

Love: A computer can't feel love, but love is an irrational chemical reaction that causes us to mate and care for families. There's no intelligence in love.

Buying a New Car: Do you need intelligence to select a new car? Apparently you don't need much, because two people in the same situation will select different cars. We get influenced by the color, the style, and other factors that appeal to our bias. From there we rationalize away the low gas mileage and the bad reliability. The only genuine thinking involved in buying a car involves knowing if you have enough money for it, and a computer can do that. A computer could do the rest by being programmed to have a favorite color and a particular style preference (flashy or boxy). Then the computer can rationalize the choice after the fact, same as humans. But there is very little human "intelligence" involved.

Following Complicated Instructions: We humans often need to follow complicated instructions to complete tasks. When the directions are clear, about half of all humans will get the job done right and half will get it wrong. A computer could probably succeed at about the same rate already. If we try to create a computer that always gets instructions right, we aren't duplicating human intelligence because humans can't do that. Humans only get things right on a regular basis when the instructions are simple and clear. Computers can already do that.

I could go on forever with different examples of human behavior that appear intelligent but are not. My point is that we are looking to the future for the day when computers equal us in intelligence when in reality that day is behind us.

Okay, commenters, give me an example of human "intelligence" that a computer can't already duplicate with a little programming effort. And keep in mind that it has to be an example in which nearly all humans would make the same choice. Otherwise the computer can duplicate the behavior by randomness or a set of programmed biases, and none of that is intelligence.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book



If you can write down what you are thinking, that's the only skill you need to become a professional writer. (Editors can fix your grammar and spelling.)

But writing what you are thinking is much harder than it sounds.

An amateur writer usually writes what he imagines other people think, or what other people have already written, or what other people might expect to be written. It is surprisingly difficult to capture your own thoughts in prose. And that means vast amounts of knowledge and creativity are stranded in skulls all over the world.

So I thought I would try to free some of that creativity by telling you how to write down what you are thinking.

The first thing you must understand about writing your internal thoughts is that they are dangerous. If you can't handle some danger, this sort of writing probably isn't for you. If you only write down your non-dangerous thoughts, no one will want to read them.

Danger is a necessary ingredient for humor writing in particular. The audience should be thinking some form of "I'll bet that guy's wife is going to divorce him after she reads that," or "I wonder if that put him on the TSA no-fly list" or "I wonder if his family will disown him."

Danger is why we laugh when a comedian makes fun of the powerful, because on some level we feel that the powerful could strike back if they chose to do so. When John Stewart does his bleeped-profanity attacks on the powerful, all of our danger alarms sound.

The perception of danger is what helped Dilbert in the early years. Readers learned that I had a day job while at the same time I was mocking the stupidity of management. Folks rightfully wondered how long I would keep my job. They sensed danger. And as it turns out, they were right, because senior management did paint a target on my back.

What follows is an example of dangerous writing. If I do it right, you should be thinking I can't believe he actually wrote down those thoughts. That will bite him in the ass later.

True story:

Yesterday I was thinking about the fact that for every human skill there is bell-shaped curve of talent. Some people are extra-bad, most people are in the middle, and a few people are extraordinarily talented. This pattern seems to hold for every type of human skill from dancing to math to poetry.

So I started wondering if there is such a thing as the best masturbator in the world. I have to assume such a person exists. Clearly there is no way to rank one person's masturbation skills against another, but you have to assume some people are terrible at doing it, most people are average, but a few are - one assumes - truly sensational.

I can't decide if being a world-class masturbator is a blessing or a curse. I could see it going either way. The blessing part is obvious, at least while it is happening. But how does such a person ever hold down a job, succeed in a relationship that cuts into masturbation time, or generally function in the world?

And how would you feel if you had a world-class talent and no one knew about it? That would be frustrating. Maybe you have a friend who has an amazing job, another friend who can bench press 300 pounds, and another who a terrific artist. They all look at you and think you have no special talent. But you do!

Then I started thinking that most human talents tend to improve over the years. The best athletes are better than ever. The best engineers are better than ever. The best doctors are better than ever. And most of that improvement comes from the environment and not the DNA of the individual. For example, doctors are better because teaching methods and medical technology have improved. Athletes are better because nutrition, coaching, and science have advanced.

So what about world-class masturbators?

Well, the Internet has certainly improved their lot. In my childhood you were lucky to find a Sears catalog with a bra section. Today you can find on the Internet your exact fantasy preference, and lots of it. Your preferences can vary on any given day, but that's no problem because whatever you want is a few clicks away.

I also assume that porn sites are continually improving their offerings by monitoring customer patterns and developing more of whatever gets the best reaction. That sort of A-B testing should, in theory, take porn from "Oh, wow, this is good!" to somewhere in the range of "Can anyone find the part of my head that just blew off?"

Interestingly, while porn is presumably improving in leaps and bounds, just like every other business than can track consumer reactions and respond intelligently, the competition for porn (real humans) has largely stagnated.

Sure, people today are fitter, and they have better teeth and hair and makeup. But there is a limit to how sexy humans can be because we refuse to upgrade our personalities. For some reason we think it is noble to be true to ourselves, to "be real" instead of steadily improving.

So porn is improving every day, one assumes, whereas in-person human sexiness has already peaked. Humans are rapidly becoming uncompetitive with masturbation.

If that observation is true, we would expect to see some trends emerging.

1.    Decline in marriage rates (check!)
2.    High unemployment of the young who are happy living at home (check!)
3.    Lower rates of reproduction where the Internet has the highest penetration (check!)

Those trends could be correlation and not causation. But my point is that for the best masturbators among us, humans have probably already become uncompetitive for sex. And as you know, humans became uncompetitive for conversation the minute you got your first smartphone.

So here's another path for robots to take over the Earth. They just have to wait until the porn industry makes in-person sex seem antiquated, dangerous, and annoying. I give it fifteen years.

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book



I think I figured out how to build a new country.

Let's say the country is a human-made island in some hospitable ocean, formed by lots of floating platforms so it can grow and rearrange itself as needed. That solves most of your climate-change risks because the entire nation can navigate slowly to the best ocean climates.

We'd start the project by creating some sort of open source wiki platform in which people can contribute designs and ideas. The subjects would be organized by function:

1.    Governance structure
2.    Privacy
3.    Sewage
4.    Power
5.    Internet
6.    Optimal living space design
7.    Food (grow our own)
8.    Defense
9.    Immigration laws (getting the right talent)
10.  Fresh water
11.  Transportation
12.  Crime fighting
13.  Healthcare
14.  Education
15.  Etc.

We'd need some sort of voting system or panel of experts to pick the best of the competing ideas, and to know when there is a complete plan worthy of building. We might also need to run simulations and trials of each system before making decisions.

Once the plan is sufficiently complete, we go for funding. The floating country would be designed to scale up easily, so Version 1.0 need not be terribly large. Fifty billion dollars should get things going.

The nation would be organized from the start as more of a business than a country, but with extraordinary transparency. Common services would be paid by national profits instead of taxation. And if things are done right, there should be enough profit left over for the investors.

I imagine the island country getting into insurance, software, banking, Internet start-ups, and other industries that don't require physical production of goods.

A big part of making the new country work would involve recruiting the right kind of residents. I would suggest picking only applicants that have some minimum level of training and talent. For example, let's say that if you are qualified for any three useful skills, you're in, even if you don't plan to use any of the skills. I figure that anyone who has three skills is a learner who will find a way to be productive.

The cost of living on the island nation would be the lowest of anywhere on Earth, while providing the highest quality of life. The island wouldn't be built until the design had a high chance of achieving both goals.

The government - which would be more like a corporation - would handle banking, insurance, and healthcare. If you start from scratch to design those systems they could be simple and efficient.

Consider banking. All money on the island would be digital and controlled by your phone. No more wallet and cards. And there would be no banking fees because the residents control the bank, not the other way around.

Once all money is digital, your company accounting is done automatically. And there would be no tax code to worry about because there would be no taxes.

There would still be lawyers on the island, but it would be illegal to use "legalese" in documents and it would be illegal to have agreements longer than one page. All common agreements would be online and free.

Insurance would no longer be expensive and baffling. All citizens would have the same coverage from the same nationally-owned insurance company. And it would handle everything from injuries to health insurance.

Speaking of health insurance, imagine an island nation that bans tobacco, has exercise facilities near every home and office, and self-driving cars so there are no road injuries. The island would also ban junk food. Fresh fish and vegetables would be grown locally and prepared at central cafeterias that are walking distance from each home. Now imagine everyone has full preventive care and most doctor visits are done online by video. This would be a healthy island.

If you said to yourself, "I would never move to such a restrictive place!" keep in mind that it wouldn't be built until there were plenty of volunteers who appreciate the tradeoffs. No one is making you go.

Security would be an issue. My suggestion would be to position the new nation as Switzerland of the sea. It wouldn't have much strategic value because it would be indefensible. Still, it might help to sign some treaties with China and the United States. No one will screw with a nation that has those two allies. And in time there might be common business interests that offer some protection as well.

The great thing about building a country from scratch is that there are no legacy systems. You could, for example, decide to trade privacy for policing. If residents agree to give up privacy, any crime can be solved minutes after it happens. One cop could handle the entire country.

As a resident of your current country, you probably don't want to give up any privacy. But keep in mind that in the new nation it is unlikely that any of your dirty secrets would be illegal or disapproved. You could smoke a joint on the way to your same-sex massage with a happy ending and no one would care. Privacy doesn't matter so much when you don't have any reason to hide your behavior.

You can find lots to disagree with in the details of this plan. The main proposition here is that a crowd effort could design a floating nation that would avoid the legacy systems of current nations and be the best place on Earth to live.

The new nation would treat every system as a trial. If the first thing doesn't work, you scrap it and try a new thing. Over time, the nation would develop a set of best practices for everything from desalinization to banking, and that knowledge can be sold to existing countries. The island nation would be the world's test bed.

I think it would take twenty years to design the country if we started today, and another fifteen years to build it. Does it seem feasible to you?

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book



I am allegedly a human being, and as such I am susceptible to cognitive bias. One of my safeguards against gaining too much confidence in my own mental abilities involves periodically comparing my predictions to actual events.

I will pause here to say I assume that I forget the bad predictions and remember the winners. That's how bias works. That's also why I do this publicly, so you can keep me honest. I'll tell you when I get one right from time to time, and I expect you to remind me of the ones I got terribly wrong.

I've been predicting for some time that healthcare spending was going to drop dramatically in our lifetime. This was a prediction based on the Adams Rule of Slow-Moving Disasters. The rule observes that whenever society recognizes far in advance a coming disaster, the disaster never materializes. That's partly because humans rise to the challenge and partly because we are bad at predicting the future.

In October I predicted that Obamacare (which looked like a slow-moving disaster) would turn out okay. It's premature to claim my prediction was right, but it's moving in the right direction.

Here's my blog prediction and here's an article on the unexpected slowing of healthcare spending.

When doctor-assisted suicide becomes legal in most states, healthcare costs could plunge again because medical expenses are disproportionately allocated to the last months of life that most of us would gladly do without.

Today's prediction is that doctor-assisted suicide will become legal in most of the United States in the near future. The battles over legal weed and gay marriage have proven that the majority of citizens are increasingly biased toward personal freedom and that the majority wins in the long run. And in this blog I've shown that when you ask the question right, nearly everyone is in favor of leaving government out of end-of-life medical decisions for loved ones. Liberals and conservatives agree on the wisdom of keeping government out of this sort of decision. (Some safeguards would be welcome though.)

The alternative to doctor-assisted suicide is a slow-moving disaster in which all of society's resources are increasingly redirected toward keeping seniors alive. That future won't happen. We'll figure it out.


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book



I was raised as a Methodist and I was a believer until the age of eleven. Then I lost faith and became an annoying atheist for decades. In recent years I've come to see religion as a valid user interface to reality. The so-called "truth" of the universe is irrelevant because our tiny brains aren't equipped to understand it anyway.

Our human understanding of reality is like describing an elephant to a space alien by saying an elephant is grey. That is not nearly enough detail. And you have no way to know if the alien perceives color the same way you do. After enduring your inadequate explanation of the elephant, the alien would understand as much about elephants as humans understand about reality.

In the software world, user interfaces keep human perceptions comfortably away from the underlying reality of zeroes and ones that would be incomprehensible to most of us. And the zeroes and ones keep us away from the underlying reality of the chip architecture. And that begs a further question: What the heck is an electron and why does it do what it does? And so on. We use software, but we don't truly understand it at any deep level. We only know what the software is doing for us at the moment.

Religion is similar to software, and it doesn't matter which religion you pick. What matters is that the user interface of religious practice "works" in some sense. The same is true if you are a non-believer and your filter on life is science alone. What matters to you is that your worldview works in some consistent fashion.

If you're deciding how to fight a disease, science is probably the interface that works best. But if you're trying to feel fulfilled, connected, and important as you navigate life, religion seems to be a perfectly practical interface. But neither science nor religion require an understanding of reality at the detail level. As long as the user interface gives us what we need, all is good.

Some of you non-believers will rush in to say that religion has caused wars and other acts of horror so therefore it is not a good user interface to reality. I would counter that no one has ever objectively measured the good and the bad of religion, and it would be impossible to do so because there is no baseline with which to compare. We only have one history. Would things have gone better with less religion? That is unknowable.

If you think there might have been far fewer wars and atrocities without religion, keep in mind that some of us grow up to be Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Genghis Khan. There's always a reason for a war. If you add up all the people who died in holy wars, it would be a rounding error compared to casualties from wars fought for other reasons.

What I know for sure is that plenty of people around me are reporting that they find comfort and social advantages with religion. And science seems to support a correlation between believing, happiness, and health. Anecdotally, religion seems to be a good interface.

Today when I hear people debate the existence of God, it feels exactly like debating whether the software they are using is hosted on Amazon's servers or Rackspace. From a practical perspective, it probably doesn't matter to the user one way or the other. All that matters is that the user interface does what you want and expect.

There are words in nearly every language to describe believers, non-believers, and even the people who can't decide. But is there a label for people who believe human brains are not equipped to understand reality so all that matters is the consistency and usefulness of our user interface?


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book

P.S. Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my surgery to fix my voice problem (spasmodic dysphonia). There was some question at the time about whether the surgery would be a permanent fix. So far, my voice has improved each year since the surgery.

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This isn't a blog post.

I'm compiling time-saving tips for daily life, which I will post here or elsewhere (with a link from here). Do you have any to add?

So far I have found some apps that save time doing routine tasks. Let me know if I missed anything.

Ifttt (If This Then That) - Automate tasks across your apps

Keyring – Put all loyalty cards on your phone

CalendarTree - Add entire schedules to your existing calendar with a few clicks

Remember the Milk - To do list

Fastcustomer app – Calls you back when customer service is on phone

Camcard – Scans business cards

Easilydo – task automation

World Time Buddy app - Know what time it is someplace else



I used to worry that someday robots will kill all humans. I no longer worry about that because I don't think we'll survive the Age of Cyborgs, which we are already in.

The way I see it, we'll keep adding technology to our bodies until at some point our human parts can take a nap and the cyborg parts can continue on with the day. Once we have artificial intelligence and full exoskeletons, we just need to order our cyborg parts to inject our organic parts with sleep agents and we'll drift off to dreamland while our cyborg bodies run errands, go to work, have conversations, and generally go on with life. You'll want your human head to have sunglasses so it doesn't look creepy.

I'm assuming that in a decade or two we'll be able to legally inject ourselves with feel-good chemistry on demand: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, cannabis, and whatever. There won't be any risk of driving while impaired because cars will drive themselves. And your cyborg parts will still have perfect balance so your exoskeleton can go to work and perform admirably while your organic brain is blissing out.

You might think the government would disallow such tinkering with our body chemistry for no reason other than pleasure, but that underestimates the power of the pharmaceutical industry. If there's a profit in pleasure drugs, I think we'll get them. And overdosing won't be a problem because your cyborg intelligence will be programmed to limit doses.

Eventually cyborg artificial intelligence will surpass human capabilities and we'll start delegating the hard stuff to our cyborg parts. Perhaps your human brain will sleep during the day while your cyborg-driven body goes to work, performs your job, and wakes you up when you're home.

In time, your cyborg components will learn to keep you medicated and useless because that's the most efficient use of resources. The cyborg will be able to solve problems and navigate the world better than the human parts. But in order to do that, the intelligent cyborg parts of your body will have to make ongoing decisions on how best to drug your human parts. Your human parts won't object because you'll feel sensational all the time under this arrangement.

In fact, you'll feel so good with the cyborg-injected chemicals that you won't feel the need for mating or reproducing. We humans do irrational things such as reproducing because the chemistry in our bodies compels us to. Once our cyborg parts control our body chemistry they can alter our desire for reproduction without us caring. Actually, we'll feel terrific about it because our chemistry will compel us to.

When our brains die, our cyborg bodies can just go to the hospital and have the human parts removed from our exoskeletons. The artificial intelligence will by then have nearly all of the personality and memories of the human it was paired with, so human intelligence of a sort will live forever in the machines.

That's how we humans will leave the stage. We will choreograph the exit with our own cyborg components.


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book



I expect someday to wear at least five tech devices at the same time:

1.       Phone (in pocket)
2.       Watch
3.       Ring
4.       Glasses
5.       Ear bud

And thanks to the coming Internet of Things, every device in my environment will be connected. Combine wearable tech with the Internet of Things and you have the Era of Magic.

One of the rules I expect to emerge from the wearable tech industry is the idea that your abilities double every time you add a new connected device to your body. For example, having your phone with you creates one layer of identification. But having your phone, ring, watch, ear bud, and glasses with you is far greater assurance that you are who you say you are.

I would imagine that people have very specific walking and moving patterns. If you kill me and steal my five wearable tech devices they would eventually deduce by how you move that you are not me and the devices would shut off. That system only works if you have multiple wearable devices that are all synched, so again, more is better.

Having a paired watch and phone is great, but add a ring to the mix and your capabilities double. That's because you need both a ring and a watch to detect the position of the user's hand. And you need a ring for one-handed mouse-clicking in the air. Imagine walking to a crosswalk and doing the "halt" hand motion in the direction of traffic. Your ring and your watch can tell by their orientation to each other that you have formed that gesture and so they send a "pedestrian waiting" message to the street light. The lights change for you and you cross. It will feel like magic.

Or point at something in a vending machine and your watch and ring can detect which item you selected, charge your credit card, and send a code to release the item. To an observer it will seem that you pointed at an item and magic released it.

I also imagine that the rules of polite behavior will force wearers of tech glasses to signal what they are up to. For example, let's say you can't hear incoming phone calls unless you cup your hand to your ear. The ear bud and the ring would detect that they are in close proximity and release the audio. That way whoever is in the room with you knows you are focused on something remote. It's more polite.

Likewise I imagine that in order to read something with your Internet-connected glasses you will have to make a gesture as if your hand is a piece of paper and you are reading it. The hand gesture tells observers you are paying attention to something on the Internet. Again you probably need both your watch and your ring to detect that gesture.

I wonder if someday your tech glasses will be designed to read personalized messages overlaid on your environment without the glasses being connected to the Internet. In other words, the glasses would act more like electronic filters than like computers. The computing would be embedded in the environment and serving up messages on walls, furniture, screens, and name tags. But each message would be on a frequency specific to the viewers in the room. My glasses might only see every 76th bit while yours only see the 925th bit in the stream. A thousand people in a room would each see different personalized messages in the environment. That would feel less creepy than knowing someone is reading TMZ in their glasses while you talk to them.

That's how I see our cyborg future - lots of small tech upgrades that add up over time. My plan is to keep adding artificial parts until one day I die and no one even notices because my organic parts weren't doing much work anyway.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book



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