ELi5: How do computers/the internet become smarter than humans?


Title. Computers and the Internet are some of *the most important* things to come out of recent history almost *entirely* due to the fact that they can *give anyone any information they need*. But how does this happen? How the hell could something *made by humans be smarter than its creator*? It seems so fucking impossible for something to be smarter than its creator, but computers pull this off *every single time one’s created*. This pretty-deep question has seriously bugged me so hard that I’m having a bunch of strangers on the internet who know better than me answer this.

Also, please use less-technical terms that could be understood by a 13-year old, thanks.

In: Technology

Computers and the internet are only as smart as the information put on them. The fact you can get all the information you want isn’t indicative of a smart computer, but rather smart people putting things on computers, which at the end of the day are just machines that process information.

Or in other words, computers are just kinda dumb, they do what’s asked of them and not much else, but you can tell them to get information on a topic which was either made by someone else, or by another computer told to write or make something.

Computers have access to more “thinking power” than humans but they aren’t *clever* in the same way that humans are. They excel at learning to do a given task extremely well, but they can’t generate new ways of doing things by themselves. You can teach a computer the rules of chess and it’ll learn to play better than any human, but it wouldn’t be able to use that skill outside the setting of a chess game.

Computers are able to give anyone any information they need because those computers got all of their information *from* humans in the first place. This is no more remarkable than a dictionary having all the words with their meanings.

This doesn’t make computers smarter than humans. It just means that they are good repositories for storing and retrieving information. For the most part*, nothing exists on a computer that wasn’t put their first by a human being. Computers can just regurgitate that with better than human accuracy and repetition.

* – I say “for the most part” because discussions like this invariably delve into AI. But even then computers aren’t “smarter” than humans. Human-like, general AI is still far away.

Sorry to borrow from a reply of yours, but important point :

> But how does the internet virtually have all the information in the world

It’s important to know that the internet itself contains **nothing**. It’s just a really neat network of networks perfected by us humans.

When you think you are getting *on* the internet, you’re in fact letting your device *become* the internet.

You use programs on your device, to ask other devices for data, and it’s all done using the network that contains nothing.

Firstly humans aren’t all that great.
Second, it depends on what you mean by smart. Computers (even the mechanical ones) were optimised to do complex math calculations very fast. A human who built it does understand what the computer is doing but just can’t to it as fast. Now with artificial intelligence the computers are trained to recognise patterns. Again they can do this faster and to greater detail, but only because they’ve been purposely built to do so and iterated upon.

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