Thursday, April 29, 2004

Analytical Meditation

The gift of the power of invention. What gift that God gave us has proven to be more fruitful than the power of innovation and invention. Through this tool granted only us, the human race has taken over, and even overpopulated the world at large. Without this ability the human race would inevitably still wander in the woods; would still starve and face malnutrition; would still be afraid of that inevitable setting of the sun. Without the power of invention, the human race would not be here today.

Through our great abilities in this venue of gadgetry and discovery, we have created a new world for ourselves in this present day. In our world today, our nature is no longer the nature God made, but rather the nature we have invented for Him. Our modes of transportation are rarely those of the bipedal movement, but rather of hand cranking and pedal pushing. Our obsession with perfection in this innovation has lead us to be fake; has allowed for the common person to be ignorant; has made the average Joe lose touch with reality.

What is real these days? What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes. We see, through our multimedia experiences these days, the extents to which the rich, in their ignorance, can recreate themselves into a perfection, or into their perfection. If anyone can be whoever they want, by the power or creation, they are truly no one; they are truly fake.

Our perception of fallacy hit rock bottom not too long ago, during the Gulf War. We have all of our thrilling TV shows, our epic movies, and of course our timeless trilogies that we watch day in and day out in our modern world; where does real life fit in? During this time the Gulf War became merely another drama on television. We are so enticed into our fake nature that it just seemed like another story, another telenovel, like the daily sequences of a crime thriller.

Our world today, through our technology, fallacy and counterfeit govern our lives. People have fake personalities. People make false promises and people are fake in and of themselves. If our Commander in Chief of the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the world, can stand in front of the people to whom he owes his allegiance, and flat out lie, what incentive is there for anyone else to be truthful? If the average person never spends any time with nature, what desire is there to keep it? If life is fake anymore, what reason is there to live it?

The human race through technology an innovation has lost touch not only with the world around, but also with himself. The people of the United States in particular have lost that touch with self for they have become the most obese in all the world. They have become depressed, for their life feels pointless, so the fall to a favorite pastime, one which gives them pleasure: eating.

Before what we consider technology today came along, we lived a simple life and all of that life was consumed in living. As we accepted the way of new tools it came to pass that we no longer controlled most of our lives. As we started to use the plow in agriculture to rip apart those fields, we came to know that we would take upon ourselves certain parts of the working of everyone’s life, not our own. This is when the evolution started, we were conforming, in our economic processes, to a higher life form.

“[W]ithin a few years we will be confronted with an overwhelming choice: submission of mankind under an artificial higher intelligence, or the destruction of mankind” (Kanitscheider). Sounds like some sci-fi movie thriller like Terminator 3, but its truth may be much closer than we think. How could we humans ever conform to, and fall under the reign of computers? After all the science fiction thriller stories we have created about the rise of the machines, how could we let this come to pass? Will our creations be our own demise? The thoughts of current technology philosophers, namely John Leslie (1996), indicate that we ought to be reluctant to believe that we are exceptionally early among all the humans who will ever have lived.

Are we nearing that end of the road? Are we humans some of the most evolved and knowledgeable there might ever be? That crossroad approaches, submission under the AI, or destruction of the species. How could our race ever be destroyed? Every other species has its natural predator; we will create our own.

What form will our predator take? God created us in His likeness so it would be only naturally for us to form automatons in our own image. Our humanity, in its infinite knowledge, has decided that it is the best contrived being in the universe and undoubtedly the most intelligent. The trend for the near future will be to create everything we use in our own likeness. As I was quoted on April 10th 2003, “In the end, the sum of all sciences will be the recreation of humanity.” Our cars, our houses, our computers will become more like us, in order to fulfill our ever-growing needs. We will find that we are what God meant for us to be. We are his perfection.

It is in our obsession with perfection once again that we look for what the future holds: we are most always temped to ask, “What better stuff will the future bring me?” The 2004 “What’s Next” issue of Popular Science Magazine, looks deep into what the potential of technology and design will most likely hold for humanity. One of the particularly eye-catching articles is on “The Car That Repairs Itself.” Professor Scott White of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign reminds us that,

“Your Body heals itself continuously over your lifetime.”…If a person gets a cut or a bruise, the repair process begins automatically. The local effects of the cut itself send a signal to a nearby platelet cells and white blood cells to get to work. “We liked that idea – healing cracks as they form,” White says. (Fraunfelder, 74)

Can’t you see it? Our trend is to make things of our own likeness. Our trend is to make everything more human.

This trend will, however, only last until those technologies which we have contrived, have passed beyond the capabilities of humans themselves, though I believe this time to be afar in the future. It is impossible to forecast the future as Karl Popper proves to us in The Poverty of Historicism (1957), but there are reasonable assumptions that we can make. I agree invariably with Bernulf Kanitscheider from University of Giessen when he states:

I do not like to propagate the feeling of doom that is nowadays the order of the day. But some global problems are real. Artificially intelligent entities evolve by learned instruction—in a Lamarckian way, so to speak—instead of as natural biological entities which vary only by very slow Darwinian evolution, in a time scale measured by millions of years. A Darwinian increase in the capabilities of the primate brain will always be too late to solve the pending world-wide problems. (Kanitscheider)
This is where the belief of necessary conformity comes to life. This is the birth of artificial intelligence. This is the creation of a neuronetwork in which all humans will be in touch with ever one else. Where everyone is plugged in and feels at a loss if they leave. A place where our thoughts are not our own, but are shared throughout the network of wetware, as one might call our brain.

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, humans are referred to as the third most intelligent creatures on the planet. The first is mice, and I find this hard to believe for his idea is hat the mice are actually people from another dimension. The second, however, is dolphins. This seems a feasible ideology. “C.S. Lewis, in Perelandra (book two of his space trilogy), wrote about a planet where God had created two intelligent that walked on the ground and one that swam in the oceans” (Blackstock). As we become more evolved in our thinking, we humans would come to be just as dolphins are.

[D]olphins…use the power of Pod Mind to communicate. This is a method of communication in which the information is shared openly with everyone in the group or pod, simultaneously. There are no secrets, no hidden agendas, no opposing opinions in these transmissions. What is known by one, is known by all. Everyone in the community has the good of the entire group in mind. In transmissions from them they refer to themselves as "We." However, they also maintain their Individuality. They can merge with group mind without "losing themselves in another person." or they can be separate entities. They are autonomous. (Ocean)

A single dolphin’s thoughts are the thoughts of the community at large. The dolphins are already networked, soon we may be as well.

It is becoming commonplace today to compare the human brain to a computer, to see how much capacity a we might have. In being a network, we our selves would be the individual computer, how fast are we? Several approximations have already appeared in literature based on hardware consideration. Von Neumann sites that the brain is capable of housing 1020 bits or 12.5 Million Terabytes. That is well beyond the current abilities of computers, for I myself only have a computer hard drive capable of storing 120 Gigabytes, or about one-tenth that amount, and that is way above average. Based on Thomas K. Landauer entirely avoided the hardware guessing game, however, and has measured the actual functional capacity of the human memory directly (“See How Mush Do People Remember? Some Estimates of the Quality of Learned Information in Long-term Memory”, in Cognitive Science 10, 477-493, 1986).

Landauer is closely affiliated with Ball Labs, of the Bell Communication Resarch, where he was studying the information theory brought about by C.E. Shannon in order to measure the carrying capacity of telephone lines. Anyway, Landauer decided to take upon himself the task of finding the working capacity of the human mind through the modern information theory with which he was familiar. After weeks of testing he came to the conclusion, through various types of memorization tests accounting for the guesses of the average intelligent human, that human beings remember nearly two bits per second under the experimental conditions. This means for verbal, visual, musical or whatever type of memory; two bits per second. Over the lifetime of a human that accounts for somewhat over 109 bits, or a couple hundred megabytes. That would mean that the average human is only using about One One-Hundred-Billionth of our brain’s capacity. Obviously our brain has enough capacity for the working of a century-long life. Our brain is just that good. The trend in our technologies is, at present, to become more human-like.

That point will come, in our future, when our creations surpass ourselves in abilities, in capacities, and quite possibly in personalities, but for now we are the future. There are some creations of ours that already cling to breaching and surpassing our competence. The most outstanding difference between a computer and human, of present, is the laying down and retrieving of information. A computer can retrieve any information stored within it, provided that the key to unlock the appropriate memory is available. In this sense it has perfect recall. Human are more fallible. Details of events easily recalled soon after their occurrence are no longer retrievable weeks later, even though the general features of the event are remembered. On the other hand humans can provide their own retrieval “keys” and are not bound by the present stimulus. Humans also have astonishing capabilities to extract information, digest information and determine that he lacks information. In terms of liveliness, what other technology can produce energy the way we do. We run off most anything that nature creates. The things we eat, vegetables, meat and fruit, the things we drink, namely water, are those things most abundant on earth. What technology can run off such abundant resources? We are the best use and creation of energy. We are still that perfection, we are not yet surpassed.

Our technology has certainly led us on extraordinary adventures. The gift of invention has proved most fruitful for mankind, and will hopefully not become too much so. Our future is unpredictable, but we may very well come to realize that Artificial Intelligence in inevitable; how will we deal with it? How will humans deal with at predator more agile and hostile that they create?

H. G. Wells, the famous futurologist, had a foreboding of the new situation when he expressed the remarkable sentence: “The most exciting fact which derives from future science is that man is not the ultimate; as I see it the most fascinating question is what comes after men.”(Kanitscheider)

This vision perhaps sounds frightening; within our human-filled worldview, there is hardly room for any successor to humanity, be it natural or artificial. In any case, we need not understand Wells in the sense that computers will supersede humankind at one stroke, but in the sense that we cannot evade serious cooperation with AI devices. There will surely be a long period of transition, as our fear of this is a prevalent thought. What will happen very far in the future, on a cosmological time scale per se, is beyond even theoretical speculation. Hopefully, with a change in heart, we can live with technology and nature all at once. Hopefully, with some thoughtful thinking, we can live not in the future, but in the present.

Works Cited and Consulted
Blackstock, Regina. Dolphins and Man.....Equals? May 1970. 30-Apr-2004.

Fisher, Robert; Coone, Laurence; Fsheyiku, Balidele; Williams, Nathan; Stanley, Carmen; Tobun, Abi; Randley, Darren; Allnutt, David. How does human memory compare with computer memory?. South Bank University. 25-April-2004.

Fraunfelder, Mark. “The Car That Repairs Itself.” Popular Science, May 2004: 74-75

Kanitscheider, Bernulf. HUMANS AND FUTURE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS, Spring 1999, University of Giessen. 25-April-2004.

Merkle, Ralph C. “How Many Bytes in Human Memory?” Foresight Update No. 4, October 1988. 

Ocean, Joan. ETs and Dolphins. 11/20/2003. 30-April-2004.