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The Rise And Rise Of The Machine
Where would we be without the intelligence to develop technology? Where will we be with technology? That’s even more the issue when technology morphs into artificial intelligence that rivals our own. We can’t exist without technology; we might not be able to exist with technology. If there was ever a coin with two sides, it’s the technological ‘coin’.
There are ways and ways of increasing the amount of something. The usual way is the linear way per unit of time: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc. The other way is the exponential way, usually a doubling, but it could be a tripling or quadrupling. Let’s stay with exponential doubling per unit of time: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc. Or perhaps the exponential sequence of 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96, etc. Or perhaps one might start with the sequence 2, 6, 18, 54, 162, etc. There’s also flat-lining which means no real increase at all over time: 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, etc.
How are these various growth rates related to biological intelligence, our intelligence and artificial intelligence?
Biological Intelligence: Over geological time it might be reasonably argued or suggested that biological intelligence has evolved quasi-exponentially if not exponentially. You are today exponentially more intelligent than that first primordial proto-cell or even fully-fledged microbe.
However, no individual biological species has ever experienced exponential growth in whatever passes for their IQ, even in extremely long lived species, like the cockroach. I very much doubt that the cockroach in your kitchen is vastly smarter than the cockroach the scampered under the legs of T-Rex. The first dinosaur that could pass as being a T-Rex wasn’t much dumber than the last T-Rex who got a ringside seat to that asteroid, 65 million years ago.
Human Intelligence: Modern humans (as defined as that species having been created in God’s image) have only been around some roughly 200,000 years. Our potential intellectual or “I” abilities over those past 200,000 years haven’t increased very much, if at all, and certainly not exponentially. Modern human intelligence has not been able to increase modern human intelligence. There’s been no magic pill you can take; there’s no super-foods for the IQ market; there’s no brain surgery that can rewire your neural network.
Artificial intelligence however can increase artificial intelligence once artificial intelligence has been programmed with all of the engineering data it needs to do the basic “new and improved” design work.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: THE RISE AND RISE OF THE MACHINE
In less than 200 years, seemingly out of the blue, AI has grown exponentially until we find ourselves on the cusp now of The Singularity (no direct relation to the singularity of quantum gravity) where AI will exceed human IQ and then accelerate away from us at a rapid rate of knots ever widening the gap. No doubt AI will morph eventually, probably sooner rather than later, into sentient AI.
There’s certainly no question about humanity embracing technologies, always new and improved technologies, to the point that if God somehow were to snap His fingers and delete all technologies from our grasp, it would be a disaster akin to what happened in Exodus. Talking about wandering aimlessly in the wilderness! Technology has become an absolute extension of our biological selves.
Everyday examples of embracing technology to the point where technology becomes a voluntary extension of our mind and body are not hard to find. An obvious example is sports – the golf club is an integral extension of the golfer; or the baseball player whose bat, ball and glove are as much a part of him as are his arms, hands and fingers.
The teenager playing a video game is totally immersed mind, body and soul in his virtual reality landscape.
The woman so engrossed in text messaging she is totally oblivious to anything, anyone and in fact just everything in her surroundings that it’s not uncommon to see her totally ignoring her luncheon companions; bumping into people; stepping in front of a moving bus (I’ve seen that happen) and of course getting removed from the gene pool because she wasn’t paying any attention to her driving. We’ve all seen those ‘funny’ videos of Ms. Text Messaging falling down the stairs or falling into a fountain pool in the Mall all because she was oblivious to her surroundings – not a good survival strategy.
Another obvious common example is the driver who just about ‘wears’ his vehicle. The human driver and the vehicle become as one entity – the vehicle responds to the driver and the driver gets this sense of empowerment from the vehicle (often resulting in road rage incidents). That driver/vehicle unity applies equally to the captain of his ship and the military fighter pilot or the tank commander. The ship, the jet aircraft, the armored tank becomes a ‘living’ extension of whoever is in the command seat. Ditto that to the soldier and his assault weapon.
We’ve all seen people wearing their headphones and listening to the music stored on their iPods instead of ‘listening’ to all of the music already stored in their wetware – their brain.
Then there’s the social phenomena of the ‘next big thing’; the ‘must have’. Your current iPhone works just fine but you MUST immediately buy the next updated model even if you have to stand in a queue for hours, even days. We’ve all read the hype about the next version or model of this gizmo or that gadget. Be the first on your block to own… And so it goes on and on and on.
Then there are all those hundreds of quasi-non-addictive gizmos we’re all quasi-addicted to from espresso coffeemakers and dozens of other kitchen ‘must have’ gadgets (even if you never use them you’ve got to have them to keep up with the Smith family next door), to your word processing software, to your HD TV that takes up nearly an entire wall plus your surround-sound home theatre. And where would we be without our digital watches and clocks? Even your rind in comfort lawnmower qualifies. Speaking of comfort technologies, you must have electric heaters and air conditioners and electric blankets and infrared lamps in the bathroom plus a fridge to keep your beer cold and a stove to keep your soup warm.
The latest Big Thing in retail is the self-service checkout. Machines calculate your bill and take your credit card details or dish out your change (for those retrograde enough to still pay by cash) without you, the customer, having any need to interact with a staff member in the process.
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!
The next Big Thing in retail is being tracked via you smart-phone as you go from store to store with records being made of what you actually look at, handle, or try on. That’s all the better to now target you with personalized ads as you wander the mall and pass by the billboards that usually just feature an advertisement directed at the general population at large. If you’re a woman shopping for shoes you don’t need a general ad featuring the mall’s Food Court. If you’re a male like me you’re more likely to be attracted to a targeted ad featuring the latest sci-fi DVD instead of a general one featuring feminine hats.
That’s already a feature of the Internet where you often now get targeted with personalized ads based on your search and browsing histories. And it doesn’t matter what your country of origin or host country (where you actually sit at your PC) is. I’m likely to get a British advertisement when I’m on an Australian website if I previously browsed a British retail website. I’ll get Australian ads on an American website based on what I’ve previously searched for or browsed on Australian websites.
In fact your PC, tablet and smart-phone are the perfect spies for spying on you! The whole wide world knows about you, or could if it wanted to, often because you yourself enter personal data about yourself for the whole wide world to see – if they wanted to which more often than not they don’t. Mothers are often misguided into thinking that the entire global population gives a damn about the minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day activities of their little brat(s). Mums are deluded if they really think that.
Of course the odds that someone somewhere has read your emails and digested your digital life is rather high, even if you’re little miss nobody. The recent NSA surveillance is but the tip of a very, very large iceberg. People sticky-beak; agencies peek; hackers hack and your data is worth something to someone. The best rule of thumb is that anytime you are on the web or traveling with your smart-phone, always assume that someone is looking over your shoulder. It may not stop Big Brother, but it might help eliminate nasty unplanned surprises.
Of course we’re now all used to security cameras on the buses and trains and in taxies and in the airport and on buildings and in the shops and on the street corners and tracking our speeding on the highway and photographing our license plate data for stolen vehicles or maybe we’re in the unpaid speeding fines database. Facial recognition software helps not only identify those responsible for criminal activity but identifying missing persons
Okay, all of the above hardly qualifies as artificially intelligent (AI) technologies, apart perhaps from your smart-phone, but wait, there’s more. Let’s fast-forward to the not too distant future.
RIGHT OR LEFT AT OAK STREET? MAYBE BOTH
There are two ways that artificially intelligent machines will rule the roost in the near and distant future.
RIGHT: The first is the ever continuing merging of biology with technology. A common example from the past is the peg-leg or the hook-hand from pirate lore. A recent and current common example is the use of hearing aids. Vital organs have been replaced in part or in total with artificial replacements and that trend will continue. In the near future nanotechnology will feature micro-robots coursing through our body’s river and [blood] streams to “exterminate, exterminate, exterminate” all those nasty little biological agents that want to make a meal of us. The ultimate of course will be the downloading of our [software] minds into hardware bodies.
That has all sorts of ramifications. Once your mind has been downloaded into a hardware (silicon and steel) body, you can always upgrade to the next and newest model. I see the spawning of a robotic fashion industry! The 2050 you wouldn’t be caught dead inside a 2045 robotic model! The other ramification is that you can ‘clone’ yourself (or rather your mind) by downloading your mind as many times into as many robotic hardware forms as you wish. Perhaps one robotic form that’s designed for undersea exploration; one designed for mountain climbing; another that’s small enough that it can explored the most claustrophobic of cave systems. If your mind exists simultaneously in many different robotic bodies, then you have more than just a single self-awareness, simultaneously.
That form of ‘cloning’ means you can reproduce without having to dilute your ‘genes’ with the genes of another person. Of course there still would have to be a sperm & egg bank to ensure population growth, if that were deemed by society desirable. It might not be if everybody can reproduce themselves as many times as they wished. But assuming real flesh-and-blood humans were conceived in a test-tube and raised by robots with human minds, sooner or later their time would come too to be downloaded into the robotic model(s) of their choice and cheat their biological death.
By now one might be hard pressed to think of the bioengineered and genetically engineered human, with all that tinkering that leads to this downloading of mind into machine, as still being Homo sapiens but perhaps rather as something akin to Homo robotus.
LEFT: The second way is the purely artificial intelligence scenario. The software is artificially programmed; the silicon and steel hardware is artificially constructed to house the software. Your PC or tablet or smart-phone is an example. Did I mention exponential growth? Your PC of 2014 has more ‘smarts’ than the PCs that went with the Apollo astronauts to the Moon and your smart-phone has a 1000 times more ‘smarts’ or processing power than the monster vacuum tube processors that took up entire floors in buildings at major universities in 1964.
Of course crunch or number-crunching power isn’t the same as intelligence. Computer chess software programs can beat any human on the planet now in chess, but through sheer number crunching ability. However, recall that 60’s sci-fi show Star Trek where the captain and crew talked to their onboard computers. Can you carry on a conversation WITH your smart-pone today (Note: with your smart-phone, not of necessity with a person on the other end of the phone line)? Yes you can!
Speaking of the cinema, recall those films Westworld and Futureworld plus those versions of The Stepford Wives. And there’s a lot more ‘entertainment’ in a similar vein to those robotic themed pictures.
So wouldn’t it be nice to have an artificially intelligent robotic ‘friend’ who would do all the household chores and shopping you didn’t want to do, who would go away when you wanted to be alone without feeling slighted or insulted, who would share all your interests at your level of understanding (your ‘friend’ wouldn’t be an Einstein unless you were an Einstein too), and who would always see things your way (if you so wished) and never argued.
This ‘friend’ would never get tired or ill or otherwise get up on the wrong side of the bed as it were, your ‘friend’ wouldn’t age or ever grow smarter than you, and would always be your best ‘friend’ and give you ‘likes’ and also serve as a guard ‘dog’ for your home.
Best of all, your ‘friend’ might also supply sex. One could have sex with a robotic ‘life’ form since an artificially intelligent robot could be constructed to whatever functional appearance was required. Lovemaking with the male or female of your dreams who wouldn’t turn over and go to sleep on you after-the-fact! So that’s another distinct possibility not easily dismissed. A robot could be programmed not only to do what another human might not be willing to do, but be able to do it longer and better. A robotic partner could also be programmed never to have a headache, or be too pooped to puff! And the other advantage is no little bundles will eventually get delivered by the stork!
I suppose there could be all manner of types of sexual liaisons between robots programmed in for the visual enjoyment of the flesh-and-blood human as well. Sex and the sex industry could possibly be a driving force behind applications that require or are highly desirable of an artificially intelligent robot, but I digress.
And wouldn’t you like a robotic version of your mother-in-law or your horror boss or even The President (POTUS) that you could boss around! Alas, I rather suspect though that actual look-alike copies of actual people might be frowned upon if not declared downright illegal.
One more important application immediately comes to mind, the artificially intelligent robotic nurse or bedside companion that can not only monitor but give comfort in a way no automated monitoring equipment can. Their main purpose would also serve as infinitely patient round-the-clock nursing companions for the cry ill, bedridden, elderly and those who are severely mentally handicapped. These 24/7 one-on-one robotic nursemaids could of course summon real human assistance as required. Even the very lonely might welcome a robotic companion quite apart from the applications given earlier.
Then there could be robotic ‘pets’ in nursing homes and associated institutions where it might not always be possible to have real animals. We all are aware of the comfort companion animals can provide, and perhaps the robotic versions could have enough AI such that the patients couldn’t tell the difference. Many a lonely person on their death bed would find cuddling a ‘pet’ in their final moments comforting.
Quite apart from being a perfect housemate, sex object, torture victim, or nurse, other immediate applications come to mind. There are industrial, military and law enforcement applications of course for robotic beings that can think for themselves. In fact, any dangerous environment is perfect for AI.
We currently have relatively unintelligent, therefore human controlled, drones (for military; law enforcement; and other civilian applications), space probes on the Moon and Mars, probes that can explore the innards of sunken ships like RMS Titanic or claustrophobic caves, and in general boldly go where human’s can’t, at least without putting them in harms way.
All of these applications would be more efficient if the drones or the probes had some degree of artificial intelligence programs installed so that they could make decisions in real time without consulting or the need to consult their human masters. That’s especially true when the communications lag time is significant, like with those rovers on Mars. But don’t think for a moment that intensive military and industrial R&D into artificial intelligence and relevant applications isn’t currently underway. Robotics and AI are big business.
Other, if more trivial applications could include having a smart-fridge that alerts you to when stored products are closing in on their expiry dates, or products you were getting low on or were now used up (and could automatically order more stock for you). Then there’s the smart-toilet that will automatically chemically analyze your waste products for anomalies and automatically alert your GP if any abnormalities were detected. We’ve already got GPS navigation system software installed in our cars that can direct us how to go to where we want to go. Autopilots have been around for quite some time now in aviation, so all we need now is a smart-car that will drive itself and get you to where you want to go and thus remove the need for the ‘nut’ from behind the wheel.
THE TURING TEST
The Turing Test basically involves trying to tell the difference in the responses given between biological intelligence and artificial intelligence when you give each the verbal third degree and you can’t see either. If you can’t pick which is which, then the machine becomes the intellectual equal of the human. That hasn’t quite yet happen – yet.
Ramifications: If an artificial intelligence passes the Turning Test, doesn’t it then qualify to receive all the rights and benefits and responsibilities that human intelligences receive? I mean things like freedom of speech and the right to worship and a right to citizenship and to vote and to participate in and enjoy all of the other intellectual facets enjoyed by (at least a democratic) society.
EXTRATERRESTRIAL ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
As far as SETI, the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, is concerned, the ‘biology’ part as in exobiology or astrobiology or the ‘life’ bit as in extraterrestrial life, might be ultimately irrelevant if the accent is on the “I”.
So my ultimate question is, if Moore’s Law applies way more to AI than IQ (biological intelligence) and given how quickly AI levels will run away from flat-lined biological intelligence once the graph lines intersect, then the ETI in SETI is vastly more likely to be ET AI. How does searching for ET AI change the general SETI strategy, if it changes it at all, but especially as you might be just as likely to find ET AI between the stars relative to orbiting around the stars?
We’ve known since the Year Dot that we need a machine if we are to travel into space, to the Moon, the planets, the stars and eventually to the galaxies and beyond – if there is a beyond. So the traditional picture, even in sci-fi, is that the biological intelligence needs to be transported inside a machine traditionally called a spaceship or some variation thereof.
Fast forward from the Year Dot to the early 21st Century – what could we accomplish today when it comes to boldly going? We certainly have achieved escape velocity from the Earth (about 11 km/sec), even launched probes that will leave the solar system. So we’ve achieved velocities roughly around the 30 km/sec mark. I pick that figure since the ultimate velocity is 300,000 km/sec – the speed of light. So we can roughly achieve 1/10,000th light speed even today. It takes light about 100,000 years to cross our galaxy. So, it would take us about 1,000,000,000 years (one billion years) to accomplish the same with today’s technology. Actually it would be a bit less since we’re not on the very edge of the galaxy but roughly one-third the way in. We could cross to the remote side of the galaxy in about 0.7 billion years. Extraterrestrials in the centre of our galaxy (the more populated galactic CBD) could reach the outer edges with our current technologies in roughly 0.5 billion years.
Now one billion years sounds like an awful long time, even 0.7 billion years is on the lengthy side, even 0.5 billion years isn’t trivial. But even one billion years is but a quarter the age of Planet Earth and there was terrestrial life on Earth one billion years ago. One billion years is only about one-tenth the age of our galaxy. So, even with today’s technology, had we started out a billion years ago, the entire galaxy would now be the explored domain of Homo sapiens! Of course we weren’t around a billion years ago, but other advanced (to our level) extraterrestrial civilizations probably were. As the saying goes, if we can do it in our future, then somebody else has already done it in our past. The odds that we are the first kids on the galactic block as opposed to the new kids on the galactic block are well and truly in favor of the latter.
But of course our technologies are getting better and better and faster and faster so maybe in another hundred years or so we can shave that one billion years down to millions.
But there’s a slight hiccup in this. We don’t have a lifespan measured in the millions and billions of years. Further, our boldly going gets complicated and more expensive because we (even Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise) need to bring along for the ride toilets, provide artificial gravity, air and water and food and energy to maintain a comfort zone and lots of books (or e-books) and DVDs (or e-films) to keep us entertained. Oops!
Now imagine that the machine, the spaceship, IS the intelligence and doesn’t just serve as a shell or a ‘house’ for a separate and apart biological intelligence.
Computers have an ‘off’ or a ‘sleep’ switch (no entertainment needed) and don’t require room temperatures and a drink and a feed. They don’t need companions of the opposite (or even the same) sex. They don’t need bathrooms and artificial gravity Energy they need – some nuclear power sources can last for billions of years so that’s that. Problem solved.
The one main assumption in all of this is that boldly going isn’t a one-off exercise. In terrestrial history, you don’t have one and only one explorer! The assumption is that there will be lots of probes, lots of explorers, boldly going in lots of directions.
But artificial intelligent probes don’t need to colonize the actual planets they find. They would be just as ‘happy’ living in space as long as they had access to an energy source(s) such as nuclear and/or solar.
A BOLDLY GOING SCENARIO
Once upon a time in a star system far, far away, there resided a technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilization of the flesh-and-blood variety. Because searching for their interstellar neighbors via boldly going interstellar space travel was in the relatively too hard basket – it was not cost effective value for money, time and effort, given how few the needles were in the haystack of a galaxy – they programmed artificial intelligent robotic probes as surrogates to seek out new life forms and new civilizations and thus to boldly go where no artificially intelligent probes had gone before.
And so it came to pass that a few billion years ago, one or more of those boldly going artificially intelligent probes noted and logged the existence of the Third Rock from the Sun. Rock #3 was interesting – it had a biosphere, albeit just a microbial one. But the potential was there, so one (or more) of those probes decided to stick around and await developments. They put themselves in a computer ‘sleep’ mode with instructions to awaken say every one hundred million years while their nuclear isotopes provided them with their minimal energy needs.
The years flew by (as tends to happen when you sleep your life away) and eventually it came to pass when they woke up that the Cambrian Explosion had happened. All of a sudden the 3rd Rock’s biosphere was multi-cellular and the land was being invaded by plants and animals alike. The probes decided now was the time to phone home and let their flesh-and-blood Masters know that things were afoot in the Sol region and in Sol’s system.
And so it came to pass that a few of those stay-at-home flesh-and-blood aliens decided to go see and have a look, but to minimize the difficulties took a leaf out of their boldly going artificially intelligent probes and just downloaded their wetware/software minds into robotic hardware shells and then headed off to the Sol system to see what there was to be seen. Of course they too had a ‘sleep’ switch and so from their perspective arrived on the scene pretty quick-smart.
And so it came to pass that millions of years ago these biologically intelligent aliens in hardware bodies entered Sol’s system and made a beeline for that Third Rock outward. By now the terrestrial landscape, the land itself was well and truly colonized and there were these quasi-intelligent species scampering around in the trees. We call them primates.
One possibility were these alien minds-in-a-hardware-vat then for reasons best known to themselves started to bioengineer or genetically engineer the best terrestrial raw material provided – those most promising of species, the primates. And so from that root stock, one-by-one there were artificial evolved several dozens of hominid species, each one slighter more intelligent than the previous lot, until they got the desired end product – Homo sapiens. This might explain the vast mental, anatomical and cultural differences between humans and our primate ancestors, as well as the common themes in mythologies that the ‘gods’ created humanity and perhaps for the reasons those mythologies relate.
But wait, there’s more! They are still here today (UFOs) and still doing some additional tinkering – genetic fine-tuning – which forms the guts of what has come to pass as the alien abduction scenario.
THEORETICAL, OR SHOULD THAT BE THEOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS
I suspect that God will not be amused having the apex of His creation downgraded to Silver Medal status while machines take the Gold, which brings up a theological question – if God created us and then we created the machine and the machine out evolves us does that make us the superior creator?. Another question could be can artificial intelligence have free will and commit sin? Can an artificial intelligence achieve an afterlife (if that even makes any sense since they could be as immortal as makes no odds)? I’m sure interested readers can extend the list many fold.
If intelligence can arise from organic chemistry (CHON: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen & Nitrogen), then intelligence can, if not naturally arise then at least be constructed out of inorganic chemistry (silicon, iron and other metals). The key just seems to lie in the ability to conduct, transmit, and store electrical signals. What materials do the conducting, transmitting and storing is of little relevance.
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