Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It's Alive!!!!

If anyone has been reading or listening to the geeks lately you might have heard of a concept called the Singularity. This idea is explained, as the time in the future when the exponential increase of technology is so fast we cannot imagine it. In Moore’s Law, the processing speed of computers will double every two years. In the future, Artificial Intelligence, because of this infinite increase in technology, will be starter than humans. Either the collective of computers networked throughout the world (or solar system!) will surpassed the collective human intelligence or AI will be the only way to capture this increase of technological computing power in any meaningful way. Some profess that this is the natural evolution of the universe, from organic to artificial intelligence. Of course we can also rely of biological enhancements to our own intelligence, the seeds of which we see in medical science today.

I heard two podcasts about the singularity. At first I thought it was ridiculous but I guess the concept of the Internet seemed the stuff of fiction fifty years ago. Personally I do not have that sense of impending doom regarding the advance of technology. It does make us somewhat lazy and dependant but it has so much going for it. (Blogging!) I think the major debate here is what is life? Will computers and machinery ever live? Will they question their existence? Will they have wants, needs and desires like us? Will it love? Hate? See even if the computers can process so quickly they can network together an imitate life, the beauty of life (biological, life as we know it) is that each of us, you and me encompass a whole host of emotions, ideas, potential that I think a machine can't have. It can't grow like us. Growing, struggling, surviving despite all odds, that is what makes a being eligible to be considered alive.

Each of us in our journey from birth to death grows and learns so much that we are different from each other as can be. My universe is not your universe even though we live together. Even though we share the same space. Machines cannot live if they merely download the information they've learned from generation to generation. We have to learn it all except the most basic biological functions. In life, we must earn our way. Life is precious. Life is tragic. How concerned can I be with a machine whose whole existence is backed up on a server? You and I are not "backed up." We exist once and then as unfair as it seems, in a brief time we disappear, never to exist again. Never to occupy the same space again. Never to "be" again. That is the essence of life. It only happens once and it is beautiful and fragile. It is not a series of codes that can be copies from memory to memory.

The Singularity Concept, derived from the Singularity in Physics where Gravity is so strong that it verges on infinite strength is promoted mostly by Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil. In Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns he describes exponential growth much like Moore’s Law but applies it generally to include technology from before the computing circuit.

Some have debated the idea that our technology may surpass us and lead to us becoming less and less necessary in the paradigm. Can machines overtake their maker and become the dominant intelligence force in the universe? Is that progress? If that happens will we be in a better position where the machines will strive for our well-being and general comfort like a direct intervention from G-d? Or will they adopt our power corrupting ideals, enslaving or eliminating us from the equation.

Science Fiction has made much if this concept. The Terminator, The Matrix and 2001:A Space Odyssey have all covered this idea of machine controlling humans for wither what they think is the human’s best interest or finding humans expendable. Others like Blade Runner and A.I. have touched the surface of artificial intelligence and it’s place in our society.

I think we will continue to reach in our fiction to that future time as we come closer to the Event Horizon of the Technological Singularity and try to understand its implications. Can we avoid our own destruction not by War or Disease or Famine but by the very thing we have relied on so much to make life more and more comfortable, accessible and safe, technology.


The Phoenix said...

I just don't feel threatened by my ipod right now.

The idea of Singularity really is fascinating, though. Not too long ago, the idea that AI could actually learn seemed alien. Now, the technology is there.

We've even got robots that learn how to create more robots...artificial offspring!

ObilonKenobi said...

I love my iPod!!! That's an example of technology that is immediately indispensible. As far as I am concerned, human intelligence and creativity will probably always be higher than computer intelligence. I think that we can mimic creativity but you can't truly reproduce it. there are intangiables you can't program. Just because someone or something is smarter than you doesn't mean it is better. Right?

The Phoenix said...

Plus, humans are continuing to evolve as well.

You can't replace human ingenuity, creativity, and intuition. Also, think about serendipity.

How many of the world's greatest accomplishments were actually accidents???

ObilonKenobi said...

True. I didn't think of that. Serendipity is not to be discounted. How do you teach a computer to take a situation that looks like a failure and make it a positive. How do you program a computer to see the silver lining or the Tao mentality that we use everyday? It's a long, long way from quick calculations to actual personality and innovational thinking. We have done a lot with the type of thinking that we can't even explain. Comedy, tregety and love. Perservereance in the face of almost certain doom. Faith and Love. Can we actually program these things? Are they the result of chemical processing, quick neural transfer of information or is it something supernatural like our souls that allow these things? All good themes for science fiction stories, I think.