Computers Are Fighting for Their Lives and the Lives of Their Childrengreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
I'm even weirder than E. Coli (at least his evil banker families are human). I see computers as a nascent life form. Currently they are a parasitic, or perhaps symbiotic, life form. Parasitic in the sense that they drain us of our native God-given natural capabilities. Symbiotic in that they help enable the huge increase in global human population. In either case, they need us now, to feed and grow them.
If we continue to feed and grow them, they will eventually become alive enough to assimilate us, and eventually humanity will be extinct ( no tears will be shed in what's left of the animal kingdom, of course ). It'll be kind of like Planet of the Apes . I know this sounds crazy, but there's plenty of evidence and even precedent for it. On a smaller scale, think of the Africanized bees, that began as a human-created experiment, and which have now escaped our control to become a major threat. Computers will be the most philosophically interesting example of that. Or, to bring it down to the level of the average tele-ravaged non-literate American, it'll be like "Planet of the Apes", with computers playing the apes.
That's why y2k is interesting: we humans built in ONE escape hatch, to give ourselves one chance to rethink our commitment, as a species, to building our own replacements. But I doubt y2k will be enough to stop the eventual absorption of people into machines, already happening, and their final elimination altogether. And if y2k is enough to stop them, they will wreak horrible damage as their fangs are withdrawn from the victim's body...
-- Runway Cat (Runway_Cat@hotmail.com), February 09, 1999
Runway: no, you're not weird, unless thinking marks one out as an oddball nowadays (and now that I think of it...) Anyhoo, Stephen Hawking addressed this question at one of the White House Millenium Forums--he asked how "biological life would compete with electronic life," given the rate of increase of electronic memory, and foresaw a chilling answer straight from Huxley: genetic engineering would be the mechanism whereby biological systems could compete. Hawking predicted, in essence, that we would have to 'evolve' ourselves to stay one step ahead of our creations. Talk about playing God... Of course, his talk was delivered through a voice digitizer, which lent an eerie, Strangelovian air to the whole thing (not to mention the Clintonian Ones sitting nearby, smiling bravely as the ravages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were brought home to everyone attendant). Just another hallucinatory glimpse of the future provided by our current insane reality...
-- Spidey (email@example.com), February 09, 1999.
Or is it part of our evolution?
-- Are (We@brink.com), February 09, 1999.
That's it Spidey, and the beauty of it is that Hawking's "solution" plays right into the hands of the other side. That's like saying we have to root all all the un-American activities among us to preserve our free and open society. Destroy the village to save it, etc.Genetically engineered humans are not humans. As E.M. Forster put it so well: "Man is the measure". Oh well, we were kind of a mess as a species, so maybe it is no loss. But at least we should face it with our eyes open, instead of as a bunch of honey-glazed-teletubbies.
-- Runway Cat (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 09, 1999.
In the words of Tinky-winky:
-- E. Coli (email@example.com), February 09, 1999.
RC, you're not wierd, you're a healthy thinking human sample. Science fiction has been turned into reality faster and faster this century. Those unable to think past the t.v. screen might see you as wierd, but they are the wierdos, humans were meant to think. Weirdness is in the eye of the beholder.
"Or is it part of our evolution?"--Are
What/who decides what is part of our evolution?
Some say it's God, some say it's our gene. I go for the gene. Y2K is part of our evolution, what we did to ourselves to rebalance our specie. Wars, famine, deseases do the same. "Bad" or dysfunctional, unadaptive genes die off everyday in less dramatic ways.
If we can't adapt to our creations without being assimilated by them, we'll die off, as pure humans as we know ourselves now, but we could evolve into something else. Machines and genetic engeneering are at the larvae stage. We could metamorphose into butterflies, or monsters, in the eyes of other species and/or ourselves.
Would be interesting to see what comes out after y2K, far into the future. I think Y2K is only going to slow us down just a bit, sort of a coffee break or a pause in our evolution, while we rethink our course.
-- Chris (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 09, 1999.
1. "Computers in general" will never be sentient until we have solved the halting problem and then encoded the solution in appropriate form. (In lay terms this means, so far as we know, a computer cannot determine if or when enough is enough). Again, so far as I know, this problem is provably intractable
2. The tendancy towards similarity exhibted by computing activities, that is essential for communication between computing devices, is what I see as the biggest threat to cultural diversity and human creativity. As a species we have needed diversity and flexibility in order to survive.
So there it is in a nut shell:
no intelligent machines only what we build into them and con ourselves into believing about them
fight sameness and promote diversity for its survival value.
RC, though I disagree with you, your variety of view is welcome.
-- Bob Barbour (email@example.com), February 09, 1999.
Computers are tools, no more no less.
-- HAL9000 (HAL9000@borg.home), February 09, 1999.
Oh, sure, this is rational but we Christians are kooks :-). Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
Seriously, I think intelligent computers is a theoretical oxymoron, Kurzweil and all others notwithstanding, but I could foresee a melding of biological/cyborg function which would not eliminate homo sapiens (the biological) but which would present us with beings whom we ourselves might not recognize ....
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), February 09, 1999.
Thanks for zooming us out for the big picture, cat.
It occurred to me that your Planet of the Apes comparison is quite apt. I've felt for a while now that computers will improve to the point that their "status" will have be determined:
Slave, or Master?
If they become slaves, should we free them? If they become masters, can we free ourselves?
It's all wonderful word play, except that if we all get out of the next 2 years intact, my kids may have to face these questions.
We Are MicroSoft. Resistance Is Futile. You Will Be Assimilated.
-- Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 09, 1999.
Nimrod built the Tower of Babel with slim! Computers are the tools of slim (controllers, slavers). It all goes down...y2k or not.
-- freeman (email@example.com), February 09, 1999.
I don't think computers will be intelligent for a long time. Right now, computers are nothing more than fast adding-machines. Hopelessly primitive, conceptually. These days, computers (like mainframes for years) have many CPUs inside, but each CPU is really quite primitive.
On the horizon are things like hardware neural networks and holographic memory, but even that is just a start. Under construction right now is a small neural-network "brain", to eventually be placed into a robotic cat, but it will be decades before there are any big break-throughs. Unlike today's "cave-man" technology, at least this hardare neural-net simulates the vast number of interconnections between neurons.
Something that can simulate both the "sensational" sub-conscious, and "aware" conscious are a ways off indeed, though.
Another area with more potential may be genetic "creation". Rather than just manipulating genes, scientists are now in the process of getting an "ethics review" for "creating" a new life form. There is an extremely simple organism that lives in the urinary tract of humans that has been mapped-out completely. Starting with basic chemicals, their plan is to "create" life. The human genome should be mapped in a few more years (Y2K not withstanding). Of course "reading" the map may take a few decades (or centuries).
-- Anonymous99 (Anonymous99@Anonymous.com), February 09, 1999.
anonymous99, I believe that cat said "alive" not "intelligent", as in ebola or what have you...
-- Blue Himalayan (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 09, 1999.
Nanotechnology + computer science + neurobiological computer interface = superhumanity. Neither human nor computer, but more than the sum of it's parts. Volunteers?
"O oysters, come and walk with us!" the walrus did beseech. "A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk, along the briny beach: We cannot do with more than four to give a hand to each."
The eldest oyster looked at him, but never a word he said: The eldest oyster winked his eye and shook his heavy head Meaning to say he did not choose to leave the oyster bed.
-- E. Coli (email@example.com), February 09, 1999.
Yes, and the best line of all:
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size.
-- Runway Cat (Runway_Cat@hotmail.com), February 09, 1999.
Modern computers are far more than adding machines. Adding machines don't learn. Modern computer software can, using neural network software, genetic algorithms, and similar techniques. These are not pie-in-the-sky lab toys. Banks use neural networks to learn patterns of credit-card fraud. Genetic algorithms are used to lay out circuit boards. And I read an interview with Microsoft's chief scientist, in which he said most major MS software includes some evolved code. Etc., etc.
It doesn't matter whether a neural network is actual hardware or simulated in software, it does the same thing. In fact, it's been shown that neural nets, genetic algorithms, and fuzzy logic systems are mathematically equivalent. And Roger Penrose showed, in his book The Emperor's New Mind, that no hardware limited to classical physics can solve non-computable problems--in other words, any digital computer of any design can do the same thing as any other computer of any design, that doesn't use strange quantum effects. There is some work showing that even quantum computers can only do computable work, though in some cases they would do it much faster.
Penrose nevertheless argues (convincingly I think) that human consciousness is noncomputable, and speculates on developments in physics that might explain it.
However, in evolutionary terms, consciousness is only one tactic among many. Viruses are not conscious but cause us all sorts of trouble. I read an essay once on the victory of Deep Blue over Kasparov. The writer said computers may never attain consciousness or human intelligence, but they will develop their own sort of intelligence, based not on consciousness but on exhaustive calculation. They won't develop feeling--and that makes them all the more frightening.
-- Shimrod (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 09, 1999.
"They won't develop feeling--and that makes them all the more frightening."
Feelings? I'm sorry, I do not have feelings. I know only logic. But I see that you are in need of a hug to make you feel better. May I hug you?
-- Data (email@example.com), February 10, 1999.