Artificial Intelligence, what are the implications?
An amazing concept to me is that of Artificial intelligence, and/or Artificial Consciousness. Is it possible? When will it arrive? What will be the result?
The first question is very compelling because as far as we know what is needed for intelligence is a brain, and the basic definition of a brain in terms of what is supposedly needed for intelligence, is a connection of parts which can build upon each other and interact in a way that can cause learning. So in our brain we have neurons. And these neurons can receive and send out electrical signals via chemical reactions within them. So when you learn something, hopefully from this article, you don’t gain anymore neurons (brain cells), but the positioning and structure of those neurons change and become more complex and less random, as you learn. So theoretically a very stupid organism would have a random placement of neurons that don’t lead to one another in any profound way, they are in kaos. But a smart organism would know things like the sun rises because the earth spins because of how our solar system formed, etc. etc. So they would have a complex, organized system of neurons that connect to each other in some type of super tetrahedral pattern (not exactly, but you get the point).
But what if instead of neurons there could be wires, or cables, and chips and the electrical pathways could be modified and change as the “organism” learns? Could there be an artificial intelligence. Well there are examples, from the crudest level, this Microsoft word can learn that I like to put an extra space between paragraphs for example. And then there are more sophisticated machines such as I.B.M.’s WATSON which famously won 1 million dollars on Jeopardy. There are even A.I. programs you can talk to on the internet such as A.L.I.C.E.
But how impressive are these machines really, WATSON can win jeopardy but can he paint a portrait, tell a joke, raise a child? The answer thus far is no. Famous physician Michio Kaku said that our smartest robots are as smart as cockroaches, retarded cockroaches.
How about a possible source of A.I. which is accidental, I’m talking about, the internet (cue dramatic music!) Jeff Stibel argues that the internet is already intelligent. Not to the extent of a human but perhaps that of a “cat or rat”. And the internet is growing every day, in 50 years who knows? Maybe it will achieve the human level or beyond. Jeff writes about this in his book, Breakpoint. A Youtube show called VSauce explains that the entire internet (on the electrical level) ways that of a strawberry, roughly the same as, … a cats brain! o.0
But even if the robots are able to achieve intelligence, is it possible for them to gain consciousness, or the ability to become self aware? Or if they did, how would we know? If we were to simply ask them, they may just respond with what is expected of them and not the reality of the situation. Psychologically this has been operationalized with the Mirror Test in which great apes will look in the mirror and wipe a smudge off of their face, where as a lesser primate wouldn’t. But obviously there are problems with testing a computer in this way, perhaps an android form would work.
Now the elephant in the room is the danger of such excursions. Could our machines rise against us like in The Matrix? Possibly, but probably no time soon. It does seem that there is a correlation between intelligence and violence. What other species but human’s murders each other on such a massive scale (war). The only comparable animal is the chimpanzee but even with their primitive intelligence of a 3-4 year old. They will gather in gangs and fight to the death and eat the losers.
Einstein’s genius was utilized for the ultimate device of violence, the atomic bomb. This is why some intellectuals think that there are no extraterrestrials, by the time a species rises to that level, they inherently kill themselves off. This idea could be supported by the idea of earth as a super organism producing an “immuno response” to a virus. Einstein said himself “I do not know what WWIII will be fought with, but WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones”. So assuming that were capable of achieving profound A.I. hopefully “Skynet” doesn’t happen anytime soon, if at all.
Some people think that if the robots do take over, that this is natural. Evolution is the survival of the most fit, and if the biological world has been taped out, perhaps we will make Gods to replace us. Perhaps the human will be taught in history class like the Neanderthal is today. Regardless, I’m glad to be part of the generation on the brink of amazing discovery.
Thanks for reading, keep searching.