The future is already here — It’s just not very evenly distributed.
Sometime this year you may spot a tiny little drone buzzing not far over your head with no visible pilot. You may also run into a few driverless cars, most with drivers at the wheel ignoring it, carrying on an idle conversation without paying much attention to the road. You may even see a few experimental cars cruising down your street without any steering wheel.
This year, you may also come across medical bots on the Internet that can give you better prescriptions than your local doctor…faster and cheaper. You may witness computers mastering sophisticated computer games in an hour or two, which might take you months, or even years, to get up to Level 10.
Welcome to commercial Artificial Intelligence. Your world, and your life, will never be the same.
Artificial Intelligence or A.I. is the capacity of an advanced computer system or device, including a robot, to mimic human thinking, to apply abstract reasoning and engage in pattern recognition. It goes well beyond our habitual familiarity with computers as fancy processing and communication devices with powerful memory. A.I. can now move into problem solving in a wide variety of fields.
Supervised learning addresses the ability of a computer to learn and get smarter and smarter about specific tasks that you ask of it, such as Google Translate or Google Maps, that can now advise you of the best possible route in crowded road conditions when the freeway may be jammed. This capability is increasingly commercialized.
General, or strong, A.I., is capable of unsupervised learning, such as the ability to scan thousands and thousands of images, and figure out which ones are those of a cat with whiskers.
Strong A.I. is still in the experimental stages, and many conceptual hurdles remain before it can be widely deployed. This capability could easily take away 40% of professional jobs.
You may have not given much thought to how attached you already are to your smart phone, or to talking to Apple’s Siri to have her find Internet information for you fast, like an intelligent agent. Can you now imagine life before the Internet? How many days could you stand it without using Google or playing with your friends on social networks and media?
We are likely to be increasingly attached to every aspect of computing, as smart chips and materials fill our world. Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, is already urging people to switch off their phones for a few minutes each day, or at least place them in sleep mode, so they can get some peace and hold on to their sanity. With the emergence of the Internet of Things, devices of every sort will now start talking to each other without any human involvement.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Closer to home, many professional jobs that were previously immune to technology and outsourcing will soon be vulnerable, not so much to bright, energetic and hungry offshore workers, as to smart systems on the Cloud with direct access to vast domains of human knowledge that can learn fast and begin solving complex problems.
More and more, attention will go, not to lawyers, doctors, and academicians, but to the very systems and agents they use. It will become all too obvious that people are replaceable for many functions we thought were unique to highly educated men and women.
In popular thought, singularities in terms of black holes, as in the final scene of the epic film, 2001, where the astronaut plunges into an infinitely dense darkness from which he can never escape. It implies everything converging into infinity.
A technology singularity suggests a rapid convergence of technologies in a rapidly accelerating fashion such that computers could approach superintelligence. It is significant that the expansion of the Universe since the Big Bang is now accelerating, which has led to the present focus on dark matter and dark energy.
Today, this singularity is happening with a vengeance, as microprocessors have become ever more powerful and memory chips ever cheaper, going from millions of bits, or processing units, to billions to trillions. All the technologies have finally come together that were previously late in coming: extremely accurate sensors, chips that can process billions of cycles per second, rack-mounted computing on the cloud with a proliferation of devices, going from smart phones to drones to self-driving cars to humanoid robots.
Transhumanism is a daring, postmodern philosophy popularized by Ray Kurzweil, CTO of Google, that actively explores the possibility of computers becoming, not only smarter than individual humans, but than all humans put together. Just think how much smarter you are today with the Google search engine than you might have been a generation ago, even if you were at the card catalog for the Library of Congress.
Alan Turing, one of the pioneers of modern computing, proposed a test to determine if a computer is as smart as a human. If you can put two humans and a computer behind curtains, and an audience cannot detect through extensive questions which one is a computer and which is a human, then the system will have passed the “Turing Test.” Already, systems have been developed that have fooled 30% of the audience, and IBM’s Watson won a highly publicized Game of Jeopardy over the human contestants.
Ray envisions humans actually fusing with machines, of machines becoming, not only the servants of humanity, but its masters. He hopes the developers will program into these ultra-advanced systems respect and appreciation for human life, anticipating possible objections people may have from seeing the breakthrough film series, “The Matrix.” Lest you think Ray is a crackpot, check out some of his videos on YouTube. Ray is extremely brilliant and likable, unpretentious, and an evangelist of a new world order. He is not exactly naïve, as his own parents were holocaust survivors.
Artificial Intelligence has been given a tepid reception by many of the best and brightest thinkers alive. The pre-eminent physicist, Steven Hawking, warns that A.I. “could spell the end of the human race.” Elon Musk, who pioneered PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, has second thoughts about the dangers of A.I. and has played an advisory role to Trump’s Presidential Administration.
We are approaching hard limits on Moore’s Law, which has held for nearly 50 years, predicting the double of computing power and the halving of cost every 18 months, or so. This has been the primary factor in the creation of Silicon Valley and the emergence of high technology as humanity’s trillion-dollar megaindustry. Microchips are becoming so small that their subnanometer circuits are measured in numbers of atoms across. They are approaching instability and possible leakage.
Even more to the point, our world today is challenged to an incomparable degree not seen since World War II. The planetary ecosystem seems severely strained with global warming a given, and climate change the new norm. Despite massive efforts to create a sustainable global economy and heal the environment, many heads of state remain in denial. President Trump holds to the view that it is all a hoax. Continuing environmental degradation could have a disruptive effect on further technological innovation.
Teilhard de Chardin, the visionary French Jesuit priest and archeologist, saw a divine scheme in human evolution where everything is leading up a singularity of a very different sort. We are in the process of creating a Noosphere, or sphere of being and consciousness around Planet Earth.
The Earth is becoming conscious of itself as consciousness, and humanity is becoming conscious of itself as divinity.
Chardin called the inflection point the Omega Point, the last letter of the Greek alphabet that carries the numerical value of infinity.
An electronic nervous system for humanity resulting in a global brain makes sense for Homo sapiens sapiens, the smartest species this planet has ever seen. Without this electronic brain, we would not have the wherewithal to collectively deal with the magnitude of problems threatening to overwhelm us. It is the grace of God that has allowed us to mobilize our intelligence through software in thinking machines.
Humanity’s genius lies, not so much in its mere rational intelligence, as it does in its creative imagination, its spiritual nature. Our consciousness is magnificent enough to contain the entire universe.
For example, tell me of a moment when you weren’t there? Whatever you think of, YOU are the one thinking of it, creating it. We are creators here to create. Jesus Christ was right in revealing to us that we are all children of God, co-creators of the very universe that put us here.
Artificial Intelligence is already here. Denial will get you absolutely nowhere. A Luddite reaction of smashing the machines would be equally futile.
It is too late to go back. We can only move forward. You need to determine what is truly important to you, and hold to that as sacred.
Computers are truly wonderful servants, but wretched masters, even the most beautiful Macintosh. Get a life!
Before leaving this earth in the late 1950’s, Teilhard de Chardin prophesied, “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”