We Gettin’ All Sciencey & Stuff

A little robo-loving never hurt no one.
A little robo-loving never hurt no one.
I spent yesterday’s radio show talking about all the fun stuff that is happening in pop culture with superheroes and the like. It was a lot of fun but it lasted longer than I’d planned and I didn’t get to get to any of the cool stuff that’s happening in the real world. For example, guys will be pleased to note that now, instead of being forced to fend for themselves, science has created the robo-handjob. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. And what’s fun about this is that, since it was invented in Japan, the images used for titillation, if you will, feature animated images of pre-teen girls in the nude. If you click the link you can watch the video and see for yourself. They seem quite proud of it. Astute readers will already know that the staff here at World News Center has been following the development of “sexbots” for years. Of course, women have had their mechanical aids for centuries in one form or another so it seems only fair that the men catch up.

All well and good you say. But it’s just a thing. I understand your thoughts but this “thing” learns and reacts. The very basis of artificial intelligence. Oh cool, you say, what could possibly go wrong?

According to The Economist it could result in the death of every human on the planet. Including you.

“THE development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” Stephen Hawking warns. Elon Musk fears that the development of artificial intelligence, or AI, may be the biggest existential threat humanity faces. Bill Gates urges people to beware of it.

Dread that the abominations people create will become their masters, or their executioners, is hardly new. But voiced by a renowned cosmologist, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and the founder of Microsoft—hardly Luddites—and set against the vast investment in AI by big firms like Google and Microsoft, such fears have taken on new weight. With supercomputers in every pocket and robots looking down on every battlefield, just dismissing them as science fiction seems like self-deception. The question is how to worry wisely.

You taught me language and…
The first step is to understand what computers can now do and what they are likely to be able to do in the future. Thanks to the rise in processing power and the growing abundance of digitally available data, AI is enjoying a boom in its capabilities (see article). Today’s “deep learning” systems, by mimicking the layers of neurons in a human brain and crunching vast amounts of data, can teach themselves to perform some tasks, from pattern recognition to translation, almost as well as humans can. As a result, things that once called for a mind—from interpreting pictures to playing the video game “Frogger”—are now within the scope of computer programs. DeepFace, an algorithm unveiled by Facebook in 2014, can recognise individual human faces in images 97% of the time.

Crucially, this capacity is narrow and specific. Today’s AI produces the semblance of intelligence through brute number-crunching force, without any great interest in approximating how minds equip humans with autonomy, interests and desires. Computers do not yet have anything approaching the wide, fluid ability to infer, judge and decide that is associated with intelligence in the conventional human sense.

“Computers do not yet ….” is kind of scary.

There is a brilliant scientist named Stephen Wolfram who is teaching computers how to think. How to use everything from image recognition to speech.

You have probably already encountered versions of his work. Facial recognition on Facebook? Voice recognition on your phone? All of that is coming from him and and a select few others.

To be fair, there are scientists who do not see Armageddon in every microchip. The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence has been around since 1979 promoting and funding research into electronic minds.

Here’s their mission statement.

Founded in 1979, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) (formerly the American Association for Artificial Intelligence) is a nonprofit scientific society devoted to advancing the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines. AAAI aims to promote research in, and responsible use of, artificial intelligence. AAAI also aims to increase public understanding of artificial intelligence, improve the teaching and training of AI practitioners, and provide guidance for research planners and funders concerning the importance and potential of current AI developments and future directions.

Arthur C. Clarke often posited that A/I could be a great boon to mankind. His final works included a space borne intelligence named Aristotle which handled all the infrastructure of the world and took the place of Google as well as having the added benefit of being a companion to anyone who needed one.

Clarke was a brilliant writer and known atheist but not known for his sense of humor. Certainly he missed the irony of placing a benevolent electronic god in space to replace, or fulfill the function of, the allegedly fictional one.

In fact in his book Sunstorm he had Aristotle flanked by two lesser A/Is. You can fill in the allegories on your own.

As of this writing true A/I isn’t possible. Nothing has even come close to passing the Turing Test. That said, tremendous advances in that direction have been made.

And, as I’ve noted before, getting humans addicted to robo-sex is a good first step to our eventual subjugation.

Could be a fun ride, though.

I Love You, Eve from Jay Nolan on Vimeo.

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