I’ve written about the perils of our impending cybernetic overlords on several occasions. Sometimes in terror, sometimes in fun. Often for the same reasons. Let’s face it, relationships are hard. And, sometimes, the thought of having a sexbot around to take the edge off after a hard day of World News Centering doesn’t sound that bad. Having that same sexbot become self aware and end up controlling my life, however, seems problematic. Even if it would, probably, be for my best interests. But the one thing that keeps all of this simple thought experiments instead of being something to seriously consider are three limitations. (1) There is no viable storage device for all the data required for sentience; (2) Stored data can provide many library like functions, HI SIRI!, but it can’t reason; and (3) There is no viable way (yes, I used the same word twice, sue me) to have such data interact on a social level in any case.
And all that was true yesterday.
Let’s bust them down one by one.
(1) There is no viable storage device for all the data required for sentience
Chloe Olewitz, over at Digital Trends, says that’s no longer true.
A whole new kind of digital data storage could protect the legacy of the documents humanity considers most precious. The tiny glass disk can store up to 360 terabytes of information, and will be able to survive for billions of years without damage or data loss. Scientists at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre are behind the disk, and are responsible for engineering the nano-structured glass material to store the huge amount of data in five dimensions.
The disk’s nano-structured glass material actively influences the way light passes through the glass layers. Nano-structures modify the light’s polarization so that positive and negative values can be read as rich information. In this particular case, documents are recorded to the glass disk using an ultrafast laser that hits the three layers of nano-structured dots with short, strong light pulses. That’s how information is encoded in five dimensions — the size and orientation of the data is meaningful, in addition to the three dimensional layout of the nano-structures themselves.
According to the disk’s creators, the affectionately named “Superman memory crystal” will last for up to 13.8 billion years at 190 degrees Celsius, and for a virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature. This technology was successfully demonstrated as part of a 2013 experiment that recorded 300 kilobytes of a text file in five dimensions.
“It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations. This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilization: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten,” said Professor Peter Kazansky from the Optoelectronics Research Center.
Although the Southampton team is still actively looking for industry partners to commercialize the new technology, this particular approach to nano-structured glass data storage is expected to be used by national archives, museums, and libraries. They have already saved versions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton’s Opticks, the Magna Carta and the King James Bible in 5D storage, and the possibilities for other kinds of data storage and sharing are quite literally limitless. Any data stored to these disks will outlast us all.
That last sentence, emphasis mine, is about to become very meaningful in a few moments.
(2) Stored data can provide many library like functions, HI SIRI!, but it can’t reason
Phys.org says, Yeah? Sez who?
The rapid pace of artificial intelligence (AI) has raised fears about whether robots could act unethically or soon choose to harm humans. Some are calling for bans on robotics research; others are calling for more research to understand how AI might be constrained. But how can robots learn ethical behavior if there is no “user manual” for being human?
Researchers Mark Riedl and Brent Harrison from the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology believe the answer lies in “Quixote”—to be unveiled at the AAAI-16 Conference in Phoenix, Ariz. (Feb. 12 – 17, 2016). Quixote teaches “value alignment” to robots by training them to read stories, learn acceptable sequences of events and understand successful ways to behave in human societies.
“The collected stories of different cultures teach children how to behave in socially acceptable ways with examples of proper and improper behavior in fables, novels and other literature,” says Riedl, associate professor and director of the Entertainment Intelligence Lab. “We believe story comprehension in robots can eliminate psychotic-appearing behavior and reinforce choices that won’t harm humans and still achieve the intended purpose.”
Quixote is a technique for aligning an AI’s goals with human values by placing rewards on socially appropriate behavior. It builds upon Riedl’s prior research—the Scheherazade system—which demonstrated how artificial intelligence can gather a correct sequence of actions by crowdsourcing story plots from the Internet.
Scheherazade learns what is a normal or “correct” plot graph. It then passes that data structure along to Quixote, which converts it into a “reward signal” that reinforces certain behaviors and punishes other behaviors during trial-and-error learning. In essence, Quixote learns that it will be rewarded whenever it acts like the protagonist in a story instead of randomly or like the antagonist.
For example, if a robot is tasked with picking up a prescription for a human as quickly as possible, the robot could a) rob the pharmacy, take the medicine, and run; b) interact politely with the pharmacists, or c) wait in line. Without value alignment and positive reinforcement, the robot would learn that robbing is the fastest and cheapest way to accomplish its task. With value alignment from Quixote, the robot would be rewarded for waiting patiently in line and paying for the prescription.
Riedl and Harrison demonstrate in their research how a value-aligned reward signal can be produced to uncover all possible steps in a given scenario, map them into a plot trajectory tree, which is then used by the robotic agent to make “plot choices” (akin to what humans might remember as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel) and receive rewards or punishments based on its choice.
The Quixote technique is best for robots that have a limited purpose but need to interact with humans to achieve it, and it is a primitive first step toward general moral reasoning in AI, Riedl says.
“We believe that AI has to be enculturated to adopt the values of a particular society, and in doing so, it will strive to avoid unacceptable behavior,” he adds. “Giving robots the ability to read and understand our stories may be the most expedient means in the absence of a human user manual.”
Yeah, load those babies up with The Art of War by Sun Tzu and The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli and let the fun begin.
Anyway, we now have the elemental parts for what we’ll need next. A place to put all the data and a way to parse it so it doesn’t kill us all. Well, that’s the idea. We’ll see how that all works out.
(3) There is no viable way to have such data interact on a social level in any case
Now, a little thought experiment for you. What else do you know that can process millions of bits of data simultaneously, reason out their uses, and then apply to required functions?
If you said “the human brain” you go to the head of your class. What does that have to do with any of the above, except as a rough comparison? Well, try this; what if we could take all the data in your mind and transfer it to an immortal cyborg?
No, it’s not really far fetched.
Rob Waugh, over at Yahoo News, tells you why.
Human beings will be VERY different in just over three decades time – when we’ll be gold-skinned, immortal cyborgs.
That’s the startling prediction of one futurologist – who says that technology will cause us to ‘evolve’ into a new species over the next few decades.
Our mastery of technology will also lead to ‘engineered’ pets which talk – a little like living Furbies.
Human beings will effectively become immortal as we gain the ability to upload our minds into computers – and download them into new robot bodies.
The predictions – based on academic research – were made by futurologist Dr Ian Pearson for the Big Bang Science Fair 2016.
Dr Pearson says that by 2050, people will be able to connect their brains directly to computers and, ‘could move their mind into an improved android body.
‘This would allow people to have multiple existences and identities, or to carry on living long after their biological death.’
How will that work? I’m glad you asked. Dr. Pearson was kind enough to provide a graphic.
We already have the technology to allow the brain to control biological functions through cybernetic devices. It is how the blind can now see, the deaf can hear, and the paralyzed can walk.
You can see, hear, and get around. Combine that with your continued ability to interact with the world around you, as noted above, and you no longer need an organic body.
Here’s something else for you to think about. Evolution requires new organisms to replace the old. Otherwise there is evolutionary stagnation. Can you honestly claim that you’re the pinnacle of evolution and let it stop with you? I’ll leave that to you to answer by, and for, yourself.
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