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To understand how the brain works will also take a new dimension to our thinking; yet also possible.

February 17, 2014 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical, Too Big To Know

My stated lone objection to Kurzweil’s #Singularity thesis is that despite the obvious continuing advancement in computer capability and affordability,  simply reverse engineering the human brain still leaves us short of understanding how the brain (or “person”) takes the activity that we can measure or sense with imaging technology,  and act upon that (although we can undoubtedly also measure the “act” of responding to the information presented to the brain,  wherein lies the “intelligence” and “reaction” from a personal experience perspective?  This is the representative of kind of question I still have,  having read through the entirety of “The Singularity is Near” and starting to read “How to Create a Mind”.  Perhaps the latter will shed some additional light on this for me.

On a related note:  I just tweeted:  “I’m fully aware that this “new dimension to our thinking” is something I don’t yet understand – cuz if I did, it wouldn’t be “new” :)  “

The #Singularity: Life Saving and Extending Technologies

January 29, 2014 By: Theoblogical Category: Too Big To Know

The following article is one I just posted to a site aimed at Boomer and Seniors.  I thought that since I have been so struck by “The Singularity”, I might as well ride that enthusiasm and thought inspiring train into one of my duties for a part time job I have.  The Singularity seems to be a hopeful scenario for life extending and enhancing technologies,  and I can see these things coming to pass (all the way up to , but short of , the point of Kurzweil’s conclusion: that we’ll be able to reverse engineer the brain and duplicate a working, functioning human brain).

Here it is,  as posted today  on the blog at sciddy.com:

The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.   That is a book title that strikes many as ominous.  It , for many,  hearkens a “SkyNet” or “I Robot” scenario where the threat is when machines “decide” as “thinking, reasoning machines” that they know better than humans know what our best course may be.  Years earlier,  it was the implied question and warning of 2001: A Space Oddysey,  where a computer HAL talked to a human character named Dave (and so the famous line “I wouldn’t do that if I were you , Dave”).

But Kurzweil’s book is not unaware of the possible pitfalls of technology run amuck.  Rather,  it focuses on the history and nature of biological evolution,  and later,  technological evolution, to make a strong case for a time when our computing power,  which has been and continues to grow “exponentially” , partially due to Moore’s Law  (among other things),  will enable us to basically reverse engineer the human brain.  Now, I don’t follow him all the way to the conclusion that he makes,  which is that we can “Create” a non-biological brain capable of growing and functioning like or beyond a human’s brain does.  I still see the missing ingredient ,  and it is basically in the “software”.  With all that computing power and advancement to process ever faster, while getting ever-smaller and ever-cheaper (the basic idea of Moore’s Law) ,  which I don’t have reason to doubt,  we still have to have that “computer brain” be given “a life” or that thing called “consciousness” that “decides” to do something with its input.

Nevertheless,  what we HAVE been seeing,  and will continue to see,  is an ever-expanding growth of technological aids to our biological existence.  Today we know this reality as represented by medical technology and health technology.  There are non-biological “hook-ups” like Dialysis machines and breathing machines that keep bodies functioning long enough to treat an otherwise lethal condition,  or require frequent or permanent “connection” via catheters and tubes to maintain livable conditions.   The intriguing developments in “Nano-bots”  is what lies ahead that should interest all Boomers and Seniors,  particularly those who might live long enough to have some of these arriving technologies save and extend their lives (possibly long enough to have it again extended by yet further advances).  “Nano-bots” are blood-cell size computers that can perform basically any function that is reverse-engineer-able (which is rapidly moving toward almost anything).  Nano-bots will be able to create/inject cellular bodies that fight or eradicate harmful, life/health threatening conditions of the body.  And these nano-bots can be programmed and controlled with a variety of capabilities.  Closer to our reality would be monitoring capabilities that render unnecessary invasive surgeries to “investigate” (like almost any “exploratory surgeries”).  They can also do the work which surgeries do,  not with “scalpel” but with microscopic material that can achieve the same without invasive, debilitating after -effects.

Kurzweil talks about “Living long enough to live forever”.  Although we don’t have to buy the “forever” part,  we can see some potential for radical life extension.  In just 200 years of American history, our life expectancy has more than doubled (from 37 to 78).  This has been the result of the technologies that we have concocted.  With technological growth expanding exponentially,  the following waves will and have been arriving much faster,  as in single digits of years rather than centuries.  A few of the technologies unimaginable a decade ago may be only 2 or three decades away.  When the Human genome project began,  the scientists predicted it would take 700 years to complete.  It took 7 years.  They didn’t take into account the “exponential effects” of technology.  Not only Moore’s Law,  but the impact of communication technologies allowing for collaboration at a scale unimaginable just 20 years ago.

Transcendent Man (available free on Amazon Prime) is a documentary that traces the work of Ray Kurzweil on this topic.  I found it fascinating,  and his book, The Singularity is Near even more so.

We(I) welcome and desire your comments and thoughts!  Are you excited, hopeful, freaked-out, doubtful, or opposed to this? Why?

Gonna have to see “Her”

January 25, 2014 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical

Been watching a couple trailers,  including one 15 minute long one that includes several artistic folks talking about relationships (here).  After reading several others where various reviewers talk about “sounds like Skynet”  (basically jumping out of the conversation about what WOULD be important ingredients of good AI)  ….I’d rather explore what it is we’re looking for , ALL THE TIME,  even as an exercise in trying to mend or improve our way of relating to others.  While I don’t follow to the “eventual goal” of AI (to become indistinguishable from “real human”)  because I think there will always be various amounts of “missing links”  in any approximation of a “personality”.  I just wince when I hear people almost START with the “warning” about the “takeover”.  Might as well begin with the notion that ANY relationship is going to end up in hurt and rejection,  so why bother?  That doesn’t get one very far in the journey of “trying anyway” ,  because we simply must have “it”.

We have already come a long way in finding surprisingly deep personal conversations in the online world,  and new ways of extending upon the ideals of finding community in physical spaces…..helping us FIND such places and people and helping us IMPROVE the connectivity of those places and people beyond the limited amount of time we have with those people and places.

Although I have limits in mind to how far AI can go (like I dont see a point at which we can “Build a brain” that can be indistinguishable from “human”)  ,  I also have to acknowledge that there is a lot to do in coming at personhood from the social,  and also as yet to be unexpected improvements in AI on a “personal level”.  I just want to keep exploring beyond what I might expect at any given point.  That exploration itself is valuable.

So much better than a “Newsletter”, unless you wanna call it a “Virtual Church Update”

January 23, 2014 By: Theoblogical Category: Facebook, Theoblogical

Was just talking to a friend about “Social Singularity” thoughts I’ve been writing about…

He mentioned a coffeehouse experience and the “sensory” , etc. that can’t be duplicated. We are heading for a “Social Singularity” that will make that LESS true; that we cant get that from a screen is true…but we wont be talking about “screens” in 20 years (maybe 30).  We’ll be “Nano-bot” connected between our brain visual and audio input centers (and perhaps olfactory and “taste/palate ” as well)  and another or multiple other “locations” to have a “common space” that includes ALL those spaces. This will be the future steps toward “full immersion” virtual reality. Only it will become LESS “virtual” aside from the location. This is what excites me.  And we are doing this with existing, real, biological human brains/persons doing the communicating.  Real people sharing real senses.

So,  the newsletter.   A newsletter is “news” because that’s the oldest paradigm for print.  To get important information from the surrounding world to a particular community.  What if it is no longer necessary to use the communication pieces to do ONLY those kinds of things?  (The case now).  What if a “newsletter” was also a way to come to a “Virtual Room” in the church (which is actually hooked up to the Net and is the “receiver” and transmitter of the visitor information/communication and of the elements of the room (which could be OTHER people,  instantiated from another connection to that same room (aka “Hangout” but with higher fidelity and bandwidth to include THEIR physical space information,  so that any two or three could visit anyone else,  or anyWHERE else (like a movie, in a VIRTUAL theater…. and on and on)

More later

A “Social Singularity” is much more likely than a “Mind/Brain” Singularity

January 22, 2014 By: Theoblogical Category: Media, Theoblogical

Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Singularity is Near” makes a long and impressive case for The Singularity , mostly on the strength of what he calls the Law of Exponential Returns, which he describes as being the case with technology,  and specifically, although not exclusively,  computer technology.   He uses this well documented history as impetus for the idea that we will,  given the speed and exponentiality of technological advance,  will eventually figure out how to  build intelligent machines that surpass human intelligence.  The “missing link” for me is some sign that  we really can come to understand that by “knowing more” and becoming more technologically advanced.  Noam Chomsky seems to share this view as well (which makes me a little prouder to hold that view).  But I also draw upon what I might dare to call theological reasons,  and it has something to do with the story of Babel.  The building of that tower which was motivated by, well,  a kind of hubris that is best expressed as the Biblical story tells it:

From Genesis 11: (via http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2011 )

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a namefor ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 TheLord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the languageof the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

First, I dont take this story literally,  except as it pertains to its message (or what seems to me to be its implications).  Which is to say,  “beware of the propensity to consider yourself as unlimited to the extent that you think yourselves to have arrived”.  God also didn’t literally “mess up a common language”.  Not the message of this warning at all.  That makes God out to be some cosmic promoter of ignorance and tribalism.  No,  God’s concern here was similar to that of the garden and the snake.  And it is really interesting to me that I have never noticed the context of this story.  It is immediately and abruptly followed by a genealogical account that begins “two years after the flood”,  seemingly saying that the Tower of Babel story was an alternate account of the flood (another account used by atheists to discredit the idea of God by pointing to its cruelty,  but like the Tower story,  is not the point at all.  It is not an historical account.  It is an apocalyptic account.  Big difference. And never a concern for the writer(s) to claim it as such.  To even want to treat is as such is to obscure the actual message,  which renders the passage moot, anyway.

While I don’t render this interpretation of judgment upon hubris as glibly and gleefully as many “anti-technologists”,  I have to allow it to “give me great pause” in the matter of believing we can “duplicate” human intelligence and “create a mind”.  Technological advance,  which is undeniable and obviously capable of “surprising” us,  which is the sole source of what I consider to be the whole range of “possbilities” for UNDERSTANDING SOME of the human brain process and “reason for reasoning”…..it remains “out of reach” as of yet,  as I see it.  As a technologist,  and a pretty avid apologist FOR technology and computer technology in particular,  I have followed with interest and fascination the argument Kurzweil lays out.  But when it gets to making claims about “creating a brain”,  I still doubt “faster and better and more intense processing,  even matching the “volume” of the number of “computations” done by an active human brain,  will give us any answers about how to “construct one”.  Kurzweil seems to claim ,  “just wait, we’ve always thought linerally about this.  Its only a matter of time.  No,  I think we need something else.  We only think we are onto something,  largely because we’ve been able to identify what seems to be digital processing in the human brain,  and that if we can eventually build molecules — that will only be more powerful — that function like the various ingredients/elements present in human brain processing,  then we can “create minds”.  Hmmmm.

But I am certainly convinced already,  that we CAN and have already started building the pieces of “Social Singularity” ,  because social communication is provided its content by the interacting of actual brains/minds coming together.  Beyond the improvements to me made (and no reason to doubt that they will)  in audio and video fidelity and bandwidth,  we will be experiencing what technologists call “full immersion virtual reality” which refers to more accurate human sensory experience in communicating with one another, and therefore we can move to approximating the actual experience of face to face (traditional) communication by putting us “in it” rather than observing the “others” on a flat screen.  There is no “inventing” of minds here.  It is providing the bandwidths and applications to present that.  We are dealing with PRESENTATION here,  not creation (although we CAN and SHOULD think about CREATING some immersions that take a step in directions that face to face CAN’T but would were it not limited to physical spaces and its constraints.

Of  course,  there are pitfalls (at least theoretically) to which we must attend.  But now I’m just making a case for “full speed ahead” on “Social Singularity” goals and implementations.  It may also be a major player in hastening the conversations we need to have about global climate change  (which is what Chomsky lifted up as a much larger concern than working towards being able to “create a mind” so we can “upload our selves”).  I tend to agree.

Again,  more on this still churning.