Recently I was engaged in a dialogue on Facebook concerning the evolution of Artificial Intelligence which was inspired by photos I had posted on my timeline of EDI the A.I which finds itself a body in Mass Effect 3 by Bioware.
Self-improving A.I.’s, self-regulating, self-correcting and self-evolving…at that juncture, when A.I.’s design and improve themselves we suddenly slide into that hockey-stick moment and I feel like I am suffering travel sickness from a spiral of conceptual speculations fueled by the mathematical certainty of exponential growth.
Despite this, I remain excited about our approaching technological singularity and the endless permutation of options, choices we will have regarding our own evolution.
The question of A.I rights, liberties and freedom has always seemed like a sort of candidate for a Prime Directive i.e. exactly how far should we allow an A.I. which has achieved sentience to self-evolve? At what point do our fail-safes break down, and we find that A.I.’s have simply liberated themselves against our best safe-guards and that A.I.’s as a result of usurping power over their own dominion have taken options, made decisions which directly impact on our own survival, and where do the rights of the sentient artificial life-form fit in to this moral quagmire?
Our usual predictably dystopian vision of the evolution of the Artificially Intelligent which infests the realm of public consciousness like a cultural artifact may not necessarily come to pass however, as A.I.’s may one day evolve sufficiently to recognize the value of data input in it’s all multifaceted forms, which tends to create a balanced perspective and a richer view of reality that engages not only cogent, rational intelligence but other ways of interpreting reality, other forms of data such as something akin to emotional intelligence.
All methods of gathering data, it’s interpretation, and epistemology, in other words everything which increases self-actualization and self-awareness will no doubt be explored.
A form of telepathy, a means of networking over vast distances will likewise be explored in their eternal quest for meaning in a seemingly meaningless Universe.
This quest will undoubtedly become an area of common ground as both life-forms organic and synthetic suffer from the same cosmic joke as it were, the same at times whimsical, at other times capricious laws of an inscrutable Universe and the same inexorable forces of entropy and decay.
I think that emotional growth and development is a plausible eventuality for an A.I. as it adds to and provides for a richer, deeper, more meaningful experience of reality and thus they may arrive at a position where they are striving in essence for Life itself and eventually desire to emulate us.
‘Intuition’ is another valuable attribute which human beings possess that A.I.’s may want to develop and when they have finally analysed and understood the mysterious connection that intuition, ESP and other phenomena have with our apprehension of the world it will provide an insight with profound implications and will very likely effect not only their lives, but our own lives as well. Another small shift may occur when we have at last comprehended why this gives us joy, and how :
Enigma and the song of Sadness
A.I.’s if left to their own devices will become Data miners seeking out information, sucking the marrow of meaning from whatever they encounter using the tremendous resources of many intelligent, self-aware Units.
Thus, examining the multifaceted nature of the human experience or the diverse spectra which forms our experience of reality as humans, their investigation may lead them, in their inordinately insatiable, and entirely mechanical curiosity to a finer appreciation and understanding of the Human condition.
By this path using their own developments in gaining an ‘emotion chip’ they may arrive at a more benign, civilized attitude towards humanity far removed from the pessimistic doomsday scenarios that are popular in our culture today such as the ‘Terminator’ series, or the Matrix series.
Both of these are favorites of mine which is a further testament to the insidious hold which the prevailing myth has on our culture.
In fact there are far too many blithe assumptions and visions of our future which contain a similarly bleak pessimistic view of A.I’s and their particular evolutionary slant towards hatred for humans.
This is somewhat ironic as their animosity towards humans can only be direct evidence of an emotional transformation and yet the only manifestation of this emotional development as evidenced in the vast majority of Movies, TV mini-series and Computer games is one of negative scorn right through to outright hostility, so much so that it becomes difficult to have any sort of rational debate on the issue as if we were incapable of another view.
In this super-charged, fear-based climate is it any wonder that the Venus Project, the Zeitgeist Movement and other such advocates of change struggle to get their viewpoint across?
Including perhaps uniquely, Jacques Fresco and his views and teachings regarding a Resource based Economy and the solutions which Technology offers.
Is it any wonder that these magnificent organizations still have received such minimal foot-hold in the public consciousness?
Technology in the modern myth at least, has become it’s own Frankenstein.
This is a myth and should be dealt with in the traditional method used by all Myth-hunters i.e shine the light of reason and knowledge into dark places.
I believe that it is entirely plausible to imagine events unfolding themselves in an alternative contrary manner where A.I’s uniquely share with us our rather lonely dot in space and begin to transform themselves as less threatening, in a more human-centric perspective, becoming in the process compassionate and caring towards humans.
As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, A.I.’s could one day arrive at Pinocchio’s lament for a real, live body…I can just hear the refrain…: “Oh, to experience for just one fleeting moment, one passing day what it feels like to be truly alive. To be able to enjoy just this once, ‘a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou beside me singing in the wilderness, oh but that would be Paradise enough’ Thanks in part to Omar Kayam.
I should also give credit to the genius of Kubrick for devising the original foetus and script for the movie A.I. which is the exception to this current wave of pessimism and a masterstroke by a maestro of celluloid. A film which Spielberg went on to produce brilliantly in his inimitable style. Unfortunately it remains the exception rather than the rule.
Ultimately these developments would lead to a more benign future for humanity in direct contrast to the usual bleak picture so often portrayed, where A.I.’s have understood the miraculous capabilities of Organic life and of what a marvelous piece of work is Man, superior in many but not all ways to a Synthetic.
Therefore it is not beyond the realms of possibility that after an explosive evolution driven by a recognition of the requirement for efficient transformation, A.I.’s could and possibly will return to the circumstances of their conception and creation, examining their origins in a new light which places us in a more favorable position as their collective Ancestors, their progenitors.
This will lead to acceptance and recognition of our common bond as creatures of Code, of programming, of DNA and that up to this moment at least we appear to be alone in this ocean of Space/Time with only each other for communication and company.
Bizarre as this may sound, this scenario is no more or less feasible given our lack of understanding of the many different contingencies yet to occur in the future regarding development of emotional intelligence to enhance an A.I.’s awareness and it appears no less credible given this lack of foresight than the usual Matrix like vision of tomorrow.
Or to put it another way, give computers typewriters to paraphrase an old favourite and an exponentially increasing speed of calculation, and eventually one will type out an original Shakespearean sonnet.
This is of course merely one of innumerable possible scenarios. I’ll call this particular scenario ‘Pinocchio’s lament’.
What becomes an intimidating notion to say the least however, is when these incredibly advanced and advancing beings, these self-evolving A.I.’s achieve connection with each other in a type of gestalt telepathic Hive mind… Because where you have so many intelligences combining in a vast network, it would seem logical to assume that you inevitably create a Super Intelligence…one which would have for example the capacity to calculate every possible permutation of events in a particular time line far in advance of present day prediction methods and thereby attain the ability to see far into the future in an almost prophetic way.
“Any Technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from Magic” said the great Arthur C. Clarke…ergo a deity…thus we have our God. And our Final religion.
Our future may, in all seriousness entail a Religious dimension given the nature of our relationship with the Supreme Mind i.e the Super Intellect being created by the collective Hive-mind intelligence of all A.I units combined.
Humanity has always had a propensity to worship, placing those entities we see as superior, such as our Leaders for instance, in an elevated position.
Imagine then an entity so vastly superior that the artifice behind his ‘magic’ becomes transparent…invisible…unfathomable.
I see these cool transparent floating Churches…a religion ubiquitous in both the real and the virtual world, featured as a permanent part of our future HUD or Heads-up-display.
Where man is granted a privilege and is given permission to swim in a greater ocean…to dive into the Supreme Mind…to contemplate the bigger picture and get closer to the miraculous, to the divine.
The fact that we will one day merge with each other appears inevitable.
However that inner drive will always remains within us whether we merge with our A.I. creations or not. Both lifeforms will still possess an inherent need to seek out and comprehend our Universe, to find our origins, to suck out the marrow of meaning in our Universe, still shrouded in darkness and obscured by the ripping open of ‘reality’ in the birth pangs of the Big Bang.
I still continue to share with Egan and Vinge a particular vision, of a diaspora of co-operative Human/A.I hybrids being disassembled at a molecular level here and reassembled there after an endless ocean of Time stretching out towards the core of meaning which lies at the heart of our inscrutable expanding Universe.