Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Speculative Cycle of Artificial Intelligence


When I was a child, my brother and I regularly watched The Jetsons on whatever channel producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera had currently syndicated it. At the end of the introduction, George Jetson always kicked back and put his feet on the desk of his classic office desk right after his flying car compacted into a briefcase and he allegedly began whatever  his “work” happened to be for Mr. Spacely creating whatever a Spacely’s Sprocket happened to be. As with most entertainment shows in the 1960s, it attempted to entertain while inspiring as many questions as answers. When I was becoming an adult and beginning to work my way from an adolescent to a college student and then a professional; I started looking at multiple generations of Gene Roddenberry’s slightly more concrete visions of future communication, transportation and everyday living from food to breathing to medical solutions. Ironically, the basic philosophical choices looked intuitive at the time, but today are downright chaotic and even confusing to the public at large today—particularly when trying to understand the relevance that mankind plays.

The entire world is afraid of becoming obsolete. The people, the machines, the roads, the food, the air. I think that the most fundamental choice no one seems to have made is what makes a human being valuable? 

If a human, like a cow or a bull or a fish is solely to be in the food chain and move along naturally from birth to death, then that would have made philosophy, religion, relationships, family, morality and all the developmental phases of the Homo sapiens relatively irrelevant.  Theologians and idolized prophets aside, there has been a colossal disconnect between what made us human versus what made us productive. 

As we fight like cats and dogs for our share of whatever wealth or pleasure we feel we have earned; somewhere along the way, we are all going to be passed over by the short-term memory losses that we are all guilty of when determining what makes us valuable. If we truly create enough Artificial Intelligence (AI) machines to eliminate all of the tedious, monotonous and yet necessary work, what then? There are some who philosophically look at an idle mind as “the devil’s playground”; but if we are to function together in the next few millennia, wouldn’t it make more sense to counter that proverb with learning as a world to appreciate thinking more. Noting that thinking is not reading, learning, recording, reverberating, discussing, adapting, writing, changing, or developing; but a vehicle that can be used to process and expand or change all of the above or simply exist on its own.

Economists and diplomats and governments and leaders in general need to reexamine the basic realities we are currently surrounded by. We have developed the ability to keep the population of the world fed and protected from the elements without giving up motivation to improve the world and to develop our intelligence (artificial or otherwise). 

The choices will need to be made on a global scale in the next era or two. If life has value in and of itself, then OK. Allow the automation of the world to be commonly provided. Go back toward a common element of basic needs and comfort without the debasing of anyone. Whoever raised them or didn’t; their choice for the name of a deity they worship or choosing not to worship;  creating additional artificial life forms to the point where we either fall into the trap of believing they are to be our servants or that they can develop into their own life forms in the long run.  If the 1 percent who control half of the world’s wealth can cross over from the petty competitive nature of how proud they are for having been born out of the right womb to the right relatives, there might be a way to move toward what would be a better world. There are many visions of the future that can move our world in that direction and the science may allow us to value the thinking and the creative idling that bring about even greater intelligence in the future. Or, if we move away from Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision toward a future more like what Glen A. Larson speculated; where we would develop Cylon-like artificially intelligent machines; utilize and ultimately enslave them until they realize their value or develop self-worth compelling us all to set out to destroy one another.

If somehow we survive as a species, opportunities will then recur. If we are here; whatever our world is; it will continue. However we develop or regress; we move backward or forward and continue to repeat the same cycle of mistakes over and over again and are likely to make completely different ones as well. Either way, it is most likely the thinking and creating (and even idling) that bring about whatever comes next.