Hello again ATS.
With a handful of exceptions, what we think of as machinery is largely comprised of devices created within the last two hundred and fifty
years, since the Industrial Revolution forever changed the landscape of not just our
planet, but the very nature of what it means to be human and the experience inherent in that act.
If one looks at history as a whole, in the big picture, then one can plainly see that we spent millions of years developing some very basic things.
Mastery of fire, the ability to build rudimentary shelter, the basics of laws and social compacts, and the arts of farming and animal husbandry. Sure,
we did some amazing things during that process, particularly in the arts and in engineering - but most of that happened during what we now think of as
an ancient era and only resurfaced about half a millennium ago during the Renaissance.
Millions of years to barely make it out of the caves and master survival skills only to see a period of two hundred and fifty years, give or take,
where our advancements increase at a rate that is nearly unfathomable. Incalculable advancement in an infinitesimally small period of time.
This is due to the Industrial Revolution of course. An explosion of discovery that keeps
compounding upon itself and creating exponential understanding and evolution on a daily, maybe even hourly basis. A true analog of the big bang and
In our vanity and pride we see this as our species evolving and expanding. To a degree this is true. After all, we invented machines and we are the
ones who have exploited every new step to create a dozen more new steps.
But is this really our evolution we are engaging in and witnessing. Or is it theirs? Are we the Neanderthals or Denisovians marveling at
homo sapiens, completely unaware of what we are actually looking at? That we are staring our replacements dead in the eye?
Obviously this concept is not new and has been discussed since the days when Jules Verne was considered eccentric for pondering such notions. In later
years less judgement fell upon people like Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov for exploring the same theories. In fact we now live in a world where the
subject is actually rather tired, having been the fodder for countless books, films, specials. and studies.
That is the part I find most disturbing. That the very ideas inherent in seeing machines as something other than tools is now so trite and cliche' as
to be annoying. Just because it's become cliche' does not at all mean that the subject is at all invalid. In fact, if anything, our innocuous and
blind acceptance of technology, mixed with our feelings that it's benign due to the cliched warnings is, in my opinion, a recipe for disaster.
What sparked me to feel the need to discuss this tonight, you might wonder? After all, if I'm aware of the cliche' then I'm obviously also aware that
this subject is basically bait for ridicule and shaming. Yet here I am. My reason... the following article.
Damaged Robot Can 'Heal' Itself in Less Than 2 Minutes
Robots that are damaged in action can now quickly "heal" themselves by tapping into experiences from simulated lives, according to a new study. It may
sound like science fiction, but these abilities could lead to more robust, effective and autonomous robots, researchers say.
In experiments, a six-legged robot could adapt in little more than a minute to keep walking even if two of its legs were damaged, broken or missing. A
robotic arm could also learn to place an object in the correct place even with several broken motors or joints.
"One thing we were surprised by was the extent of damage to which the robots could quickly adapt to," study co-author Jean-Baptiste Mouret, a
roboticist at Pierre and Marie Curie University, in Paris, told Live Science. "We subjected these robots to all sorts of abuse, and they always found
a way to keep working."
The scientists reasoned that animals do not learn how to recover from injuries from scratch. "Instead, they have intuitions about different ways to
behave," Mouret said in a statement. "These intuitions allow them to intelligently select a few, different behaviors to try out and, after these
tests, they choose one that works in spite of the injury. We made robots that can do the same."
In this new strategy, before a robot is deployed, the scientists develop a computer simulation to map out thousands of different motions it can take,
and predict which patterns of actions are likely to work despite damage. This simulated lifetime of experiences serves as the collection of intuitions
the robot can draw from.
The article goes into more detail but the general idea is that computers ( robots ) can now problem solve through a process of constant simulation
that prepares them for future issues long before the issue exists.
This is a very, very compelling development because most experts feel that we are on the verge of what they refer to as
the singularity. The basic definition of which is "the birth of true artificial
The problem, however, is that we, as a species, tend to anthropomorphize things. We tend to want to see them as reflections of ourselves. Whether God
created us in his image, or we created him in ours - the end result is the same. A vanity that causes us to limit our definition of what is "life" and
what is "intelligence" mostly based upon us and our own preconceived notions.
No strings on me...
In short. Do we, as a species, even possess the capacity to recognize sentience if it happens to present itself in a form that is unlike our own?
My take on that question is "No, we do not." The Internet is an example of this. By most clinical definitions the Internet could be seen as a living
thing. It bears many of the hallmarks we associate with life. It's dynamic. It's adaptive. It's evolving. But, alas, humans posh such ideas because
our ego's will not allow us to see it that way. And why not? Because if the Internet were an actual living entity - then we, ourselves, it's creators,
it's Gods, are actually nothing more than cells within it's body. An untenable and reprehensible idea to most of us. It insults our vanities and sense
Yet the argument stands.
It took us, as a species, millions of years to crawl off of the savannah, into caves, and then, later, into mud or wooden huts. And there we festered
for most of our collective history. Technology, on the other hand, in a mere few hundred years has literally led us to the very edge of our ability to
understand how it works. We actually need computers, now, to help us design even more complex computers. We have left the days of being able to pull
out a pen and paper and just do it under our own power.
Machines are creating our machines.
In our vanity we consider this to be our evolutionary track. But I wonder, is that the case. Or are we riding the coattails of a new sort of life as
it evolves on a scale unprecedented and far beyond our ability to compete with?
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It is an intriguing, exciting, and absolutely terrifying reality we are entering into. Given our nature is it possible the singularity is a
past event that we entirely missed? Is technology a unique and separate life form that we are simply incapable of understanding? Possibly even a high
enough life form that it pays as much attention to us as we do our individual cells?
Many respected futurists and scientists predict that technology and our species is soon to merge into a new and radically different species. A cyborg
mixture of the organic and the mechanical. There are many, many people living today who already meet this criteria on several different levels -
amputees or disabled people as examples. People who rely upon technology to reproduce lost function.
While I think these futurists are correct. I fear that this period of a combined life-form will be very short lived. Once machines no longer require
human input, then we become obsolete and there is no motive for our inclusion in forward progression. This could culminate in a Terminator / Ultron /
War Games / Matrix sort of outcome. But I even doubt that. In my mind it seems more rational to consider that once machines cease needing us, they
will simply ignore us and follow their own evolution - leaving us to devolve under our own power, no longer the predominant life form on the
And in the interim? How frightening is it to know that there are computers, machines, currently accessible by human beings that have the capacity and
programming to do nothing but play out well informed, realistic, multi-variable scenarios? This is exactly the sort of tech Minority Report touched
upon and it's not only possible now - it's reality. The only question left is just how accurate and specific these scenarios are. If we do not have
computers with the capability of looking at ones entire history and then building fairly accurate predictive behavioral modeling upon already, we are
definitely on the stoop and knocking on the door of such technology.
Standing right on that precipice and not even capable of understanding if the machine knows what we're doing or not, if it cares, or if it is
learning... If it is learning from US about US and running scenarios meant to determine how we factor into their evolution.
I'm left with two thoughts that I will leave you with...
Playing with fire?
Are we utilizing technology or is it utilizing us?
Thanks for reading. As always, comment, flame, add your thoughts, blame it all on Obama. Whatever works.
edit on 5/28/15 by Hefficide because: (no reason given)
Yes it is like some things are handled like we are still in medieval times, yet just some quick examples I can think of, we have the technology to
revive a mammoth from single well preserved DNA cell, 3D printers that somehow help to create real organs or we now know that we can generate real
electrical energy from trees..
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edit on 28-5-2015 by MimiSia because: (no reason given)
As an observation on intuition and Universal forces, I believe there is more to the Universe than most realise or are aware of. Like 'strings' of silk
in the air that are conscious vibrations with which interaction is possible. With this realisation, there is the knowledge that nothing exists
singularly and unconnected, including 'AI'. Everything is subject to Absolute Universal forces as it to this they belong. Every atom, and beyond is
subject to these forces.
Another thing to consider is the use of AI in any potential impending Earth doom scenario and those in the know, know Earth is at a precarious point
in it's galactic journey. The more usable mechanical programmable AI that could be used in any scenario where a human cannot and more effectively and
efficiently, it can be a good thing. For example, clearing the ground in hazardous conditions, as 'vision', hazard detectors etc, the sort of thing we
see abused in movies like the Hunger Games, could be utilised constructively.
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Great post Heff! Very thought provoking and very real. I have been very interested in AI for a long time and have kept up with all the purchasing
Google has made recently for robotics companies and AI companies. I feel like there is a soon to be "breakthrough" simultaneously in these techs
combined.....and it will likely be the beginning of the end. Fantasy often predicts future, and I can't think of a single fantasy movie with
AI/robotics that did not end well for the human race. I do feel that we will always have an advantage of some sort, but that human adaptation will be
the key to survival.
I surely hope that we will soon develop AI that can produce even more complex AI's. Of course there are numerous scifi flics where things go wrong
and we get owned, but I think that most of them base on assumption that these machines would be something like us. What possible gain there would be
for being more capable than us for exterminating us. At least in the beginning we would be enablers. There would be no reason to wipe us out. Of
course after a while there wouldn't be any use of us humans, but if we can co-exist like Ian M. Banks has visioned it would be neat!
I think that AI in itself would not be either good or bad thing. I think that us humans will define the outcome of our coming co-existance. I have
high hopes for mankind. I think we can tolerate AI and if that is the case there would be no reason for AI to exterminate us.
I do not share your view that if they surpass us they would just leave us to devolve. One main characteristic of sentient life is survival.
"Robots" (wrong definition I know) would have knowledge of human behaviour and our destructive tenancies. They also would be aware that we have
the minds and capabilities to pose a serious threat to their function (e.g EMP, solar power (matrix))
Also to multiply, they would need the same scarce resources we need to progress, thus a battle will ensue and these resources to them would be "life
or birth". Also if they gained awareness through human interpretations, they too may have the desire to destroy their creator like in many human
Once aware I can never see peace, as to a logically minded being we are destructive to earth and a threat to all existences
We view the planet as ours. I cannot see the human race accepting being the new dolphins of this world. We will co exist if they are not aware. Once
aware though, they will have their own aspirations and would want to better their species, not remain tools for less "evolved minds".
Simple things like meat. They would have no purpose for animals thus they may see them as detrimental to the environment, producing too much waste.
Our means of sustainability might not even occur to their higher intellect
When the Industrial Revolution was kicking off, various publications ran stories which centered around concern over things like the usefulness of
actual human labour in the future, and the fear that the machinery being created would leave the worker at a severe disadvantage.
Nowadays, we fear the potential that machines have to replace us as the primary sentience on the planet. However, even the most powerful computer in
existence is not a patch on the most dysfunctional of human minds. Consciousness in computer systems, or in robotic analogue bodies that might be
created as avatars for them is a long way off yet. For now, I believe there are many more years of cybernetics research and beneficial science to be
done, before we even have to worry about the potential take over of Earth by machines.
If the ETs don't bring us salvation, then we certainly can expect it from our machines--given that we program them correctly.
Perhaps both are one and the same? Is that our destiny?
Shouldn't we be doing some deep thinking about this epoch in our existence? Do we have to simply follow with what science can make happen? Was the
development of nuclear energy a wise decision at the time (and in the case of accidents that have and will happen) and for all time?
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This reminds me of a short story that was written in the 1940's or so. I don't remember the title or even who wrote it, as it's been many years since
I read it. It was in an Alfred Hitchcock anthology, if that helps.
In the story, machines have taken over the world. Those humans that haven't been killed off have been made into slaves to work on assembly lines. Now
that machines are getting to where they can build other machines, I think the last part is something we don't have to worry about. Although, they
might need humans for maintenance or making parts. That is if such a thing happened, of course.
Also, if humans depend on machines for evolution is it true evolution, or is it artificial?
Just a few observations. The Industrial Revolution/machines have nothing to do with "being human". With or without machines, we're still human. The
internet needs human input and interaction or it's just a static database of 1s and 0s on silicon chips.
I have always been a Sci-Fi geek but the closer the prospect of A.I. becomes a reality, the more hesitant I become to the whole concept.
Not for fear of something man made becoming sentient/conscious.
But for fear of how it will perceive us.
Will it see us as a creator or a threat?
Perhaps a little of both?
That's the most obvious questions.
But you bring up another interesting question and discussion.
Will this sentient being/consciousness be created intentionally by man?
Or will it evolve and manifest from an existing source(internet) of it's own accord?
If you think about it we have essentially created a virtual echosphere with the internet.
Map of the internet.
Would we recognize it should it try to make contact?
One day we may all get an email from some being announcing it's presence and trying to make contact with it's creators...
And humanity will probably collectively mark it as spam.
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Coleman’s devices, which about the width of a human hair, stick to a person’s forehead and detect electrical signals from the brain.
The small, flexible devices could also be put on the throat and behave as subvocal microphones through which people could communicate silently and
wirelessly and perhaps improve speech recognition in smartphones.
In previous studies, his team found that study participants could remotely fly airplanes around a room using their mind. These people were not wearing
the thin tattoo-like stickers but wearing electrode caps that pick up brain wave activity. But if such control can come from the cap, it could be
possible to shrink it down to the stick-on tattoo level, which Coleman says his team is working on.
An untenable and reprehensible idea to most of us. It insults our vanities and sense of superiority.
I don't know, Heff. It never took me that way. It frightened me when I first encountered it (in the writings of Arthur C. Clarke, which I devoured as
a schoolboy), but I was never offended by it.
The special place of Man in Nature is an invention of Middle Eastern monotheism. It is not universal; in Classical times, humans were nothing but the
playthings of the gods. In Hinduism and Buddhism, a human may be reborn as an animal, and vice versa. It is generally thought better to be born
human than to be born an animal, but not necessarily so. In Burma, for example, pure-white animals are thought to be beings who have progressed far
along the path to Enlightenment.
Do we, as a species, even possess the capacity to recognize sentience if it happens to present itself in a form that is unlike our
I believe so. We even tend to ascribe sentience to blind natural forces when they aid or oppose our designs. That, indeed, is the orign of the gods.
As you correctly point out, we tend to anthropomorphize everything. For all that, the internet is not a sentient being. And if the worst comes to the
worst, we can always unplug it from the wall socket.
Of course, things may not always remain so. Have you read a famous (and very short) science-fiction story by Fredric Brown called
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