Saturday, March 19, 2011

Singularity

When you look at the singularity movement, written about in last months Time Magazine, there are so many questions that come to mind. There are moral implications that have to be explored, social issues and a host of other questions. Some religious people will go so far as to say that it must mean God is coming soon, because he would certainly never grant man eternal life.

For those that don't know what the singularity movement is, I suggest you pick up the article and check it out. In short, it had a prediction by the man Bill Gates says is the foremost authority on the future of transistors and computers - the very same kid who invented the first computer that created its own music. His prediction was that humans would create real AI within 40 years, and that we might be able to download our brains into androids. Could it be true?

This was something only thought about in scifi novels and movies, right? Time Magazine said we better start thinking a little differently. There are universities devoted to bringing us just this kind of future.

What happens when our brains can be mapped? Mice are already being studied for dreams, their brains are being mapped out and reconstructed with computers. We are getting close to being able to recreate an animals brain - without any tissue. What does this all mean?

We talk about how imperfect humans are all the time. What happens when our brains can be sifted through like an index? Who controls what? Will thoughts be outlawed? Who decides who can have this? Does this solve our problems with space exploration? Is race forgotten? Will things be like Singularity, the movie? Or will humans surpass our prejudices and move onto thought crimes and brain mapping?

Do we want to live forever, and could we even deal with it, if we did?

Our brains are being mapped out as we speak. Soon, scientists hope to be able to decode the way we think and, perhaps, what we think. What does that mean to you? What will that change in the world?

This can't be true, I thought so, at first. But in a world where companies patent life, mess with the DNA of animals and plants, then pass it on to us without long-term testing, what won't science do?


12 comments:

Indigo said...

If we take a look at earlier sci-fi shows compared to what we have accomplished today. I would say yes, it's possible. There is a fictional series on SyFy that actually explores this type of technology - Caprica.

Technology is moving at a rate that's becoming difficult to keep up with. The question isn't what's possible, it's what are we willing to sacrifice of our humanity to make it so? Take for example the internet and cell phones - look how much face to face time we no longer give others we come across in our lives.

Yes, it has it's advantages. No-one knows this more than I do. Without those things communication in my deaf world would be near impossible. In the long end, I truly hope we don't learn to omit the better parts of what makes us human. (Hugs)Indigo

JEFritz said...

I wonder what would happen if it was possible to genetically engineer immortality? It would give a whole new slant on the vampire trend, I'm sure.

Would an immortal be someone carefully working on the betterment of humanity? What would happen if they were working on the opposite? We might end up with an unkillable tyrant.

sammy said...

Wowzers, so humans and technology could become irretrievably connected, biology will no longer be the thing that defines us (maybe us is the wrong word here).

So fun and interesting to ponder the possibilities of what we might become, all under our own steam.

Draven Ames said...

The reality is that they have already created part of a mouses brain with a computer. Once they finish, they will be that close to making a human brain. We are talking about creating in our own image here. Once humans can download their thoughts, the question of what a soul is arises. You have more questions, too.

If you can download yourself like a program, like singularity the movie or in the matrix, what stops people from being able to 'read' your programming? What stops them from changing it altogether?

The Time Magazine article went so far as to say computers may even decide that man is expendable. They said something about how it was a horrible idea to introduce a new, smarter 'thing' into the ecosystem.

If we no longer need air, we could also, possibly, go into space without needing any type of suit. We could turn ourselves off until we arrived at whatever planet we were going to.

And if we can create 3d worlds in video games, create our own conscious inside of a computer, is it really so far fetched to believe you could be in a computer simulation right now?

Interesting subjects.

benbradley said...

I saw where you asked for more comments from a retweet by Jason Tudor (so blame him!). I read a lot of links and blogposts from tweets but don't often comment.

I admit I haven't even read all of the Time article, but that's surely the most widely read article the technological singularity idea so far. I've been following it (Transhumanism and such) for about ten years, since before Kurzweil became the big focus of it (which really happened with his 2005 book "The Singularity Is Near," bigger and more popular than his previous books on the same topic).

I'm writing a speech on the topic titled "The Future of Science and Technology" which I'm subtitling "The Future of Humanity." I'll post it when I'm done. I've been meaning to blog about these ideas for a while now anyway (I haven't written that many blogposts).

To answer one of your most pertinent questions, yes, I WANT to live forever. Perhaps more accurately, I want more control over how long I live, and how or even if I die. The longer I can live with a healthy mind and body, the more I can do, whether for myself or others. I first adopted this attitude about 15 years ago while reading the first editon of "The 120 Year Diet" by Dr. Roy Walford. The diet goes by the acronym CRON for Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition - eating fewer calories (basically less food) while carefully choosing your food for its nutritional components rather than just eating what you want. There's more about it here:
http://crsociety.org
I've yet to get close to sticking to a CR diet, but if nothing else I've learned a lot about nutrition and at least my diet isn't nearly as bad as it once was (it was real bad).

Here are two sites I've checked on regularly for the past few years to keep up with the latest tech developments in this area:
http://singularityhub.com
http://robots.net

(Check out the videos of that "Geminid" guy, mentioned lately on both those sites, tell me he doesn't act freaky!)

Those sites are how I found out about this movie "Transcendent Man" (and THREE others concerning the Singularity, which apparently haven't yet been released, including one by Kurzweil himself titled after his iconic book) which is finally in limited release/download, and on DVD next month (watch the 2-minute trailer):
http://transcendentman.com/

I've read "The Singularity Is Near" and it's certainly mind-blowing. Reading the reviews of both the movie and the book as well as more recent writings by Kurzweil, he comes across as a bit arrogant in sticking to his predictions, but it looks to me he's right a heck of a lot more than he's wrong.
Check out the Transcendent Man Twitter feed for links to recent interviews with Ray Kurzweil and producer Barry Ptolomy:
http://twitter.com/#!/TranscendentMan
In at least one of them Kurzweil mentions the Watson computer wining Jeopardy as an example of what's to come, and I recommend the Nova episode "Smartest machine on Earth" broadcast just before the week Watson won:
http://video.pbs.org/video/1786674622/

Check out this review of "Transcendent Man" in Scientific American - the end spoils the ending of the movie (as does at least one other review), but people don't see this kind of movie just for the ending anyway:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-immortal-ambitions-of-ray-kurzweil

More later. If I don't make a blogpost (http://ben-bradley.blogspot.com) within a month or so, poke me!

Draven Ames said...

I've wanted to see the Transcendent Man. I checked Netflix for it. I'll check out that review. That diet book sounds awesome, my wife will have to get that for me. The Watson victory was really cool to watch. Did you see the guy write, 'I accept you as my robotic overlord' or something like that? Pretty crazy.

The world is changing so swiftly, it is almost scary. I'll have a lot more free time tomorrow. Thanks for all the links. I promise to check them. This is my kind of material.

Really, thank you.

Austin James said...

To live forever... that just sounds depressing to me (of course, my brain doesn't think much past the age of being 30).

Summer Ross said...

I'll be the first to admit I am terrified of dying- but the thought of a mind going on forever- that is scary as well. Do i think at some point life will try this avenue- sure- I do not think I will see it in my time- but people are enticed by the idea of immortality.

benbradley said...

As I threatened in my earlier comment, I DID make a blog post. I gave a speech on this Sunday (that I wrote mostly on Saturday), and I put the speech on my blog today, check it out and tell me what you think:
http://ben-bradley.blogspot.com/2011/04/future-of-science-and-technology-or.html

benbradley said...

Draven, t appears you follow my tweets at @ben__bradley so you may have seen my retweet that Transcendent Man is now on Netflix. I watched about the first half a few nights ago, and it seemed like I had seen it before. I presume it's because of all the reading I've done by and about Kurzweil, and all the video interviews, especially that three-hour BookTV one.

Draven Ames said...

Hey there Ben, I didn't see that. I've been away from Twitter this weekend. I will check that out. I've been wanting to see this for a while, even telling a few friends about it. Thank you for the heads up, Ben.

Rob Graham said...

It is true, that medicines are going to market quicker, with less testing these days, scientists are doing what ever research they can about the human mind, dna, cloning, and brain stem research. Some for the betterment of mankind?

Scientist get so wrapped up finding out what all they can do, they forget to consider if they should do.