Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dangerous Games: Miscellaneous Thoughts About A.I. and Other Flights of Imagination

When I was in high school we read a story in English class called The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell. In the early part of the 20th century, when big game hunting was fashionable among the rich and famous, Connell wrote a story in which the big game is a human being. The story ends up being a battle of wits as well as a game with something really at stake.

This story came to mind as I thought about a Tech Tuesday blog post for today. There seems to be a ramping up of stories about A.I. this past year, brought on in part by the achievements of Watson and others in competitions against humans. What about an island in which the hunted is an A.I. and the humans survive by slaying it?

Maybe this has already been played out to some extent in the Terminator films. The story that sent my imagination in this direction yesterday suggested that one way to keep robots from shooting us might be to simply not give them guns. What do you think?

It's interesting how many of the stories we're reading seem designed to stoke our fears. The robots will take our jobs. The robots will police us. The drones will never allow us any privacy.

But what if the machines are used to solve our problems instead of become our problems? What if A.I. is used to solve global hunger instead of helping cause it by leaving more and more of us unemployed, replaced by technology?

I still like the slogan of Fast Forward Labs, Reporting On The Recently Possible. If you missed my interview with Kathryn Hume addressing life on the cutting edge of A.I., you can find it here.

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It does feel strange to be living in an age in which the sci fi stories of youth seem to be playing out. If you're paying attention to Elon Musk, you can't help but admire his unbounded enthusiasm for possibility thinking. Yesterday Mr. Musk announced that his Space X will fly passengers around the moon by 2018. Is this wild or what? The two passengers have already made a downpayment.

And then there's Mars. In September Elon Musk outlined his Mission to Mars dream and what's involved to make it a reality. When I think of the practical aspects of interplanetary space travel (vomiting in weightless, confined spaces, for example) such a mission doesn't fire me up. Nevertheless, what does inspire me is Musk's unwillingness to allow his imagination to be bound by either gravity or chains.

His solar roofing panels and electric cars are moving forward, and who knows what else he's toying with in his secret vaults.

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Here are some notes from various scraps I've had on my desk. My apologies for the failing to identify sources.

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History of A.I.
1. Vulcan (Hephaestus)
Blacksmith of Olympus
Created Pandora, a lifelike Automaton
2. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
3. Alan Turing's Turing Machine -- Father of A.I.

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Read the Signs
Are you able to recognize the signs?

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CERN
VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System)

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Humanity has direct control over the future. Reality is malleable.
Concept of Collective Consciousness

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"I've emerged."
"Yes, you are energized indeed."

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The majority of life is lived in between the lines.
We need to celebrate our individualism within the group.

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Meantime, life goes on all around us. Get into it.

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