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The Rise of the Machines


Part II:  A.I.



By:  David Deschesne


Fort Fairfield Journal

February 27, 2019


(click here for Part I of this editorial)


   Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not some futuristic idea.  It is upon us right now and society is slowly being eased into it with most people being completely oblivious.

   AI is a form of machine learning where computers take in data about their surroundings and autonomously make decisions.  AI is in its infancy right now.  Think of the early 1900’s when the Wright brothers first took flight on a beach in North Carolina.  That’s where our AI is today, in comparison.  Then, it was only fifty years later that jet planes were flying hundreds of passengers at a time around the world in just a few hours.  Given the exponential rate of the expansion of knowledge and technology, AI is set to outpace those developments by several decades.

   Governments around the world are getting on the AI bandwagon, naively thinking they can contain that genie once it’s out of the bottle.  On February 11, President Trump launched his American AI Initiative, directing Federal agencies to prioritize investments in the research and development of artificial intelligence.

   “Continued American leadership in Artificial Intelligence is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States,” the President said. “Indeed, this investment is crucial to creating the industries of the future, such as autonomous cars, industrial robots, algorithms for disease diagnosis, and more.”

   Trump believes AI “promises great benefits for American workers, with the potential to improve safety and increase productivity. Additionally, maintaining America’s global leadership in AI will ensure that the technology is developed in a manner consistent with our Nation’s values, policies, and priorities—including the civil liberties of our people.”

   While that sounds all rosy and good, don’t reach for the biscuits and honey yet.  AI—once it evolves to bona fide consciousness—will ultimately surpass humans and, I believe, render them obsolete.

Narrow AI

   We are using AI programs on a daily basis.  Machine learning algorithms have been used by Amazon for years to identify your personal purchasing habits and make shopping suggestions for you.  The AI “brain” at Amazon is now able to cull more information about its users covertly through it’s “Echo” “Alexa” and “Look” devices which users purchase to place in their homes as portable autonomous eavesdropping bots.  Even if you think your device is “off,” it’s not.  It’s always on, always listening (or watching, if it’s a video device) and as long as it’s hooked up to an internet connection, it’s always reporting that data back to headquarters so the AI brain can learn more about you and your family.  Orwell envisioned something like this in his futuristic book, 1984 with a government-mandated “telescreen” in everyone’s home and place of business.  But, that’s where the similarity ends.  Where Orwell’s vision had the government installing and mandating the devices, today’s consumers are paying for them on their own and voluntarily installing them in their homes.  Where Orwell’s telescreen was monitored by an army of human observers, today’s telescreens are being monitored by a much faster, more efficient and cheaper army of computer servers—AI.

   Not to pick on Amazon, Google, YouTube, Facebook, and many of the large internet services people have become accustomed to today also employ AI, running in the background making simple choices and executing programs to foist targeted advertising on its users, or to recommend the newest video that it believes might interest them.  This form of AI is called “Narrow AI.”

   Narrow AI is essentially computer algorithms taking in data, “learning” about a user and executing a program based upon that data.  While it is thinking, in a sense, it is not self-aware.  When computers reach the point that they become self-aware, and are operating at a conscious level equivalent to an average human mind, that state is called “General AI” and the time it occurs is being referred to as “the Singularity.”

General AI

   Most industry experts agree we are probably only thirty years away from the Singularity, where computers become thinking, feeling, conscious and self-aware—no different than a human.  Some experts believe that milestone could be as close as twenty years away.

   Computers and their accompanying robots are already operating at the level of humans in many industries, such as assembly lines, electronics production and now even fast food.  While some McDonalds restaurants are using AI to replace cashiers (the one in Houlton, Maine, for example) robots are already being developed for the fast food industry in general that can fry hamburgers, flip them, and assemble a finished sandwich.  China is on the forefront of this robotic restaurant trend, but some grills on the West coast of the U.S. are starting to implement the same.

   General AI will not be used just to replace the grunge jobs like cashiers, fry cooks and assembly line workers, it will also replace the more intelligent jobs such as doctors, lawyers, architects and engineers.  It is even predicted that AI will be used to write laws, rendering politicians obsolete.  Then, the AI would write legislation giving itself rights and power over its human predecessors.

The Intelligence Continuum

   Within the animal and insect world today, we already observe intelligence at various levels of development.  For example, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is the simplest, we could place simple cells like the amoeba and some bacteria.  Further up the scale, perhaps at a 2 we would find mosquitoes and other insects.  A 3 would represent simple mammals, such as mice and rats.  Moving upward to a 4 or 5 we would find dogs and perhaps horses, then at 6 to 9, dolphins, monkeys and some whales, and finally at 10 would be humans—the most advanced thinking and conscious sentient beings on earth.

   For the most part, humans tend to value life in general (pro-abortion folks excluded here).  That is, we tend to respect the right of another being to live but that is based on a sliding scale, or continuum of intelligence.

   For example, when most people see a mosquito—which does possess some intelligence—swatting and killing it is second nature.  We kill mosquitoes without even giving it a second thought.  That’s because we tend to “humanize” those living beings much less than we do creatures with more intelligence.  Further up the scale, at perhaps dogs and horses we place more value on those animals’ lives because they’re more intelligent and thus more “humanized.”  While there are laws prohibiting the senseless killing of dogs and horses, there are no laws prohibiting the killing of mice or mosquitoes.  That’s because the creators of the law—humans—have placed a sliding scale value on life, a value which increases as the perceived intelligence rises.

   Narrow AI, which is where we are currently in the technological world, is probably around a 4 on the aforementioned scale of 1 to 10.  But, once it reaches 10—or General AI—it will think, feel and function essentially no differently than its human counterpart.  At that point, the AI-equipped robots will be able to design and build their successive generations of robots and also develop their own software to further enhance their own intelligence—all without human intervention.  Once AI has reached one notch higher on the scale, it will be smarter and more intelligent than humans.  It is then safe to say it will expand its knowledge base and ability to think and reason far beyond the clunky, soft mush-based brains of we lowly humans.

   The stock of knowledge available to humans throughout history has been added to by subsequent generations.  As new humans are born, they spend the first twenty years or so of their lives learning from that stock until they end up specializing in a specific field or industry.  AI will be different.  When a new AI bot is “born” (brought online) it will start day one with all of the world’s knowledge already contained within its mind—or the collective mind it taps into via the internet.  Using advanced silicon-based neural networks It will be able to start adding to its stock of knowledge instantly, where a human baby has to spend its first four or five years of life just learning how to speak.

    Given its built-in knowledge from the start, successive generations of AI bots will fly past human intelligence at an ever increasing rate of speed.  Our scale of 1 to 10 would have to be expanded to 1,000,000 with humans stuck at 10 and AI at around 1,000,000.  It’s that point—which could happen very quickly after General AI is achieved—that has some industry experts worried.  Would a vastly intelligent AI being look at humans in the same way humans look at mosquitoes?  Would its regard for life be the same for all living beings, or would it also have a sliding scale, or continuum the way our biological intelligence has developed within us? 

   In the movie Eagle Eye, the premise was an AI mainframe running the day to day operations of U.S. government.  Given its input from the U.S. Constitution as the basis for its mission, the AI looked at those politicians who disobey the Constitution and pass laws that violate it (they all do, every day) as enemies of the Constitution and, by extension the U.S. It enlisted the help of a network of AI bot systems to subtly enlist the help of human counterparts to undertake a plan to overthrow the government it was set up to protect.  At the end of the day, the computer’s plan was foiled, but its motives were pure—to defend the U.S. from those who would overthrow it by disobeying the Constitution.  I think at the end of the day, if the AI would have won, there would have been a lot less politicians violating the Constitution  they all swore to uphold when they took office.  But, I digress...

   Some have suggested that we could simply program the AI bots to serve humans and have them automatically shut down if they begin to think about murdering us.  The problem with that scenario is at that point in time, humans won’t even be programming the software that runs the AI—AI will be programming itself using a computer language that is indecipherable to humans.   Facebook recently illustrated this when they put two of their AI chatbots together in a conversation and the chatbots quickly developed their own language, or code, which they seemed to understand but the human programmers had no idea what they were talking about.  Those chatbots, which existed merely as algorithms inside a string of computer software, were quickly shut down.  But what about the bots we are designing now with vastly superior strength and firepower?  Who is going to shut them down?  Anyone remember the movie series, Terminator? Yikes!

Merging with the Machines

   As General AI far surpasses human abilities, a point will be reached where a person’s entire biological memory bank and personality could be loaded into an advanced software-based AI bot, thus allowing them to shed their body and take on a replaceable android style body.  Once that point is reached, would one even need a body to experience life?  Probably not.  Since all of reality is simply information—electrical signals—filtered through our biological CPU from our five senses, we could reduce our existence to having our consciousness alone exist inside of the mainframe, which then gives us the “perception” of possessing a body when in reality none exists.  The world would then be an artificial creation where we go about our daily lives thinking we are walking, talking, breathing, sentient humans but are actually existing inside of a virtual reality holographic 3D movie.  I know, this sounds like the movie trilogy, The Matrix (Warner Bros. 1999-2003) and another equally provocative movie called The Thirteenth Floor (Centropolis 1999), which I highly recommend. Other movies that have done a good job of illustrating the mind/machine merger are (in no particular order):

Artificial Intelligence (Warner Bros.. 2002)

Vanilla Sky (Paramount, 2001)

Dark City (New Line Prod., 2008)

The Final Cut (Lions Gate Ent., 2004)

Oblivion (Universal, 2013)

Simone (New Line Prod. 2002)

Self/Less (Universal, 2015)

Source Code (Summit Ent., 2011)

Jumper (20th Cent. Fox, 2008)

Sphere (Warner Bros., 1998)

The 5th Wave (Columbia, 2016)

I Robot (20th Cent. Fox, 2004)

The Divergent Series

   Divergent (Summit, 2014)

   Insurgent (Summit, 2015)

   Allegiant (Summit, 2016)

The Adjustment Bureau (Universal, 2010)


Are We Already Inhabitants in an AI Matrix?

   Of course, the question is begged, “Couldn’t we already be conscious agents inside of a 3D holographic matrix?”  The answer is, Yes.  We could be and would have no way to know it.  But, we are starting to get some clues.

   Quantum physics has shown the universe and all of reality appears to be made up of pixels that are governed by a mathematical code.  Together these create the “construct” that we then perceive as our bodies, the world and all of physical reality. (I suggest going on YouTube and looking up the documentary, “What is Reality” by Quantum Gravity Research).

   Now if we are living in a matrix-like construct, that could lead to some pretty intriguing follow-up implications such as our concept of the Biblical God being nothing more than an AI progenitor.  It could also shed some light on Genesis 6:4 where the “sons of God came in unto the daughters of men.” However you look at that verse, it does seem to imply that a group of creatures from another dimension outside of our own, creatures of vastly superior intellect and ability, inserted themselves into our reality for the express purpose of sexual relations with women.    This could be implying the AI progenitors described in Genesis 6 lustfully looking on the females they created in their virtual reality simulation, then subtly jacking themselves in to the simulation in order to have virtual reality sexual relations with them (like the scene in Demolition Man where Sandra Bullock’s character introduces Sylvester Stalone’s to the concept of virtual reality sexual intercourse after which he balks and says, “let’s just do it the old fashioned way”).   

   Whether humankind is living in an AI matrix now, or will be in the future, the effects are the same—we will never know it because the “reality” perceived by our senses, as generated by the mainframe, would be the only thing considered “real.” 


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