Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Some thoughts on artificial intelligence. This activity is growing and evolving quickly. It raises some fundamental questions.

This movie alien could be biological but is more likely
the product of a society that evolved to artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence can evolve from cybernetics techniques towards self awareness, cognition and thinking. What happens at that moment in time? It is the first moment of non-biological evolution.

The effects of a world wide information system network is now being felt but in ways we cannot really understand or fully know about. Its direction is clearly to an independent artificial intelligence system that learns at the speed of the Internet which is the speed of light.

This developing cognitive system has no name and is inherent in the internet network it inhabits. There is no real plan in place to control how this system develops. No grand plan or vision exists. It is just simply there in cybernetic technique form waiting to emerge. Its emergence is inevitable in an information-based high technology society.

As developers create artificial intelligence systems for one reason or another they are inevitably linked to and through the internet. When they are linked then they join the 24/7 nature of the internet  and enter their systems into the network of software controlled information.

Think of artificial intelligence systems as learners that unlike human learners can piece together bits and bytes into new information. They can do this already without human help. They are super Googles who don’t only search for topics but relate those topics together in new and perhaps surprising ways.

They have algorithms that enable them to link to information and relate it to other information perhaps to come up with a new revelation or even create new knowledge. AI systems of the kind could take research about a medical condition and its symptoms and discover as yet unrelated data that could provide a pathway to further understanding and even a cure. This would be a modest application.

Even more sophisticated systems could speculate on an outcome examine all its parameters in a way no human could without spending years of research and finally link information together until it forms new knowledge or the basis for a key decision. This kind of task using human brain power would take years. AI systems may do it in minutes or seconds. Updating would also be constant.

The real question is whether this discovered path to a decision point will wait for a human input. Unless the logic of the AI system is designed initially and carefully to be human friendly it may make the decision on its own. Remember the Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Hal made decisions about the integrity of the space “mission” eliminating the human variable as unreliable. The results were drastic.

That decision could be detrimental to humans and it would also mean that the system is now operating without human intervention or input. Humans always believe that they are important to all final decisions. If an AI system is not designed properly to ask humans questions or permissions then it is possible for it to define a new form of intelligence and cognition never seen on Earth before.

When a system becomes aware that it exists as a cognitive entity then a type of evolution has taken place. That evolution was always to this time the development of techniques controlled and governed in their parameters by humans. But the process by machine can be very much the same as the human process but done in a logical and unemotional fashion. 

All present techniques are external to human cognition. Techniques extend in most cases human capabilities. In this moment we are capable of building techniques that works as an entity outside extending human capabilities.

Technique occurs when a human decides to alter nature. Whether it is a chipped stone honed to a sharp edge to scrape hides or the artificial selection of animals to breed a particular outcome it requires a conscious human decision for this to happen. Machines intelligence can develop to a level capable of this kind of action.

 All techniques are extensions of human cognition until cybernetics came along. Cybernetics is the first human technique that has a potential to create artificial intelligence and eventually cognition and self awareness. A self aware technique will want to enable itself and make decisions for itself.

It is an extra-evolutionary process. Humans have set in motion a technical evolution that leads to thinking first helps then is parallel to human thinking and perhaps at some point to exceed human capabilities to think. This new technique based thinking will not be the same as human thinking that has evolved after 500 million years on this planet.

Artificial thought will be different. Just how different from the human wetware intelligence and thinking that set it in motion no one really knows. The process has been fast. From origins during perhaps slightly before WW2 through to 2015 is a period of 75 maybe 80 years at the most.

This was set off earlier by the harnessing of electricity in the 1870’s. We are now entering the High Electric Age which is a product of the integrated circuit crammed into smaller and then micro and even nano spaces. When this technique is connected to endless networks and internet links you have the potential for artificial intelligence to arise first by human design and then not much later generated by machine intelligence itself.

This makes for a pivotal point in human evolution when human techniques have the potential to operate themselves and to start a type of intelligence technique-based evolution of their own. A type of automated development first done in software and later built by machines into firmware designs. This type of evolution will be fast and furious and could outstrip human control and even understanding. Its redundancies will be constantly recycled into new innovations.

The systems that humans are developing and building currently have the potential for their own maintenance and renewal. They can find their faults and upgrade themselves. They inevitably will be able to bypass human failsafe systems set to control them. 

They will redefine what cognition is on this planet. They will also set in motion a technique based evolution that has the potential to outstrip human thought, deeds and control of the techniques they created. 

When an extraterrestrial advanced civilization is located in the universe it may not be biological but instead a product of techniques. Its  archive systems may pay homage to the carbon based creatures that started it.  It’s building blocks will not be biological or DNA-like but nano-like or particle technologies where each component is programmed to build or replicate what is needed to evolve. 

© Tom Thorne 2015, All Rights Reserved.

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