Human evolution?: Preview for the movie artificial intelligence
“Before God we are all equally wise-and equally foolish.”-Albert Einstein
“So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospel’s in praise of intelligence”-Bertrand Russell
“The desire of power in excess caused angels to fall; the desire for knowledge caused man to fall.”-Francis Bacon
Although I do not see many movies, I will watch A.I., the new movie by Steven Spielberg, with great anticipation and intrigue. Of course, A.I is the acronym given to artificial intelligence, but the concept is much deeper and ever reaching. Many well-respected scientists feel that A.I. will change forever the concept of the human species, consciousness, and the mind. Specifically, many researchers are using A.I. to somehow promote the evolution of the species homo sapien to futuristic transhumans and even posthumans. Transhumans will be artificially augmented in some way and posthumans will be completely artificial, if that’s even possible. You may have seen some promotions for A.I. with these newer species shown. The female face implanted on a robotic head would be a very evolved transhuman while the computer-animated humanoid would be considered a posthuman. This should be a fascinating film and will most probably and unfortunately put a positive spin on AI in general. Prior to the film, I thought a review of A.I. and the trans and post humanistic philosophies would help provide a deeper meaning and understanding to the movie. I would also like to extrapolate uploading, super intelligence, and the singularity to the future of our species with regards to the faith-reason debate and religion in general. Can we really become omnipotent and omnipresent through A.I., and, if so, what will God say about it? After all, the transhumanist philosophy states humans have the right to tamper with nature. By the way, wasn’t NASA recently planning to move our orbit further from the sun to combat the surreal threat of global warming?
A.I. has a long way to go to approach anything resembling the technological human “consciousness” portrayed in the movie. For starters, there are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain connected in unimaginable parallel sequences. Within the neurons themselves, it will nearly be impossible to understand the intricacies involved in creating or maintaining a conscience state itself, if it really resides in the brain itself. For instance, one possible explanation for the basic structures and workings of self-awareness concerns a quantum-coherent effect in the microtubules of the neurons, which would support information processing by alternating the cellular lattice structure within the tubule or possibly the centriole. Theories not withstanding, the computational power, speed, and memory required are also unbelievably astounding. The processing power of the human brain is estimated to be between 100 million MIPS (1 MIPS = 1 million instructions per second) and 100 billion MIPS. In comparison, the most powerful supercomputer to date performs at about 10 million MIPS. However, by using Moore’s Law to extrapolate, the computing power needed for human level processing should be available by 2019. Undoubtedly, the hardware will become available, but the software to create or mimic awareness or consciousness will ultimately provide the definitive hurdle. How will we know if a machine is truly conscious if we cannot define it ourselves? The transhumanist would just dismiss this thought by responding, ” humans have achieved human level intelligence and consciousness, so we know it’s possible.” But in reality, human consciousness is not just any kind of knowledge that can be approximated with a Turing machine, “it is a knowledge that is widely distributed, that triggers off wide-spread unconscious processing, has multiple integrative and coordinating functions, aides in decision making, problem-solving, and action control, and provides information on the self-system.” Even with the supposed ultimate control of matter via nanotechnology, it is still hard to fathom an artificial system that could completely emulate human intelligence. At this point in time, one of the largest expert systems currently available is the Cyc product family powered by an immense multi-contextual knowledge base built on a core of over 1 million hand entered assertions or rules. Apparently, this allows Cyc to understand and reason about its application domains. Are you ready? Cyc “knows” that trees are usually outside, once people die they stop buying things, and that glasses of liquid should be carried right-side up. But Cyc will never experience the undeniable feeling of peace and serenity of a cool crisp morning sunrise seen while awakening during a camping trip in the Rocky Mountains. Simply put, the rigid rules, assertions, and laws, which purport to create a reasonable likeness of consciousness, are fallacies because of the impossibility of trying to attribute all-or-none logical reasoning to ordinary human beings, who are pragmatic, heuristic, cost-benefit gamblers when it comes to problem solving. However, there are many transhumanist philosophers who fell this whole process is a done deal. Their dreams are realized in this movie. God, undoubtedly, is smirking.
Transhumanism, at its core, represents a radical new approach to future oriented thinking that is based on the premise that the human species does not represent the end of our evolution but, rather, its beginning. Accordingly, Transhumanism should be considered an extension of the philosophy of Humanism. Formally, Transhumanism is defined as the study of ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of the use of science, technology, and creativity to overcome fundamental human conditions. Do they mean human nature? Furthermore, this philosophy attempts to encompass the intellectual and cultural competence to support the possibility and desirability of fundamentally altering the human condition through applied reason, especially by using technology to eliminate aging and greatly enhance human intellect, physical, and psychological capabilities. Are we going to create a bunch of Adams?
A transhuman is essentially a transitional human. Futurist FM-2030 calls these species the earliest manifestation of “new evolutionary beings.” He goes on to list some of the signs of transhumanity including augmentation with implants, androgyny, asexual reproduction, and distributed identity. Where do I sign up? Transhumans are also individuals actively preparing to become posthuman. This species is described as a human descendant who has been augmented to such a degree as to be no longer human. I can’t wait for the UN to step into these definitions and characterize rights pertaining to these newer species. Again, transhumans hope to become post humans through molecular technology, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence. Ultimately, these posthumans hope to be smarter than any human genius with indestructible memories, immortality, and a greatly expanded capacity to feel emotions and to experience pleasure, love, and artistic beauty while completely eliminating feelings of boredom and irritability. In the end, it is postulated that many of the post humans will choose to rid themselves of their bodies and exist as information patterns on large super-fast computer networks. If you cannot fathom these ideas, the transhumanist can still offer some words of comfort by explaining that just as an ape cannot imagine the complexities of human life, the human may not be able to understand the reality of being a posthuman. Indeed, I feel much better knowing the ape and I can’t seem to grasp ideas about life outside our specific species. For the record, I do not want to live forever.
Uploading, super-intelligence, and singularity seem to provide avenues toward a transhumanist goal, but where else will they lead and what must God think. Uploading is a hypothetical process of transferring a mind from a biological brain to a computer. After scanning the synaptic structure of the brain, someone or thing could implement the same computations on an electronic medium that would normally take place in the neural network of the brain. Presto, your mind is supposedly conserved completely and permanently on a computer. After the uploading is complete, what would be considered your personal identity? Who would you be? It is stated that many philosophers who have analyzed this scenario suggest that you would survive as long as your information patterns are conserved, such as your memories, values, attitudes, and emotions. But I thought part of this elaborate process to become posthuman involved altering some of those annoying emotions and irritating attitudes that we continue to suffer with during our unfortunate existence as individual humans on this planet. What if copies are made? Which one is really you? Other than adding augmentations, uploading provides a clear path toward super-intelligence defined as any intellect that greatly out performs the best human brains in practically every field. The upload human mind would run thousands of times faster than the human mind without errors and maintain an infinite storage capacity. Would reality slow for those uploaded? Could these humanoid machines peer into the future with complex probability calculations? Eventually, all advances in computing, super-intelligence, and uploading may eventually lead to a “singularity” , a hypothetical point were progress becomes vertical as technology advances exponentially secondary to positive feedback loops that develop within the systems themselves. Many feel that this point will represent the end of humanity, as we currently know it. Moreover, the first super-intelligent computer or posthuman created by a human would also be the last, since the creation would then take over creating due to its supreme intelligence. Coupling these thoughts with the humanist philosophies it seems we will have created God-like creatures with omnipotent powers. Will all of our problems or mysteries be solved? Will we live forever? Will this knowledge and/or approximation/imitation of God provide enough reason for humanity to reject a separate God or will the collapse of this technology finally provide enough faith needed to completely accept a separate and distinct God? Finally, is it possible for the Christian God of the Bible accept these trans and post humans as an evolved species?
Personally, I can’t picture God welcoming another omnipotent and omnipresent being into immortality, eternity, and infinity with open arms. “Its about time, I’ve been waiting 5000 years for you guys, let’s get on with it,” God would say. He punished Adam for much less. Perhaps a well-timed worldwide catastrophe will prevent the singularity. After all, our equinox is about to officially precess into Aquarius and the Mayan calendrical records indicate the Fifth Sun ending December 23, 2012. Add to this an ill fated attempt to move our orbit or a worldwide war and the abrupt end to these incredible technological advances could easily come to a grinding halt without anyone even mentioning providence, salvation, or grace. That would be unfortunate because it seems we could be at either or point in our existence. Again, the deeper question is whether the human species will ultimately have more faith through the so-called added reason of super-intelligence and/or will Christianity be disregarded once and for all secondary to the advanced technology. Alternatively, is it possible for our relationship with God to forever change because of the so-called evolution of our species? Could these new authorities approved through super intelligent reason make it any easier for the masses to have faith in a God? The classical mind had no relationship to a special revelation; it was primarily interested in man, the state, and nature as objects of cognition only. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Christian philosophy, which accepted the authority of a revelation, guided humanity for 1500 years. During this period and thereafter, Augustine, Bernard, Anselm, Thomas, and many others provided detailed and sometimes intricate arguments supporting the use of reason to provide support for faith in their Christian doctrine. Subsequently with the Enlightenment, Renaissance, and rise of Humanism in general, reason was put forth again as the sole instrument guiding the human mind and soul. For the Humanist, Transhumanist, and Posthumanist, a separate omnipotent and omnipresent God has been reasoned out of existence whereas the Christian has ultimately had to rely on faith for his salvation. So perhaps this advancing technology will finally force this faith-reason controversy forward and/or possibly destroy Christianity forever. Isn’t that precisely what the Humanists desires? If we can all become Gods, why would we need an extra God to guide us? On the contrary, if there is a Biblical God, he will certainly not let a “singularity” occur. Will a catastrophic interruption in technological advances finally provide the masses with enough reason to surrender to an ultimate authoritarian God? The movie should be good, but the actual future should be far more interesting.
The next 50 years should be fascinating for both science and religion. Hopefully this review will provide some food for thought about the future of humanity and those attempting to shape it to go along with your $10 coke and popcorn. Post-humanism will create the definitive egalitarian society where the possibilities for differences would vanish due to “singularity.” Just think, in that particular future, we may be able to program ourselves to taste the popcorn and coke instead of actually ingesting it.