Wednesday, June 4, 2014

We'll Make Great Pets

Some have made the argument that human beings are special above all other creatures because they are intelligent.  We can program a computer, whereas a chimp cannot.  We can write a play, but a dog cannot.  But what happens when artificial intelligence surpasses human beings in all areas?  Then we are indeed faced with a crisis--what then, makes us special?

It used to be that the domain of chess was considered a gentleman's game.  It involved higher order logic, planning, and intelligence.  It was believed that a computer could never beat a chess grandmaster.  But in 1997, this is exactly what happened--a computer beat the world chess champion.  To this day, computers can clean the clocks of any human player. 

It was inconceivable a few years ago that a computer could beat a human in Jeopardy!.  Yet last year IBM's Watson beat Ken Jennings, the greatest Jeopardy! player of all time.  This is no longer the realm of science fiction.  It has been done.

It used to be that those who could calculate numbers in their heads and do computation were valued workers.  Now a $1 scientific calculator can do computation much quicker than any human mind. 

More and more areas of human ability are going to be surpassed by computers.  We need to start looking at ourselves and instead of degrading ourselves, we need to recognize the intrinsic human dignity and value of each person without regard to his or her mental abilities.  Qualities like love, empathy, and decency will begin to matter more.  In a world where deep thinking is done by computers, the cognitive elites in our society will be humbled. 

If enough of the onion is peeled away, how far do we have to go before we don't know who we are anymore?  At what point do we discover that we are hollow men?  These are the questions we will need to begin pondering.  The computers aren't going to need us.  The scientific calculator doesn't give a shit if your feelings are hurt or not.  This will be the time to look inside and see what you are really about.

Some people are going to look deep inside and find there is nothing there.

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