Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trying to Predict the Unpredictable: The Singularity is Near – Or Is It?

In case anyone's wondering what I've been up to since mid-January when I finished up the Camino series, here's the paper that I turned in this morning to my computer basics teacher at Trident Tech, sans footnotes and bibliography. (Hopefully our AI expert cousin doesn't catch wind of this - it is really VERY basic stuff. Hey, I was limited to 2 pages, alright?)

"In the wake of Watson’s defeat of Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Wednesday evening’s 'Jeopardy!' episode, it seems a good time to try to achieve a better-informed understanding of the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). This class’s text describes 'current state' quite well; a media review leads to more questions than answers regarding the future.

"One would practically have to have lived under a rock the last few decades to not have been frightened nearly senseless by the computers portrayed in '2001: A Space Odyssey', 'Terminator', 'The Matrix', 'AI', and 'I, Robot'. What makes these computers so frightening is their seeming consciousness and autonomy, their capacity to think and make decisions that negatively impact (read, 'annihilate') humankind. Each one reflects the writer’s – and perhaps society’s – anxious perceptions of artificial intelligence’s potential. For example, in 1969, Stanley Kubrick responded to an interviewer who asked him about HAL’s emotionality, 'The idea of neurotic computers is not uncommon – most advanced computer theorists believe that once you have a computer which is more intelligent than man and capable of learning by experience, it's inevitable that it will develop an equivalent range of emotional reactions – fear, love, hate, envy, etc.'

"AI’s potential has long been a favorite subject of the written media as well. Prior to the introduction of the World Wide Web in late 1993, mathematician/writer/computer scientist Vernor Vinge predicted that the continuing development of artificial intelligence would lead to a 'technological singularity', an event that would occur between the years 2005 and 2030, bringing about the Post-Human era. He argued that at least one of four very likely scenarios would lead to a superhuman intelligence. In a 2007 interview, he stated that there is evidence of these scenarios playing out now. MIT’s Marvin Minsky theorized that robots will inherit the earth as our 'mind-children', and we humans will be able to reconstruct our bodies and brains through the use of nanotechnology. Writer Ray Kurzweil also presents “the Singularity” as beneficial for humankind; he, however, predicts that the singularity will occur in 2045.

"The projections of these experts/futurists aside, can we really predict with any kind of certainty whether a technological singularity will actually occur? If it does occur, will humans benefit, be exterminated, or worse yet – be treated as we have treated our fellow creatures? Watson’s victory this week could cause one to believe that a technological singularity is not far outside the realm of possibility. Yet, how could any human imagine the capabilities or intentions of a super-intelligent entity?

"In 2009, the multidisciplinary scientific society Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence convened in Asilomar to discuss AI’s potential effects on society, how best to steer/control them, and how to smooth the 'rough edges' between AI and society. This group appears to be the one to watch for further enlightenment as we approach the singularity…or not."

Fun stuff, huh? I turned in my programming assignment about 15 minutes ago. It's due at midnight, so I got it in just in time. That class is kickin' my butt!


Katharine said...

I think I could have traded a couple husbands in for a Watson.

Pat said...

What do you do - wait with baited breath for me to post something on here? I wasn't even done editing it!!!

But yeah - Watson would've been a better choice for a lot of women, I fear.