AI: All Interconnected
Is has come to my attention that the talk about Artificial Intelligence is now becoming more of a philosophical discussion than a practical one, as though everyone was craving for such mind challenge. It is non-dismissable the fact that technology improves our lives. From the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel to the petabytes uploaded everyday to our global network of ideas and innovation, by using our tools to create better environments and system we become technology. We don’t build technology, technology builds us, we are technology.
Technology: from greek tekhne + logia
Tekne: art / craft
Logia plural of logion or logos, the divine word, the mind.
A word that is used variously in ancient writings and modern scholarship in reference to communications of divine origin.
We humans have always attempted to understand our universe and ourselves. From myths such the as the forbidden fruit to ancient philosophies our goal as species has always been to thrive, learning as we go, improving our skills and better collaborate.
Perhaps all this time we have been too busy surviving the environment (and each other) as a way to understand collectively. Our minds have been designed to protect the host and ensure that the opportunity of learning continues as the genes are passed on. Today we have enough tools to fully comprehend the realm we live in. All information we collect from industries, people and science are acquired by billions of sensors we have spread out around the world plus people inputting information sharing stories and experiences on the web quickly digitising ourselves into data; 1s and 0s. Data that can now be analysed coherently and shared globally instantly, an incredible opportunity for us to build the best version of ourselves.
If we have this opportunity right here right now why aren’t we building the best version of ourselves? Simple. Because we don’t know who we are.
Designing Artificial Intelligence gives us a chance to understand intelligence, question its foundations and analyse ourselves. I believe this unique chance will come from both individual desire as a benevolent acknowledgement of our own existence as human species and/or as sociological peer pressure and pure deception on a race for acceptance, survival, desire and control.
Lets break that down starting from option 2:
Apple now has just launched the iPhone X. It’s not 10, it is X, with the superpower of infrared 3D biometric using face recognition. You can animate avatars and emojis with your facial expression, a very fun feature that can push creativity to amazing levels. Great so what’s the problem? It’s not a problem, it’s a fact. The fact that every bit of information about yourself is tracked traced and archived and ultimately used by algorithms that design your profile. Imagine photorealistic Virtual Realities where everything looks familiar and all your friends are there, all your life is there and everything feels like Instagram where everyone is their alter egos or the image they would like to be… but they’re not. We’ve been doing a great data entry job in the past few decades but now algorithms are designing and shaping our online behaviour suggesting who to follow what to read and what to think, pushing a bubble of popularity further, modifying our behaviour and designing our habits. This is not new, it’s the traditional goal of the global mass media establishment securing their business models and political agendas, perpetuating control of the powerful institutions we have on Earth as per Chomsky’s 5 filters of the media establishment suggests.
Today 75% of the budget being invested in AI comes from the US military budget. That being said simply imagine why the military is investing in the digital realm, the goal? Total control of human perception. Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder has enough information to believe that this threat is much more dangerous than nuclear war as he believes that AI can manufacture our perception of reality to a level where it can be indistinguishable from the “real” world. What I mean by perception is losing the ability to think for ourselves, we may lose the cognitive skill to analyse information and make rational decisions, cognitive skills may slowly dissolve as our biological body recognises energy waste as we reduce the necessity to solve problems, increasing inefficiency in our mental capacity. We may still think to an extend but there is a chance that AI will predict our decisions because it knows us better than anyone else and it can manufacture the information we are given so whatever we decide is within the accepted or predefined benchmark. Sparkles of that can be seen in the past recent social movements in countries where democracies were put down and coups took over entire nations thanks to the public consent manufactured by social media algorithms, mostly privately funded. We are already spending hours and hours on our phones and on the web connecting with content we like and people we get along with which is great but remember that the more information we give the more precise algorithms are, the more effective the ad will be, the more real the social media bubble will look, the more vulnerable your perception is.
If we can’t see the problem with that it might mean that it is already working and our thoughts have already been shaped by some sort of agenda we are not aware of… sounds like The Matrix when Neo realises the mental prison he has lived his entire life, a design of perception manufactured by machines for a main goal; to perpetuate itself. This horrible scenario may be the worst possible result for us mere human beings when comparing our brains to the immesurable computational power of machines but it can also be viewed as paradise for many, those who already live in deceptions and prefer deceit to truth. A new religion: Dataism. In times of likes, shares and followers in a frenzy of popularity and worship of alter egos this may be the dream scenario simply because we never thought about and we don’t know who or what we are.
Alternatively, we can remain grounded and apply billions of years of biological evolution towards the future. Evolution itself; improvement. The more humanitarian scenario many dream about also gives total power to AI. The same sensors that capture information and the same data we input everyday can be used to teach us about our true nature.
See a new born baby for instance, he or she knows nothing, completely empty. The very first lesson every human being learns is if there is someone out there for them – There is someone who feeds me when I cry, someone who holds me when I feel pain. The baby then realises that there is a figure that cares about him/her and this being is a person. We start trusting the information this person gives us, whether its words, sounds or gestures we slowly learn what is laughter, what is sadness, what is food, how to name food, how to call their names. We grow and we acquire knowledge, information that we can’t unlearn. We use this information and we build our reality in our minds, creating culture habits, learning languages, tasting all sorts of flavours until we start deciding what we keep and what we discard. These choices are what we believe to be ourselves but they are nothing but the result of our experiences and choices since we were born, a result of the information we were given. Realistically, we are not the information we learnt as we can change once we gather new information just like our bodies change and mutate to completely new bodies as we grow old. Essentially, we ARE that emptiness, that first observer whose very first lesson was affection and second lesson was to trust one another in order to survive.
The main difference of human beings and other animals, as far as we know, is that we have cognitive skills that allow us to question, investigate, learn, acquire knowledge and to pass this knowledge on. We do that using synaptic connections in our brains which gives us the capacity to produce coherent thoughts and ideas. These connections expand as we learn more creating a term called neuroplasticity; the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Childhood is the most important moment of any human being’s life, it is when the brain is on fire, learning, creating, questioning and acquiring heavy loads of new information everyday, a beautiful dance with awe, building the foundation of a heathy human brain. Unfortunately, we slow the process of expanding our cerebral capacity as we grow old, but not because it’s a natural law but because we have too many answers as adults or too many mental habits. Answers are what we call education and they build our perception of reality. Thanks to science, general education demystifies myths and irrational beliefs providing us with great understanding of our environment but it also gives us too many answers which slows our inherent curiosity about life itself. Psychedelics can be seen as either a horrifying or a magical experience. Luckily now with more research funding we are starting to have better understanding of the brain behaviour under the influence of etheogens, the brain creates connections never done before giving us an entire new view of reality sometimes connecting us to inspiring insights or to unknown depths of our subconscious minds.
That’s how AI can help us. Providing the infrastructure through technology and science to fulfil our global needs, bringing our curious minds back to adulthood encoraging critical thinking and helping us with the very first two things we learn in life; Affection and mutual trust. We are social animals that need each other. This idea has been kept under indigenous and ancient traditions for thousands of years highlighting the importance of the community and respect to each other.
Beyond that AI can help us understanding things we simply believe, like religion for example. It is imature to dismiss the importance of the fact that 95% of humans belive in some sort of non physical existence, avoiding this topic is self-deception. Religion so far has been one’s understanding (or a group) of topics we can’t yet comprehend, therefore we believe in people and their “religious” experiences, we hold on onto it through faith and obey structural norms most of the times due to fear or hope. AI can allow every single human being to experience it for themselves and reach deeper undertanding of spirituality and other realms of existence expanding our cerebral capacity to unimaginable levels. Levels in which Tibetan Buddhism and many other traditions believe to be that very first emptinessexperienced by all of us when we were born.
Perhaps the mind challenge which AI promotes is nothing but those fundamental questions of philosophy. Perhaps only creativity and imagination can provide us with answers we will give ourselves. Perhaps it is easier to imagine the ugly scenario of ultimate oblivion and deception once sometime we withdraw from the responsibility to solve problems or to question our own choices. Maybe this has already happened… and we are indeed stuck in a simulated universe immersed by our digital ego entertained by our personal desires and pleasures. However there is a chance that technology IS biology and reality is simulated as a reflection of our immature minds. On top of that every parent knows and understands why they were there for their babies, love and compassion, a feeling of being the other, literally looking after yourself as we pass our genes on as well as the information we’ve gathered.
AI is just inevitable as suffering, it is now unstoppable. The amount of data we gather grows exponentially. Singularity has already happened as computational power also grows exponentially. What an amazing time to be alive! I have to admit that I try to avoid black and white thinking but for the sake of the argument we are now running out of time and it’s all about choices, what’s yours; to love or to love not? To wake up or to remain asleep?
Listen to Sam Harris podcast Waking up. Great source of inspiration!