A radio message from the Andromeda galaxy, over a million light years away, is picked up by a radio telescope, and turns out to be the blueprints and assembly instructions for an alien supercomputer. When the supercomputer is turned on, it builds a beautiful woman, whose mind is partly alien.
The recurring, and often conflicting, narratives of technology and progress. A subject engages in "brain painting" using a brain-computer interface.
Michael Kaczorowski The Brain Electric: On one side are the determinists, who see the history of technology as one of inexorable progress, advancing according to its own Darwinian logic—the wheel, the steam engine, the autonomous car—while humans remain its hapless passengers.
It is a fatalistic vision, one even the Luddite can find bewitching. They want to know where the train came from, and also, why a train?
Why not something else? Constructivists insist that the development of technology is an open process, capable of different outcomes; they are curious about the social and economic forces that shape each invention.
Nowhere is this debate more urgent than on the question of artificial intelligence. Determinists believe all roads lead to the Singularity, a glorious merger between man and machine. In some sense, the debate about intelligent machines has become a hologram of mortal outcomes—a utopia from one perspective, an apocalypse from another.
Conversations about technology are almost always conversations about history. Is it marching upward, plunging downward, or bending back on itself?
Three new books reckon with this question through the lens of emerging technologies. Taken collectively, they offer a medley of the recurring, and often conflicting, narratives about technology and progress.
In fact, the determinist history lessons of Ray Kurzweil, Ramez Naam, and Andy Clark seem to have become a token of new books about technology.
In an early chapter, Gay looks to history to assure us that BCIs are merely the latest instance of a very old trend: Writing was once feared as the scourge of civilization; the printing press was met with great hue and cry.
The moral of the story is self-evident, but Gay is not above belaboring the point. We no longer consider writing high-tech. We are technology, and technology is us. One might argue that a word strained to accommodate so much no longer has any useful meaning, but this criticism would be beside the point.
BCIs are only in the earliest stages of development. So far, humans equipped with these devices can perform a series of basic maneuvers.
Quadriplegics have been able to feed themselves with thought-controlled prosthetic limbs; other research subjects have managed to control a computer curser using only their minds. In one study, rats appeared to communicate with one another telepathically.
These may be uncontroversial applications, but the neuroscientists and engineers have larger ambitions. But this technology is simply a beachhead, designed to demonstrate clinical relevancy and shore up public approval. Ultimately, Leuthradt hopes that commercial BCIs will become as common as smartphones, allowing the human brain to interact wirelessly with lighting, climate control, vehicles, and the Internet.
In this future, communication will be wordless and immediate.John Markoff, longtime technology writer for the New York Times, doesn’t buy the determinist narrative. For him, there is no blind watchmaker, and the trajectory of technological progress is far from certain: the future depends upon the ongoing decisions of designers and engineers.
Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man Posted by Soulskill on Sunday July 26, @AM from the forecasting-a-great-toaster-revolt dept. Strudelkugel writes "The NY Times has an article about a conference during which the potential dangers of machine intelligence were discussed.
In his book Machines of Loving Grace, John Markoff writes, “The best way to answer the hard questions about control in a world full of smart machines is by understanding the values of those who are actually building these systems.” It is an open question whether the yin or the yang side of Silicon Valley culture or else the new, state.
Background Readings John Markoff Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill, NYT, Nov 11, Human Morality and the Problem of Intelligent Machines. Ronald Arkin The Doomsday Machine: Proportionality, Punishment and Prevention, The Monist (). The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity) is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence (ASI) will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.
According to this hypothesis, an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) would enter. - "The Doomsday Machine"-Fact or fiction John Markoff's "The Doomsday Machine" is an intriguing view on how our technology may exponentially improve into the future, but the essay fails to support the thesis statement that our technology will eventually destroy the human race.