Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Artificial Intelligence and Humans

Logic is highly subjective. What we call logical is often governed by a set of principles that are necessarily dependent upon our mores and beliefs. We may culturally consider a compassionate reaction to be logical, but in fact if may be only so because our culturally specific beliefs tell us so. Even if an intelligent being (artificial or otherwise) were to be totally logical, much of its logic would be subject to the mores that were taught to it. If computers surpass human intelligence and become technically superintelligent, they are likely to be plagued with the same host of emotions and peculiarities that humans are beset with. One can hope that these AI beings would have an inherent - or at least a learned - altruism that governs them, so even if they regard themselves as superior to us, they would regard us with mercy and kindness, the way that we ideally treat animals, when acting with humane and benevolent intentions. In this way, perhaps they would teach us model behavior even as we intended to teach them.

The question should not be if computers will surpass human begins, rather the question should be whether humans will surpass human beings.

It will become our duty, as advanced beings in our own right, to hold ourselves to a higher standard of behavior, seeking to do more altruistic and universally oriented activities, rather than focusing on merely satisfying our baser desires. The more we focus on base, common activities, which lead not to the betterment of humankind, the more we become like lower animals; and we stagnate as a species. We must seek joy in basic activities - motion, rest - as the ancient mystical traditions of the world have taught us. Human beings must become a higher life form, by way of our intellect and our spiritual practice. We must not rely exclusively upon our laptop computers to do our thinking, but should always seek to upgrade our “necktop” computers. It is this computer which will be our greatest tool in surpassing our earlier achievements. Through taking pride and joy in basic movements such as work and rest, we will grow both mentally and spiritually. Only with these things in mind, can we utilize actual technology to its utmost capability, rather than as a crutch that will merely make us weaker and more enslaved to the need for technology and to the baser desires that all animals express. When we free ourselves from the need for technology, having it becomes a joy, a helpmeet, a vehicle to truly evolve and create and add to the universe, rather than deplete it.

We must treat all things as a portion of a unified whole - a panorama of successive levels of consciousness, identity, being. Inasmuch as we are already aware that we are comprised of countless cells - individual entities in and of themselves, as well as component parts of our physical bodies - our awareness has also of late been directed toward the notion of the Earth as a unified being, with each of us as constituent elements that comprise its totality. All animate and inanimate objects and entities are constituent elements of this whole. As such, computers may already be considered living entities in and of themselves, sometimes expressing basic peculiarities and individualities. As one author (Vernor Vinge, 1993, pg. 5) has noted, the combination of human and computer may already be considered a sort of unity encompassing a form of amplified intelligence. Together, they are more competent than by themselves. As we continue to head toward faster processing speeds and larger capacities for memory among our computers, it will be imperative that man unlocks his vast intellectual-spiritual potential, as spoken of by many people who have claimed that we are using merely a fraction of our mental capability. If there is vast untapped resource available to us with the correct key, then the widespread usage of computers is merely a distraction and a diversion from the real ‘technology’ - that of the human mind. Computers, if used in conjunction with the development of the human mind, in every aspect - cognitive, mnemonic, archival, creative and so forth - can become teachers, facilitators to us in how to train our minds. They can also become tools to store information so that we may check and safeguard ourselves. But quoting William Blake, "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern." It is this statement that inspired the name of the popular band of the 1960s, the Doors. It is this statement that should serve to guide us that our minds, much more than a combination of neurons, is truly infinite. Paraphrasing William James, if God does exist, he will communicate with us through our minds. That is the nexus, the substrate through which divine revelation and communication will take place. To take full advantage of our rapidly burgeoning technology, our own minds must be expanded beyond every reasonable expectation of reality, eschewing the normal presumed limitations of the mind. The impossible must be expected, and entertained. The unreal must be created. Only then, can we truly advance as a species, evolve as a race, and better the universe in the ways that It needs to be advanced, rather than the ways in which we, subjectively, believe to be the case, according to our own puny wishes and perspective. Becoming like the angels, recognizing our unity with the divine, is the objective we must make manifest. The mystic wisdom shared by most world religions tells us this, even that of Christianity, which has largely been characterized as maintaining the utter and inherent and insurmountable difference between Man and God. The Gospel of John, chapter 17, speaks volumes to this largely ignored source of Christian spiritualism and mysticism.

This all may seem very lofty and heady. It is the expectation of failure and limitation of humankind that is precisely what confines us and continues to define us as finite. The so-called “Bodhisattva ideal”, demanding that the archetypal adherent to Mahayana Buddhism - the Boddhisattva - vow to save all sentient beings, is what is needed now. All of us must focus on becoming greater than we already are, in achieving the impossible, in holding ourselves to a higher standard. Each of us must encourage others to do better, to work harder, to be more humble, to learn more, to be kinder, to live healthier, to be more.

Bearing these things in mind, we as a species must encourage and reward altruistic and excellent behavior. Without it, there will only be universal mediocrity, signaling the persistent stagnation and perhaps even extinction, of the human race.

Works Cited
Vernor Vinge, “The Singularity”, in Whole Earth Review, Winter, 1993. Posted here on the internet.
http://mindstalk.net/vinge/vinge-sing.html Retrieved 10/27/2009