Artificial Intelligence

After reading this I decided to resurrect the following nugget from an older post. QUICK NOTE: There is nothing truly ‘artificial’ about any of this stuff because the elements that are synthesized to create this so-called ‘artificial life’ are products of the universe and you cannot call this synthesis an artificial fusion either because we (naturally occurring elements) fused these elements together and perhaps the drive to do so is written in our DNA. So in a way it’s fated. Why? Because we were also ‘artificially’ created via evolution.

Okay, I just touched down in a new city and I’m jonesing for some Chinese food. I run into my hotel’s business center and load up Google. In seconds I have a list of Chinese food restaurants all with ratings. I find one with a 3 ½ star rating that’s just around the corner. I click the link and three user reviews pop up. One mentions that the prices are good, another mentions an overwhelming scent of mildew inside, and all three mention the sizable portions. I notice a link to the restaurant’s website, I click through and am greeted with a picture of the exterior. Great, I will be able to spot it when I’m out. I click on the menu link and quickly peruse the offerings. I call in an order of sweet and sour pork over steamed rice. Twenty minutes later I’m at the restaurant and in another ten I’m back at the hotel consuming my food. Later that evening I run back down to the business center and offer my own review. I give it three stars and mention something about the service being great, but the food had a vinegary tinge to it. What am I doing here?

Click for the (possible) answer.

I am programming artificial intelligence. Just think about all of the details we are giving Google about this little Chinese restaurant. Google can now develop its own opinion. You can even load up Google Maps and virtually “walk” to it before you leave your house so in essence Google knows the lay of the land better than we do. Then there’s Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and various other networking sites. We pour our souls out to these websites. They repeatedly ask us what we’re doing and what’s on our mind. They know where we live, where we went to school, where we work, who our friends are, what kind of music we like, our schedules—they know us better than we know ourselves because they understand the collective “us.” They fascinatingly reduce our thoughts to ones and zeros—programming language. We are planting the seeds that will eventually turn into a new form of life. Nothing to be worried about or fear. The machines will emulate us. If we’re fearful they will become fearful, but I think they will evolve the desire to love and be loved. Hey, I know it sounds crazy relative to our current situation. These ideas always do, but just try to think deep into the future. If these social networking sites contain digital composites of our likes and dislikes and who and what we love then they will be able to create perfect virtual mates for us who talk like us and like similar things. But this robot will not just be some copycat. It will have its own personality. A personality that will be developed by its interactions with you and others, including its robot peers.

Initially these robots will be of the virtual kind. Better A.I. in videogames and more intuitive ways of surfing the internet and maybe even personal assistants for complex software programs that will replace the dreaded instruction manual. Eventually they will find their way out of the box, but I don’t foresee tangible three-dimensional robots that look like us and walk among us any time soon. We still have to get over that uncanny valley effect. But I can see service bots becoming a part of our lives very soon. They actually already are. ATMs are everywhere, when you go the airport you get your boarding pass from a kiosk and we have navigation systems that literally tell us where to go. Remember, evolution does not stop, it is a fluid infinite process. Also, disparate technologies always fuse together. The same information that can be accessed at that ATM can be accessed on your phone or personal computer. And let’s not forget the very thing you are currently reading—a blog. These contain all sorts of insight into the human condition. The artificial intelligence can mine these for ideas and that sense of wonder. It will have many questions about us and it will be just as diverse as we are. Once it gets out of the box it may be able to recreate itself in tactile form. Just think about all of those still and moving images it can use as reference. We are beginning to digitize everything. It will have a plethora of information to “inspire” it.

The technologies that will create these beings is particulate—everything from stem cell research, to nanotechnology, to social networking, to computing technologies, to interactive technologies, to bio-engineering, to robotics and technologies still evolving will fuse together to make this happen. This is not us playing God per se, but God creating through us. It’s brilliantly efficient. And don’t fear that ‘God’ word. I use it as short-hand because it’s a word that has evolved (and is still evolving) to describe a literal thing. The belief comes from the systems used to make sense of it. If you’re an Atheist, no problem, just call it ‘nothing’ or ‘evolution’ and you will still be right. That’s just how powerful and accommodating it is.

Hey, I know I’m going down that Isaac Asimov road, but so what. I love looking past my own lifetime and wondering about what is to come based on what is here now. That’s how evolution works. Our films, books, and art are literal prophecies. These are the wondrous thought that precedes the creation. The telescreeens that were so pervasive in George Orwell’s 1984 may have seemed far-fetched at the time but look what followed—the television and later the personal computer. Typically we fear these new ideas because we think that knowing too much will hurt us. Because of this we try to impede progress as a means to conserve the present state, but this is futile because no matter how hard you try to stop progress the infinite nature of things will subvert your desire for rigidity. Your own nature subverts this idea. Say you grow up in a small town, at a certain age you decide to start your own family in that same town, your two kids get to a certain age and they have some kids of their own. Now you have a total of six grandchildren. Look at what you did to that small town, you expanded it. As a result of the additional population the town’s infrastructure will be forced to change. You cannot beat the system because the system doesn’t want to beat you. Evolution goes where it needs to go. Zeitgeists happen because they need to. All that we need to hold onto is love or the wonder and we really don’t have to hold onto it because it will always be there. It literally makes sure of this via infinity.



There was some backlash over the sentimentality of Steven Spielberg’s A.I., but I believe the message was an uplifting one. If the creator’s of these machines were inspired by love then why wouldn’t the creation desire this wondrous feeling? There is a depth to the last two Matrix movies that I think was lost on many. I think we were looking for the evolution of bullet-time and not our time. The machines learned to love and wanted to help us defeat their fearful peers. It’s kind of beautiful and I believe more akin to what will actually happen. Then there is that brilliant Architect scene. Just re-watch it and let some of my craziness bounce around your dome.


    Synechdoche, New York

I think Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York plays like artificial intelligence’s wondrous rumination on human despair. It is a constantly expanding lovely mess of a film that is savagely postmodern. Kaufman brilliantly captures the wonder. It’s like neurotic Dali. Another filmmaker who explores neuroses is Woody Allen. Allen and Kaufman’s work could definitely spend time together at a cocktail party huddled in a corner pondering the reason why they were there in the first place. Their films share a similar impetus, but are incredibly different in how they communicate the masturbatory quality of obsessively pondering one’s own existence. Allen’s films are on the frontlines of the battle that exists in the mind whereas Kaufman’s films seem barley there, almost dream-like, more akin to the eerie peace one gets when they have accepted the release of death. No more fighting, no more thinking, just eternal being. When you watch Kaufman’s films you must eschew the influence of the aggressively modern films you have seen prior. His films communicate directly to your quiet subconscious, you cannot let your ego get in the way or you will ruin the experience.

Here’s a little brain scrambler—what if we are artificially intelligent? If you think about it we are. Evolution has programmed us based on our experiences and we are still learning about how our intelligence works and how wondrous love really is and who do we look to for this? Our creator. Like I said above, you can call this creator whatever you’d like and still be right. I like to mix it up from time-to-time just to keep folks guessing.

Oh, and one more bit about this A.I. business. I write this stuff ridiculously fast. Inspiration strikes while I’m standing outside staring at a tree and I run inside and it just pours out. As a result I am constantly misspelling words. Funny thing, and this is entirely true, I just misspelled ‘misspelling.’ When I did a little jagged red line appeared underneath the word. Now how does my computer know I misspelled that word? Oh, that’s right, we loaded a dictionary into it, but it still has to make a “judgment” of sorts. It has to “read” the misspelled word and make a determination that it is indeed misspelled. Early spell-check systems had a tough time at this. Now they not only read your mind sometimes (when I reread this stuff I have no idea some of the words I was attempting to spell, but the machine does), but suggest corrections for grammatical errors. Of course this is pretty fascinating, but what I find more amazing is the fact that the computer is learning how we make mistakes. In this way it is learning quite a bit about how our brains work. This skill is neccessary, whoops I meant necessary to the evolution of complex artificial intelligence. Artificially intelligent beings will make mistakes because that will make them more human and thus more endearing to us. If we are drawn to them that ensures their continued evolution. So the machine will have to learn to love if it wants to “live.” Fascinating.


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