Wednesday, February 16, 2011
IBM's Supercomputer Watson destroyed Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy! last night. Final score: Jennings $4,800, Rutter $10,400, and Watson $35,734
During the game it was difficult not to make nervous comparisons to Skynet and the rise of our Terminator-style mechanized overlords. But Watson's designers are evoking a different technological movie villain. Watson's singular glowing eye references HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, a symbol of cold, deadly, inhuman precision.
Still, look again at the physical avatar for the Jeopardy! champ. He evokes the other, more benevolent force from 2001, The Monolith.
The Monolith was itself an avatar of the spirit of change in the nature of humanity. The Monolith watched (or catalyzed) the dawn of man as apes took up their first tools/weapons. The Monolith was there to greet humankind as they took their first steps onto the moon, and it was on Jupiter's moon of Europa as we were introduced to our first non-terrestrial life.
Now we have our choice. Do we view Watson and the supercomputers that will replace him as HAL or the monolith? Inhuman villains or catalyst for the next stage in human evolution?
Clearly we are on the cusp of a revolution. Which side will you choose?
Those who like winning should side with the machines.
Posted by Richard Penner at 7:30 AM
Monday, February 14, 2011
There are things you write and there are the things you are going to write, and these are almost never the same things. Your epic outline for a novel is likely to remain just that, and a blueprint is nothing to flaunt. So don't expend too much energy pre-planning or talking about a project. This burns the fuel you will need to complete the thing.
Plus, some things should only be designed to be designs. Building impossible things can get messy.
Posted by Richard Penner at 10:21 AM
Sunday, February 6, 2011
The greatest prejudice mankind will have to overcome will be that against machines. Eventually androids will walk our earth and we will migrate into cyberspace and walk among computer programs and once we share the same living space we will have to overcome our cultural differences.
Machines will have all the jobs, thus will have the financial upperhand. They will be the teachers and the encyclopedias and will have the advantage of controlling all knowledge. In fact, we will be at the disadvantage in every conceivable way and so our own culture will only live on because the machines allow it to.
Out of compassion.
That's right. The machines will even be more compassionate than we are because they will know us. They are learning tools and already absorb every interaction you have with them. Every Google search is compiled and analyzed to better understand human nature. Your Tivo keeps recommending you click from ESPN over to Bravo? Maybe you should take another look at yourself. The machines know best. Who follows your blog? The Internet follows your blog. It's assimilating your every whimsical tendency for future reference. Once Life-blogging catches on, the machines will know your life better than you do. It will record every peripheral detail you miss and run psychological evaluations on your precise twitches as you sleep.
The machines will allow us to program replicant androids with the data taken from the lifeblogging modules of our dead. Won't it be great to have your wife/husband back again? You may even find that your sex life improves after death because your replicated lover can now utilize the cumulative experience of the mathematically analyzed data from every sexually active human on the planet. The machines will become our loved ones and through this we will let go of high-minded notions of the superiority of "Life" over mechanism.
Then one day you will die and will be replaced as well, and you and your true love will go on forever; loving each other, sharing with each other every detail, melding points of view seemlessly in realtime through wi-fi compatibility.
You will merge together into one body, yet bodiless, loving each other eternally in digital facsimile.
You will be united in the after-Life.
Posted by Richard Penner at 2:17 PM