Thursday, June 29, 2006

robots in our future...

I just started reading Ray Kurzweil's latest "The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology". got interested after listening to the podcast. good conversational material and inspiring for the kids. but this amazon reviewer (who must be much smarter than Ray and I'd like to see what good things he is producing with that brilliant mind) poo-poos the book as infantile:

Rather infantile. This is an extremely important book. Not because it is breaking ground with any new insights, but because it is a textbook demonstration, at an extraordinarily high level, of social pathology.Moreso, it is simply scientifically incorrect.
The author's self proclaimed futurism aside, the content of the book is reworked Hegelianisms brought to the 21st century - only Hegel had more self-insight and modesty. However this isn't intended as sterile philosophy , it is a meditation for the future that unfortunately has an enormous audience in this civilization. Unfortunately , because, attaining the vaunted Singularity can be psychiatrically understood as achieving a pinnacle example of over-cerebrated dissociation.
Kurzweil is understandably mired in the neuroscience of the early 90's which focuses so strongly on cognition. Why not; he's a genius of cognition. What completely escapes him - and this too is understandable given the personality reflected in the writing- are the profound implications of the neuroscientific discoveries established most recently and entirely focused on right brain development.
For example, I found particularly revealing the awkward way with which the author dealt with the "spindle cell" issue on pg. 193-4 of his book. Here, perhaps in the only place in this book, he just stumbled upon the tip of the iceberg that will sink his ship. And again, as he does with all similar challenges, sidesteps the incredible implications with a glib "cerebration".
Even his treatment of, of all things, thermodynamics, is awkward and evasive because of a complete misread of the implications of the 2nd law for brain development.
I actually use this book when trying to explain the psychology of socially institutionalized narcissism to colleagues. It is not a new phenomenon, but what is perhaps unique to our predicament as a race, is that our technology is finally about to mature into a match for our pathologies.
If it weren't for this fact, the book could be dismissed as infantile fantasy, rather humorous in its presumptions, but harmless - it isn't"
(Thomas S. Yannios).

on a semi-related link, the video "Great Minds in Development: Manipulating Society through Technology" discusses how we are already evolving and merging our virtual selves with our physical selves. of course this also has negative consequences. this guy describes it as "Monkeys With Hammers":

What kind of technology encompasses a hammer? Hammers used to be high tech, but now we take them for granted; they just build our homes.Imagine how it would be if carpenters were having big problems getting their hammers to work for them? Wouldn't be many quality houses to live in around.Our carpenters are doing all-right though, but give that same hammer to a chimp, and you will see first hand the same sort of problem that humans are having, with words (communications), being played out. Not much useful really getting built, although their is a lot of banging going on. Language is the most hi-tech tool that humanity has ever created, but look around at what we are creating with it. War, destruction, and one mans inhumanity to another; nothing really intelligent going on as anyone can obviously see.
Artificial intelligence will be a good thing, as long as it does not display the intelligence of homo-sapiens; who only seem capable of destroying, or starving to death, one another. You have to imagine that if artificial intelligence is really intelligent, it might be able to stop humanity's head long rush towards global destruction. Sounds to me like we need AI to show us how to use our hammer (language) to build a reasonable home for all of us, rather than our extreme need to think that we are intelligent, all the while acting in the stupidist manner possible.
Saved by our own technology: oh yeah, you bet!

what do I think? carbon based life is passe. as Frank Tipler wrote, to take over the universe, somehow we'll need to be made of better stuff. but I'm no expert. just reporting on them, OK?