Advances in Computer Technology have been accompanied by perceived risks. The risks created by the field of Artificial Intelligence have been prominent. But have these risks been misplaced? The field of Artificial Intelligence is the attempt to simulate human intelligence using computers and robots. Over the years there have been spectacular advances in this field. On May 11, 1997, Deep Blue, a chess playing computer developed by IBM, defeated a world chess champion Gary Kasparov. We now have cell phone apps that can do language translation. Siri is an intelligent personal assistant from Apple that can understand natural speech and ask questions in order to complete a task. Google provides reasonably good responses to questions entered in the search box.
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, made an observation known as Moore’s law. Moore’s law predicts that computing power is expected to double every 18 months and this trend is expected to continue until 2020. This will lead to more powerful computers which may lead to more improvements in Artificial Intelligence. Will computers become so powerful that they reach the point of acceleration? This is where they will be able to improve on their own design in a never-ending cycle and create robots and other computers that challenge the status of Man as the dominant species. Is this the risk faced by Man?
Perhaps our risk stems from a lack of understanding. Perhaps we should have a closer relationship with computers and robots. One definition of a Cyborg is a person implanted with technology. If we define a Virtual Cyborg as someone who uses wearable technology then we are already there. Smartphones can access a library of over a million apps and the use of these apps can greatly enhance the performance of the owner of the Smartphone. The effect will be compounded when other wearable technologies, such as Smartwatches and Google Glass are combined and used in an integrated fashion.
These significant and life changing technological advances are overshadowed by changes in the Doomsday Clock. The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock face that predicts how close we are to a global catastrophe, depending on how close the clock is to midnight. The cause of this could be global nuclear war, emerging technologies, global warming and advances in biotechnology. This clock has been maintained since 1947 by members of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The latest setting, which is 3 minutes to midnight, was made on Jan 22, 2015. Since 1960 this setting has only reached this level once before, during the period from 1984 through 1988.
It is possible that the clock reveals that our attempt to establish a peaceful and harmonious coexistence with nations, ethnic groups and societies has been a failure. In the song, “A License to Kill” by Bob Dylan, Dylan says that Man has invented his doom because Man thinks that he rules the earth and therefore can do as he pleases. The spectacular achievements of Technology have caused man to be mesmerized by rational thinking and caused other forms of thinking to be eclipsed. Man believes that he can create whatever law makes rational sense to him. This will result in the doom of Mankind. But is there an alternate ending to this scenario?
One suggestion is that we allow concepts from the Liberal Arts, Religion, Spirituality and Mysticism to guide our thinking. No less a luminary than Steve Jobs travelled to India to study Eastern Mysticism. Perhaps by integrating these concepts into our decision-making man can escape the real risk of technological advancement which is the allure of the philosophical system that creates technological advancement.