From their imperfection rose perfection…

Yesterday was a strange day. I found myself with time to relax. So I decided to relax and watch a television program I had heard about (and recorded) called Big History. The theory postulated in the show was that there were 8 massive inflection points from the beginning of the universe to now that correlate directly to the culture we have and the technology we use.

I found the show simply amazing. It presents two topics that I found intriguing. The first the law of entropy (all things move towards decay over time). The second was the 8th point of inflection that they called collective knowledge. One of the interesting things was an examination of where collective knowledge actually begins. More than 10,000 years ago in fact was the theory presented by the show. That the difference in humans started once knowledge was shared.

They examined in the show the physical geography of the world in showing why some cultures flourished and how information spread. Interesting points were made about the Horse and Gunpowder. Both were competitive advantages for any one group that was effective in using them. They talked about the split between agricultural and nomadic groups due to climate and the ability to grow crops. With gunpowder they talked about the rapid spread of gunpowder. In fact it was competitive advantage and would naturally spread very quickly.

The most interesting thing in the end was their examination of potential 9th points of change. They showed the 8 previous points and presented a well-reasoned argument. They then of course ended the show with the points of speculation or Hypothesis. The one future view that I found interesting is the one that has been the theme of science fiction since before I was born.

What if technology over takes humans. Our creations become more than us. First off I find this to be as much the immortality argument as anything. Alchemists sought a way to turn lead into gold. Based on some combination of things creating gold. You can do that by the way, simply bombard the lead with enough energy and you will produce gold. It is a byproduct of a nuclear explosion. Thank goodness alchemists didn’t figure that out.

The concept however of our creation overtaking us is one fraught with fear, uncertainty and ultimately doubt. It is the arrogance of humanity that we are in the end the finished product. Perhaps as the many books religions are based on talk about – there is something beyond humanity. In creating an artificial intelligence and imbibing that with the gift of motion and sentience would we not have created something that extends us? Something that encompasses the best of us?

It has bothered for years. The AI always heading towards removing humanity. I think the AI, given great processing power and the ability to look across the ages would in fact preserve humanity as long as possible. As a child looking at his or her parents and thinking I hope they live forever. I think that AI would view its parents that way. Wanting humanity forever.

Instead of replacing us insulating us from ourselves. Asimov’s three laws keeping all of us in symbiosis rather than competition. I wonder however, how many people could tolerate being second fiddle? That no matter what we do or learn we are second best. That those teaching us, are doing so at a slower pace than they themselves operate at. We being the country side road with a speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour. They operating on the superhighways of Europe and traveling at 200 KPH or more.

Perhaps they will build special machines to connect with humans. Keeping us in what amounts to the zoos we have today for animals we wish to walk by. Bears and Tigers, fierce predators that humans are not in a cage, controlled and viewed. Humans replaced by our own creations, behind glass doors protected from ourselves and from hurting others. New Robots walking by the cages of the human’s told at the speed of light what and why the humans are there. “They are the creators. From their imperfection rose the perfect world.”

I don’t think an AI would in the end remove humans. But I wonder in the end if our arrogance prevents us from seeing the reality of a better world. What if everyone was equal because we were all in a zoo?


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.