Machines: Are They Coming For You?

by Ian G Graham.

robotsIt seems strange but now we’re starting to refer to the 20th century as if it’s long- gone – behind us like a shadowy memory for the reminiscences of baby boomers at high school reunions, or those who gather at senior citizen Christmas parties.

It was at the end of the last century in the early 90 ‘s, that I vividly remember a conversation with my Honour’s supervisor at university. We discussed the future of humanity in a world that is head-nodding in its approval of scientific advances and rapid technological change, therefore confirming The Law of Accelerating Returns, which states that: the rate of change in a wide variety of technologies tends to increase exponentially.

So I’m calling it all pretty bleak, humans have nothing to look forward to, except their eventual destruction at the bequest of their own machines, he said with the academic authority of a strong German accent. All scientific materialists think about are numbers bloody numbers. Numbers everywhere, don’t they realize how limited that is? Human behavior in many respects has been reduced to algorithms. I agreed with him then to some extent and I still do. Is it becoming a world of the kind described inside a Phillip K Dick science fiction novel?

The last thing standing between humans and their machines, according to my supervisor, was the mother and child union:

the most profound of psychological dramas can never be programmed or duplicated – the natural ground for nurturing, love, dramatic psycho-exchanges, complex behavioral responses – emotional development and conscious awareness – all of which cannot be reduced to physicalism.

I would also add other things to that list for AI experts to reflect upon as they jump up and down with excitement because they’ve programmed a machine to win a game of chess, or calculate complex mathematical problems at super-fast-rates, or anything to do with our material existence (I do think the mother and child union is under threat for other reasons in recent times but I won’t expand on that in this post).

In the future, the ‘Artificial Intelligentsia’ may make their machines seem as smart as us with their gob-smacking simulations, but aside from the fascination, in reality machines have got a long way to go before they can be can considered human.  A long way? Maybe it may never happen, despite the rapid growth of technology around us and our inescapable attachment to it. Many would disagree, forecasting that machines will surpass us in every way but what’s overlooked, is that they have to be programmed, so the responsibility begins and ends with humans.

Humans have an insatiable materialistic hunger to seek instant gratification whether it’s shopping, dating, sex, consuming food and drink, education or carrying out transactions at incredible speeds. It seems that technology rules and when you consider the astounding influence (a positive one at that) it has had on the advances in medical science we should be truly grateful. Conversely, when you look at it away from the sexiness it’s associated with in popular culture, it’s all mechanical and more fool us for thinking otherwise. It’s mechanical it’s engineered, it’s predictable and it has the potential to lead to great destruction but we are the masters.

 Can a machine lie? Is a machine able to consider human values or ethical outcomes? Can it fall in love or hate? Can it appreciate and enjoy the sensation of taste, touch and smell – music, food, wine, sex like we can? Is it capable of subjective experience? What we’re talking about with machines are calculated systems – complex as they are – numbers crunched at high-ordered levels – numbers reflected from the side of the mind which express the universe and reality as a model, a mechanism.

The ‘Artificial Intelligentsia’ will keep trying to convince us with their super-robotic fantasies about transhumanism, uploading consciousness to computers and the creation of super-machines, but it is subjective human experience that may never be understood, at least not within the models constructed by scientific materialism, or by the dreaming of the prophets of scientism and AI fanatics.

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