Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pure A.I. vs Hybrid A.I.

Here's a post I made in reply to a Slashdot story about Ray Kurzweil's prediction that we will have human level A.I. by 2029:
Whenever I see stories like this and the usual negative rebuttals that follow, I wonder if I am the only person who read Asimov, Clarke, Crichton, Roddenberry, Heinlein and many others. I am starting to believe that it is because we feel we have "dealt" with the bogeyman of "truly aware" A.I., now that it has been confronted handily by Hollywood via The Terminator and its ilk. In the same way that it was almost comforting to embrace the dark specter of biological terrorism as a pleasant relief from the more real and closer danger of nuclear destruction; focusing on the dawn of A.I. is a relief from the true technological tsunami heading our way.

In the midst of all this talk of pure A.I. is the real steady progress being made in hooking mammalian brains to computers. So far it is in the safe yet icky domain of direct control over robots and other advanced technical based prosthetics, but it is the door to the bigger more powerful scenario that may await us compared to the "birth of A.I." to reference The Matrix. What people fail to understand is that we will make huge progress in this area, much faster than in solely silicon A.I. Why? Because we don't have to understand how the mind works to reap powerful benefits from hybrid A.I. like we do with pure A.I. Neurons by their very nature analyze and adapt to patterns and signals, they just need to be connected and protected.

The most disruptive mind-numbing change heading our way is when human brains can connect with each other over a digital conduit like the Internet. What happens when I can expand my consciousness to be able to maintain far more than the average capacity of 4 to 7 active symbols in my mind, by harnessing the brain capacity of others on a shared peer to peer neuronal network? What powerful meta-consciousness will form when your mind can directly alter a visualization held in real time by another, group dreaming as it were? Or perhaps 10 minds, or a thousand? When we unplug, if we ever do, will we feel as if we woke up from a greater more powerful and majestic dream that evaporates as soon as we disconnect because our minds, by themselves and in comparison, are too tiny to hold the more complex patterns a mind cloud can handle? Perhaps feeling like a butterfly who was dreaming that he was a man, now awake and relegated back to simple thoughts of procreation and feeding, to paraphrase Zen?

In closing, what problems which are now intractable to any single human due to their complexity and scope will fall astonishingly quickly to the power of a million minds focused like a laser on their solution? Please don't take the laser analogy lightly. Right now all of us, and any computer programmer knows this all too well, are recomputing and resolving billions of thought problems which are complete duplicates of each other. What happens when all that duplication is virtually eliminated and our minds in unison all take one small slice of a much larger problem and tear it to pieces? Heaven or hell, you decide, but coming a lot sooner than any of us think.

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