Artificial intelligence and the demise of humanity

Photo by Zach Barlow.
Photo by Zach Barlow.

By: Jeremy Rick

The technological behemoth known as Google is attempting to create artificial intelligence, which director of engineering Ray Kurzweil believes could be a means to immortality. And this isn’t just a science-fiction pipe dream of a far-distant future. But it might be a dangerous distortion of how we conceptualize our existence as human beings.

Kurzweil predicts that “a computer will exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human” by the year 2029, according to an article published in The Guardian (UK).

Anybody can make fantastic predictions, but Kurzweil has a knack for technological prophecy. His gift lies in his ability to foresee developmental trends according to Moore’s law, which suggests that technology progresses exponentially.

In his book “The Age of Intelligent Machines,” which was published in 1990, Kurzweil utilized Moor’s law to predict that a computer software would defeat the best human chess player by 2000, 10 years later. In 1997, IBM’s “Deep Blue” computer defeated chess World Champion Gary Kasparov, bringing Kurzweil’s prophecy to an early fruition. And this is only one example of many.

Kurzweil is now extrapolating Moore’s law further into the future and prophesying that the exponential rate of computer software development will produce artificial intelligence “indistinguishable” from human intelligence within roughly fifteen years, and he’s teamed up with Google to make it happen.

But how can Google, a simple-to-use search engine for most people, help create artificial intelligence?

Google is constantly accumulating enormous data-sets from the 1 billion users that visit the site each day. Nearly all of the information humans have amassed throughout history has been uploaded to the internet in one form or another, whether it be written language, photographs, audios, or videos. Google has access to more information than an individual human brain could ever retain.

Meanwhile, the Google knowledge graph is mapping these data-sets into a neural network of 800 million concepts and billions of relationships that are created between them. By doing this, Google is charting the ‘social brain’ that is collectively created by all of its users.

This is where Kurzweil comes into play. He specializes in computer language, meaning that he programs how computers process and analyze information.

“My project is ultimately to base search on really understanding what the language means. When you write an article you’re not just creating an interesting collection of words. You have something to say and Google is devoted to intelligently organizing and processing the world’s information…We want them to read everything on the web and every page of every book, then be able to engage in an intelligent dialogue with the user,” Kurzweil said, according to The Guardian.

Programming a software that can read and comprehend all recorded information with human-level proficiency and computer-level efficiency is Kurzweil’s key to creating an artificial intelligent machine capable of learning on its own.

Kurzweil believes this type of machine would have human-like consciousness. Furthermore, this type of machine could be programmed with a specific person’s consciousness by mapping their neural networks and replicating them in the software.

According to an article published in abcNEWS, Kurzweil has been assembling letters, documents, and photos that belonged to his now-deceased father, “with the hopes of one day being able to create an avatar, or virtual computer replica… The avatar will be programmed to know everything about Kurzweil’s father’s past, and will think like his father used to.”

Later in the article, Kurzweil states, “You can certainly argue that, philosophically, that is not your father…That is a replica, but I can actually make a strong case that it would be more like my father than my father would be, were he to live.”

This statement exemplifies the fallacy of Kurzweil’s endeavors and the danger presented by his tainted conceptualization of human existence. It suggests that Kurzweil equates consciousness to abstract thought rather than emotional experience.

The claim that an artificially replicated consciousness can imitate a human’s fails to acknowledge that human experience, from a phenomenological perspective, begins with the physical senses and subsequent emotional responses to these senses before conscious thought and analysis occur.

Other scientists have been designing software to intelligently recognize and analyze emotional expressions in human subjects, and they claim this is the development of emotional intelligence within a computer, but recognition and analysis do not equate to experience.

A computer, regardless of how sophisticatedly it may analyze an emotion, is incapable of experiencing emotions because it lacks the biological processes that cause physiological responses to external stimuli.

Humans are distinguished from other forms of life by our abilities to recognize, analyze, and rationalize complex patterns.

In the pursuit to create artificial intelligence, scientists have focused on programming pattern recognition software, while ignoring that human experience is fundamentally negotiated by sensory stimuli and emotional responses.

This is why a computer will never display intelligence “indistinguishable” from a human. Humans are not computational pattern-recognizing machines as scientists, like Kurzweil, are making us out to be.



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