Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Perplexing Pendulum, aka...relax, the robots won't take over the world

                                       CAN THESE ROBOTS TAKE OVER THE WORLD?

I love speaking to each of my three kids, because I have been blessed with children (now adults) who are more intelligent than “their old man”. Some of the most teachable moments in life, I have found, are not when you are “trying” to learn something, but when you are just having an innocuous, casual conversation with somebody. I was sitting on my porch, when my son Grant called.  Among other topics, our conversation turned toward some research he had read about, out of MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology). I seems researchers, some time ago, found out how to predict the activity of a simple pendulum, with relative mathematical precision (mathematical precision is always relative).  You know, how many times it will swing, the angular magnitude of the arcs, etc. However, this is only for a pendulum that swings back and forth.  For pendulums suspended on a string, able to go in any direction, it is monumentally harder.  They used this for a project in the development of artificial intelligence.  The object of the study was not so much how to predict the activity of this kind of pendulum, but to develop artificial intelligence that can do the job. Well, they achieved just that, but the only problem is that the scientists developed artificial intelligence that was capable of solving a problem, but when that problem was solved, they were not able to understand the solution.  Check it out – The scientists are not as intelligent as the machines they created! Hello!  This is Dr. Frankenstein in the 21st Century.  Right?
BEFORE DISCUSSION OF A PENDULUM BORES YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND…read on:  If we create things that can perform things we cannot perform (such as logical calculations), are they really “smarter”?  No.  They did not create us, but we created them.  By definition, we are more intelligent, for that reason.  We were intelligent enough to create a “tool” (computer program) to perform something we cannot do without the tool.  WE called the shots.  WE figured out that the creation of such an instrument was important for achieving the higher purpose.
Let’s bring this down to Earth- People are stupid.  We are just plain dumb.  Why?  We were created by somebody (or in deference to my agnostic friends, “something”).  By definition, then, that entity is more intelligent than us.  Even if you believe we came from primordial soup, the “Flying Spaghetti Monster”, or whatever, that entity, being, or process is superior.  When considering the theory of evolution, one can even reason that, although creatures proceed from less complex to more complex forms, the chemical and physiological processes of this evolution our superior.  The devised a way to perform more complex functions by creating more complexity.
So…who are the “most intelligent people in the world”, in your view?
Steven Hawking, the renowned cosmologist?  Well, as with mathematical precision, human intelligence is relative, and I will tell you he is dumb.  Yes, dumb.  Proof? He has a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease, which incapacitates him.  If he is really that intelligent, why can’t he heal himself, or find a cure?  I mean no disrespect toward Dr. Hawking.  In fact, I wrote a previous blog entry about him, and it pictures him in a very favorable light.  The point I am making is that we are all subordinate to a more intelligent entity, and this is logical irrespective of theological considerations.  The greatest scientists cannot keep us from getting a cold, or guarantee we will not get influenza, or die of cancer.  I don’t know of a theologian who has the entire Bible committed to memory.  He or she may exist, but I have yet to meet that person.  If he does exist, he is almost certainly autistic, and cannot understand or apply what he can recite.  We have not figured out how to travel to other planets or solar systems, eliminate recessions, stop war or poverty, eradicate human depravity, or even how to generate adequate energy without destroying our world.  But, we call somebody highly intelligent?
No, there is a hierarchy in our universe.  We are, by definition, more intelligent than what we create and less intelligent than what created us.  It is kind of comforting to know.  There was a movie by Will Smith, called “IRobot”, where robots were (“in cahoots”…is there actually such a word?)…where robots conspired to take over the world.  The same thing happened in one of the Terminator movies.  There are probably more modern ones but I am, alas, a bit dated at age 50.  Well, when one looks at it in purely logical terms, such a scenario is impossible.  This “thinking outside the box” lesson is one I am applying to myself.  I have always had a bit of a war with technology in my mind.  I really don’t like it.  It is a nuisance and makes my world unduly complex.  I won’t lie: I like it the way it was in the 1970s.  I really do, and always will.  But, I have decided to cease FEARING technology.  It is an inanimate tool, and it will not cause me to be less human.  That is a paradigm shift I am going to try to make: Stop being so fearful of technology and its intrusive implications for our world (but keep a healthy apprehension), but rather, embrace the wonderful opportunities to use technology for the higher human purposes.  After all, we are the creator, and it is the created.