This blog is about robots, computers, and the Internet – and what they all lack. While technology has advanced (or more correctly, has moved to mass market) we still don’t have AI or robots. In fact, our current course will never create artificial intelligence – computer’s aren’t really “it”. The posts will spell out why, along with your “air car”, you don’t have a robot cooking your lunch.
Um, no Computers be Brains
During each technological revolution of the last few centuries, the hot technology has been used to explain the brain, mind, and intelligence. IMHO the computer is just another in this series of machines can be intelligent – with no evidence for it. One of the biggest reasons that we don’t have true robotics is that we’re still trying to make computers into brains, and brains into computers. They aren’t the same thing. We might be able to make Ai someday, but it won’t be a computer.
The computer/Internet technology happily covering the world today has as much chance of AI as a plumber’s helper. Ada Bryon Lovelace was right, and Turing was wrong. The brain is not a computer. The fact that you saw a bunch of dumb movies with metal daemons attacking people isn’t evidence.
Technology can solve anything…Wait, No, it can’t
A second theme is why so people believe we have Ai, and they often think so many other “scientific” things have come true, when in fact they have not. This kind of post addresses the current “tech-religion”, in displays the same uncritical faith of any religion. It is just vested in clever machines and their invisible “networks” rather than spooks and statues. Our current tech-religion includes other ideas – a faith that there are super-advanced aliens out there (ignoring the “rare earth” counter-argument), that artificial intelligence is either here and they’re plotting to overthrow us or mate with us (look at my iPhone listen to me!), robots have super powers (the last Terminator movie showed a robot walking out of a pool of molten metal).
According to the devout, there is even a tech-rapture coming, worthy of any “end of the world” prophecy. In the Kurzweil “Singularity”, computers become faster and faster – ever faster, so one day in the 2040s they become gods, and uplift us out of our poor mortal coil into our immortal perfect bodies, and we live forever. This, of course, only if we listen to the synthetic worlds of the Goddess Techna, and shower her with golden coins so she can give birth to the new age of spiritual machines…
The believers in this world act like classical religionists, even to the extend of harsh attacks on other religions, and childlike acceptance of goofy tech blogs and marketing PR. Their belief is independent of reality – a classical definition of magical thinking. They think that technology can solve anything – a prime definition of faith. They show a deliberate ignorance of history (we’ve been here before), in particular, the social context.
Poo. Time to call out supposed “progressive” or “atheist” moderns who think they’ve abandoned religion – but have shown a touching faith in their machines worthy of any rosary-clutching monk with their lips flattened against an altar. This is not anti-religion, far from it. Instead, it is unmasking those who claim to be above it but instead preach their own brand of same. “Moore’s Law” doesn’t demand anything. In fact, technology does not drive society – society chooses technology to run with, based on its collective conscious and unconscious aspirations. We aren’t forced to accept technology, and technology isn’t leading us to a golden era. It is unlikely that Google and Facebook’s theories of “reality fixed by algorithms” are going to work.
Reality isn’t broken, and we don’t need games to fix it, either. After all, you can’t keep getting back your life and health in reality. A real war isn’t like Call of Duty.
Sustainability on the Internet and Web
Tech religion is a REAL problem for any discussion of alternative energy, or sustainability. It is part of what keeps society from coming up with real solutions. Tech-geeks assume that anything is possible (just like any other religion), and we must come up with alternative energy because Techna, “Moore’s Law” or some other magic being demands it. Such magical thinking hinders attempts to really evaluate and implement solar, biofuel, and other energy sources.
The fact is, none of the alternatives are as good as the last 100 year fossil fuel bonanza. The energy density of fossil fuels is easily 40 times the best batteries. They may never be as good, no matter how much “technology” you throw at them. But here’s the point: They may NEVER be as good, due to the lawss of physics. No amount of “technology”, or “gag” computers are going to fix that.
So, some of the commentary here may be on sustainability, especially sustainable design and sustainable engineering in the Internet/web area. Sustainable thinking is increasingly common in architecture and interior design, somewhat so in graphic design (though GD still sees themselves as the art snobs that will save the poor unwashed from themselves) and it needs to happen in the computer/internet/cyberspace realm.
It’s been reported that one avatar in Second Life uses more energy per second that a family in Brazil – is it true? Is it really more sustainable to make an electronic copy of a document versus printing it? This is not philosophy, it is something that that can be figured out in numbers.
A sustainable discussion is distinct from the “green” religion with its corporate sidekick, “greenwashing” which parallels the “tech” religion and will probably someday merge with it.
But you just have that feeling…if you are “sure” that technology can find an answer to our energy problems without upset and the solution will be even cooler – just clutch your iphone tighter and say a prayer to Techna through her avatar Siri – she might hear your passionate chants and make the solar panels 10% more efficient. Pray hard.
You guy are just as religious any other fanatic – ‘fess up, and deal with it.
Technology, Generations and Society
Another theme is the real technology, and its impact on society. I’ve worked with Neil Howe and William Strauss in the past on their “generations” theory, and long ago they predicted that the new Millennial generation (born 1982-2004) would reject individualism and instead embrace consensus-driven groupthink, aided by electronic networks. Checking the structure of the 2011 “occupy” movements they appear on track, and the real use of our technology (communication) is remaking the world. Now, that’s actually interesting. Some posts will be on Millennial Generation technology use, along with it’s long-term import.
Why Robots That Jump are Interesting – and Robots That Think are Boring
Finally, consider what real useful robots would be like. They don’t have to think. They don’t have to agonize over the things we do. Instead, if they go up the stairs, they shouldn’t fall down. If you touch them, they shouldn’t land on their face. They should be able to pick up more than a few ounces. In short, they should be able to do a heavy aerobic workout one charge of energy, complete with ply0-jumps. A robot that thinks is really not so interesting. One that can jump around all day without malfunctioning is very interesting…
Design and Engineering
Additional posts may relate to design vs. engineering, web-based programming languages (HTML 5 and all that stuff), UX and UI design on the web, and C++ game programming.