Category Archives: Technology

Humans Artificial Intelligence and Synths

Billionaire CEO and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk has voiced serious concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) recently. Other prominent figures such as Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have also indicated that AI is potentially one of humanity’s greatest threats.

We only need to look at the fossil record to realize that our place as humans, the dominant species on this planet, is anything but permanent. The arrival of homo sapiens (modern humans) marked the end of at least two other proto humans, Denisovans and Neanderthals. Fortunately for Neanderthals and Denisovans, some of their population bred with modern humans.  Thus, some of their genes live on according to DNA evidence. It’s also somewhat apparent once you compare the facial features of Neanderthals to some modern humans.

Neanderthal Facial Features

Neanderthal Facial Features

Neanderthals Bred with Homo Sapiens

Neanderthals Bred with Humans – It’s in the face too

What will be left of us after the next phase of our evolution? We can’t seem to help but create technological versions of ourselves. It’s almost like a biological imperative. Maybe the underlying “purpose” of all our technological advancement is to create that next step in the evolutionary progression. In much the same way religion says God created us in his image, will we do the same for the life we create?

I’ve recently started watching the show “Humans”. In that world, people have created artificial beings called Synths. The Synths live among us and there is concern that they might replace us. They look human, they sometimes act human, and their existence poses and existential threat to us because they can do almost anything we can do. Yet they do not get sick, they are immortal, they learn faster and retain it all.

A Synth Reads to Child

Synth Reads to Child While Mom Looks on Nervously

Robots, androids and Synths in the physical world are easy enough to spot. What happens if the AI evolves somewhere inside a super computer and has access to the internet? Would we know of its existence?

Imagine what a super intelligent, artificial mind with direct access to all the systems connected to the web could accomplish. It would make the best human hackers look like amateurs. It could manipulate financial markets, accrue wealth by creating or taking over bank accounts, alter the information we receive online, digitally create pictures and videos that look like real world events or even create new goods and services. Right now it is possible for an American sitting in his or her home to contract Chinese manufacturers or Indian programmers to create a variety of apps or items without meeting anyone in person. All made possible by the digital economy. A consciousness in cyberspace could easily create real world, tangible items. If there was a task it could not accomplish in the physical world, it could hire someone to do it via sites like Craigslist. With enough money, masquerading as one human or 1000’s of humans online, there is virtually no end to what an AI could accomplish. It could even steer the course of our society’s development or downfall without us knowing it.

Think of it this way, what if there was a human hacker dedicated exclusively to you. He could read all your emails and listen to all your phone calls. He could hack all the microphones on your various devices so that he could hear private conversations. He could see your search history and the sites you visit.  With all this information, the hacker would get to know you very well. This hacker, if human, would have limitations on the number of people he could monitor and derive useful information from. An AI, with sufficient computational resources could do this to millions of people simultaneously. It could customize, for each of us, the news, images and information that we consume… therefore, heavily influencing the decisions we make. An internet based AI could wage “war” on humanity without firing a shot.

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Self Driving Cars and Office Spaces

Automotive technology has come a long way. We’ve made cars safer than they have ever been. Yet the global casualty rate for car accidents is close to 1 million. Over 90% of the time it’s due to human error. If we can remove our fallibility from the equation, our roads could be much safer. The solution, the autonomous/self driving car.

Self Driving Car

Mercedes Shows what the Interior Could Look Like

It’s not science fiction anymore. In fact, car manufacturers have already created vehicles that can drive across the country safely. In test after test the autonomous car beats a human when it comes to safety. It makes sense. Human beings can be distracted, we get tired, we make mistakes. OK, so let’s say at some point in the future we relinquish control to an autonomous vehicle. What then?

Safety is enhanced but the list of potential benefits could be limitless. Imagine cruising around in your self driving car with an internet and cable connection. Your laptop, tv and all your devices could have power and high speed internet anywhere. This has broad ramifications for work and play. You could have a mobile office that takes you around town as you work. What types of occupations might arise as a result of this new found freedom?

Once there is a proven and safe track record for these cars, we’ll start sending our kids and pets out in them on their own. Millions of hours will be saved that would have otherwise been spent taking the kids to school or the dog to a grooming appointment, dog sitter or vet.

Going to the Vet

Going to Doggy Day Care

We could see autonomous vehicles that can link to one another physically to create larger inside spaces. Think square cars merging to form a long tractor trailer type unit. Want to hold a wine tasting with your closest friends out in the middle of no where? No problem. The car drives you there, you link vehicles, you drink wine in the shared space while enjoying a scenic view, then the car drives you home.

When your car becomes your home office/game room on wheels, all of a sudden that 5 hour drive to NYC doesn’t seem so long. Or that road trip down the East Coast takes on a whole different meaning when you can sleep comfortably as your car drives all night.

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A Live Version of Google Street View

Many of you are probably familiar with Google Maps. You can search just about anywhere in the world and see a map of that area. In some places there is even an option to click on “Street View”. This allows you to see a picture type image that is navigable. It’s quite amazing because you can turn and view 360 degrees and even walk virtually down a street. Google accomplishes this amazing feat by sending cars rigged with cameras that capture panoramic views. Their cars have traversed almost every road in the United States and many parts of other countries.

Google Street View

Google Street View Car

Street View has already captured 100s of human beings engaged in a variety of activities; from the mundane to the downright scary.

People on Google Street View

People on Google Street View

People on Google Street View

People on Google Street View

People on Google Street View

People on Google Street View

What happens when the Street View feature of Google Maps is enhanced with a “Live View”? For the past several decades, mass media has brought distant events directly into our living rooms. Reporters in Selma, Alabama were able to capture images that shocked and changed a nation during the Civil Rights movements in the 60s.

Selma Alabama Protests

Police Brutality in Selma, Alabama

For the first time, a majority of Americans could see the brutality being unleashed upon African Americans as they marched for the right to vote. Soon thereafter, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. Currently, most endeavors of kindness, violence or injustice are never captured for the world to see. Orwellian prophecies aside, if history is any indicator, more eyes in more places equals more justice.

It’s probably only a matter of time before the cameras that are already on most street corners of major cities are patched in to a live-type view for all to scrutinize. Military satellites are presently capable of reading the text of a newspaper in your hands from space. In the future, when the private sector has this capability it might be combined with cameras on the ground to provide live video of anywhere in the world. It’s likely that no single entity could process what is monitored everywhere. Rather, there will be millions of average people watching random areas of the world at any given time for fun, curiosity or other reasons. With a simple point and click, these videos will be shared across social media vastly contributing to our self awareness as a species.

It’s possible that one day, solar powered microscopic omni directional cameras will be mass produced. Millions could be dropped and networked all over the globe. Some sticking to trees, some sticking to buildings and other structures. With wireless energy transfer, cameras not located in direct sunlight could be charged by remote energy “cell towers”.

Omni Directional Camera

The Model T of Omni Directional Cameras

A recorded live view of everywhere will also produce a historical catalog the likes of which the world has never seen. Software could create a 3 dimensional representation using the perspectives of multiple street cameras and satellite video. Imagine doing a Google search for Times Square, New York during a specific point in time. Using virtual reality you could immerse yourself anywhere any time in the past. And it might not be just for public areas. Home security systems, computers and phones all have cameras that could contribute.

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An App that Knows How You Feel

I recently watched yet another fascinating Ted Talk. It was about an app that measures your facial expressions to determine how you feel. Watch it below.

If this technology is successful, the number of applications for it will be enormous. Rana touched on just a few examples.

What might be some of it’s long term effects on our society? What happens when we have Google Analytics for your emotions?  You face a video camera every time you look at your smart phone. And if you work at a computer for extended periods of time, chances are you’re facing a video camera for hours a day. That’s a lot of potential data. With mounds of data, there is the potential to vastly improve our lives.

Let’s assume that happy people are more productive and beneficial to society, government and corporations. We might see the use of our emotion data to improve the quality of our lives.  The media that we consume will react to our reactions to it. Over time it might become very efficient at making us feel the way it wants us to feel. Hopefully, it will be a positive emotion.

The mental health field might be able to help many more people with this data. What if individuals with certain conditions, depression to schizophrenia, exhibit patterns of facial motions?  Programs and apps might be able to pick up on those patterns. Potential patients could be somehow connected to a mental health professional.

Imagine existing security, street or other types of video cameras monitoring our emotions via our faces. If this technology turns out to be reliable, there will be an incentive to have as many cameras as possible to monitor as many faces as possible.  More cameras in public and more cameras integrated in to your appliances. What happens when parents or loved ones can get an automatic text alert, Facebook post, Tweet…. when you are feeling depressed?  Might we all start paying more attention to the emotional state of the people in our lives?

Grandpa This Should Cheer You Up

Grandpa This Should Cheer You Up

There will be data on the happiness of nations. We’ll know what country has the happiest citizens. Maybe this is how we move toward measuring the success of a society using multiple types of metrics, not just economic ones such as GNP (Gross National Product).

If laws do not keep up with this technology it may quickly be assimilated into all our devices. Our consent will be in some agreement we check off, never having read the whole thing. Big data firms will crunch numbers and compare what they know about us now to the patters of facial expressions we exhibit in a myriad of situations. The conclusions they reach could revolutionize areas such as marketing, entertainment and health care.

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A Reset Button for the Human Ape – World “Peace” in a Few Years

Have you ever noticed how children tend to be so much more open minded than adults? Their minds are like little sponges that absorb information and view points. It seems that as we age, we have a tendency to be less open minded.  This phenomenon has been quantified.

Open to New Ideas

Open to New Ideas

We are all the products of our biology, the environment and the interplay between those two forces. The old saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” comes to mind. In many ways, most of us have always had basically very similar values to the people we grew up around. Those values were bestowed upon us during an impressionable time in our brain’s development.

What if we could “reset” adults so that they were as open minded and impressionable as children again? Of course we should leave their existing memories in place. Our memories make us who we are to a point. How we view past events depends as much on how we feel at the time of recall as it does on how we felt during the initial event. Nostalgia is an example of this phenomenon. We often recall events far in the past as “the good old days”, “when times were simpler”.  Even when those times were not good at all and far from simple.

Good Old Days  Weren't Always Good

Good Old Days Weren’t Always Good

Many adults get locked in to a pattern of thinking from which they never escape. A destructive example of this can be seen in what I like to call “Kamikaze’s on Autopilot”. They are the people who continue to carry on unhealthy habits like not exercising, smoking, eating too much junk food etc even when they know it shortens their life span. No matter what you tell them, they never change. People in sustained conflicts show similar traits.

I believe one of the root causes of sustained world conflicts is the inability of the participants to change their minds (mind change) and decide not to be in conflict.  If all sides in a conflict decided to stop disagreeing and harming each other, the conflict would cease. It sounds simple. Yet we know it is very difficult. It is possible that inability to mind change is a limitation of our biology that can be overcome with a “reset” drug or treatment.

The pharmaceutical and military industry could spearhead research into a “reset” drug.  Working hand in hand they could come up with the best delivery method and chemical composition. It would most likely have to be administered clandestinely to entire communities at a time.

Potential Delivery Mechanism

Potential Delivery Mechanism

What would the effects of a working “reset” drug look like?

It would be essential that the drug only have an effect for a limited time. The drug would have to be partnered with a social outreach component. A campaign designed to expose the communities to new ideas. Imagine entire communities, cities or countries filled with adults as receptive to new ideas as children.

Major conflicts in the effected communities might not cease overnight. The saturation of the community with new ideas coupled with techniques for managing internal states of mind and disagreements would be needed.

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