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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Our Perception of Reality Might Be Like A Desktop Interface

In a recent Ted Talk, Donald Hoffman speculates that our reality might be analogous to the desktop interface of our computers. Watch Hoffman’s talk below.

It’s possible that the reality we perceive is a construct that our minds create in order to do just enough for us to survive in the world in which we evolved. In much the same way, our visual range excludes ultraviolet rays because there was no survival benefit. Bees, on the other hand, can see ultraviolet light. Here is how we see a flower vs how a bee sees a flower.

Human's View vs Bee's View

Human’s View vs Bee’s View

In the bee’s world there is a bright sign on the flower pointing toward the nectar and pollen area of the flower. When it comes to vision, we only see a narrow portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Our perceptions are also limited when it comes to the true nature of the universe. We may need a new paradigm or frame-work for understanding our universe and our reality. Once we have the new frame-work that shows us how the universe “really” works, heretofore unexplained or mysterious phenomena could be explained more clearly. There are a number of phenomena I would choose to investigate under that new paradigm.

Here are my top 10:

1. The unimaginable and immense gap between our size and the size of our perceived universe. I once had an imagining that as we gazed out further into the universe, we were in fact looking deeper into our own physical mind. And that the reason we observe infinity in both “directions”, toward the small and toward the large (universe/multiverse etc), was because it expands with our understanding. Maybe the observation that those are different “directions” is an illusion as well.

2. Coincidences.
3. Dark Matter (DM)  and Dark Energy (DE). I think they are intimately related to the larger issue discussed here. Research has indicated that DE and DM exert an influence on things like galaxy formation and movement. So far, DM and DE can only be detected indirectly by their influence on things we can observe directly. Going back to the desktop analogy and file example that Hoffman mentions; we can see the image of the file and it’s contents with our eyes. The cause of that image is unseen. but some of the properties of that cause can be inferred by the characteristics of the image.

4. Cancer.
5. DNA, evolution and it’s relationship to epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study, in the field of genetics, of cellular and physiological phenotypic trait variations that are caused by external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off and affect how cells read genes instead of being caused by changes in the DNA sequence. –

6. Karma.
7. Consciousness. What if our brains are like the sails of a ship capturing and utilizing the “winds” of a consciousness that permeates or is reality? At the quantum level there are interactions in our brain that seem to be “spooky”.  Read about the concept of quantum entanglement
There was a Star Trek The Next Generation episode that briefly touched upon something similar to Hoffman’s idea. The crew encounters an alien that has the ability to travel great distances in space and time. The radical suggestion was that “space and time and thought aren’t the separate things they appear to be”.

8. Gravity. How is it “powered”? Almost all the energy we use biologically and technologically can be traced back to our sun or another star. Stars are powered by gravity compressing matter and the subsequent reaction of that matter to being compressed. So where does that “power to compress”, or gravity, come from? It seems to fly in the face of science’s version of “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”…the conservation of energy.

9. Music. Maybe the reason music resonates with humanity so much is because it somehow reflects the patterns and organization of something else.

10. The beginning of the universe.

Our understanding of the universe has come a long way in the past few centuries. I think we are in for a quantum leap in that understanding. The growing number of people adding to our collective knowledge combined with technological advances will get us to a critical mass. The result being an explosive leap forward.

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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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