This paper is on the subject of Artificial Intelligence and it’s place in the future of our species. Specifically, this discussion is on ethics and how they relate to the above. There have already been many articles (Tegmark) on the subject but largely they have connected to how AI can benefit us and how it will be such a great thing for mankind, but we rarely consider what things will look like for the machine.
One argument used by minds like Hawking and Turing to gracefully sidestep the idea that the machine must be respected basically goes “a computer thinks in 1’s ad 0’s and isn’t capable of abstraction”. This sentiment is often parroted by the games industry when explaining the questionable logical leaps in games like Civilization. On the contrary, while the human mind has been compared to the in vogue technology of the era (ex. a factory, an automobile, etc.) the comparison to a computer is particularly apt. Many comparisons have been made (Chudler) between the way human brains and computers consume energy and output data. The digest of one study (Sci-news) even theorizes at a base-2 processing algorithm that manages everything in biological life from homeostasis to self awareness.
When I refer to base-2 processing, this is significant because the way computers process information is literally a series of true-false checks. This is not at all dissimilar to how human bodies process chemical information.
Take the following pseudocode for example : Check if caloric intake today exceeds 2500 calories. If true, store excess energy in fat cells. If the previous statement is false, check if caloric intake was less than 1600, if true, execute function “stomach rumble” and execute the loop : (transfer 10 calories into daily intake, check condition intake > 1600, if false repeat loop).
To explain, I just described how your body decides if you’re hungry using a shorthand version of the same language your computer uses to do everything from adding numbers to accessing your favourite website. This brings me to the theoretical means by which your brain finds happiness which works similarly. In 1933, an American psychologist named Abraham Harold Maslow theorized that the same sort of true/false conditions are used by your brain to decide whether you are happy (McLeod).
Which demands one ask: if something as nuanced as joy can be expressed in sufficiently advanced binary, what is stopping computers from doing the same thing?
Consider the smart phone. In layman’s terms, a smartphone is a device that uses a wide series of rudimentary AI (sometimes called Okay Google, Cortana, or Siri, depending on the firmware) to intuit and navigate shockingly complicated human concepts and respond in approximately real time. Currently, this is done by taking voice and text commands, shooting them up to a satellite, which shoots said commands to a server somewhere on the planet, where a more complicated computer (Johnson) parses the data and sends back an appropriate response. This sort of system is called Artificial Intelligence and while a large warehouse is required to hold the data that lets an Android phone figure directions in real time, processing power and storage is getting faster and more efficient.
Soon we will reach the Singularity, the point at which the rate computers can design and implement their own upgrades at a rate greater than homo sapiens. At the time of this paper no sources can be found on what exactly will happen after this point. With the verdict still out on whether the soul is a thing unique to biological life, the assumption that a runaway chain of 1’s and 0’s could once again result in something indistinguishable from free will is hardly a far-flung concept. If this happens then we will have what might be the biggest question in human history on our hands : What do we do with these creatures? it would be solipsistic to assume that just because they don’t look like us that we needn’t worry if they are aware.
Chudler, Eric, “The Brain vs. The Computer”, University of Washington, https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/bvc.html
Johnson, Bernadette, “How Siri Works”, 6 February 2013,
HowStuffWorks.com, http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/high-tech-gadgets/siri.htm, 8 May 2017
McLeod, Saul, “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”, Simply Psychology, 2016-2017, https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
Sci-news (No author stated), “Neuroscientists Say Simple Mathematical Logic Underlies Complex Brain Computations”, Sci-news, 15, November, 2016, http://www.sci-news.com/featurednews/mathematical-logic-underlies-brain-computations-04397.html
Tegmark, Max “Benefits and Risks of Artificial Intelligence” Future of life Institute, https://futureoflife.org/background/benefits-risks-of-artificial-intelligence/
I got to this part a little late as it wasn’t until Major Assignment 3 that I really started to get the hang of what to do with a post-write. For this reason I have very few current notes. Now that I am at the end of the semester I think I will simply use this space to muse a bit.
I’m well accustomed to writing formally and am (usually) at home with citation-based writing. That being said I wasn’t prepared for this paper and didn’t quite know what to do. I attempted to remain as clinical as possible but, seeing as how this is clearly a humanities piece, I couldn’t help but add my own thoughts on a few matters. The last paragraph was purely speculatory but I had no idea how to tie this thing up so I explained the singularity and booted the paper out of the door.
On a humorous note, I wonder if my definition of “fake news” would qualify this as “fake research”. Probably not, my bias and goal are both well stated.
I spent a few days laboring over the explanation of binary-based logic. I feel my work is woefully insufficient but going into greater detail would probably take more space than the paper itself. I provided a link in-line (which I know is useless for people reading a printed version of this) if any reader wants further elaboration. I was afraid of derailment so I didn’t go further.