Burning the Clocks Brighton 2014

Will artificial intelligence supersede human intelligence by 2045?

As humans we are very good at solving one problem to create another, we get so excited by a possibility that we blind ourselves to any possible negative outcomes.

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”

Often attributed to Marshall McLuhan but actually written by his friend Father John Culkin Professor of Communication at Fordham University in New York

Technology is now being developed to be seamlessly integrated into our bodies, to boost our biological intelligence, and our lifespan. Nanobots, microscopic robots the size of red blood cells with molecular circuitry, will be injected into our veins curing or preventing disease, manipulating the chemical producing parts of our bodies and prolonging our lives dramatically.

We humans have a strange relationship with death. Why do we assume that longer is better?

It’s because we have ego (therefore fear our own death), and that we feel love (we form connections with others that we cannot bear to break). It’s our humanity that makes us develop tools to prolong life, it’s not logical or practical, a computer algorithm could probably tell you that. Longer living brings it’s own problems; we already have problems because medicine forces our bodies to go on much longer than they are designed to do. We live longer but we suffer more, we are biological, we have a shelf life. Although we dream of immortality, Vampires, Dorian Grey, Zobies – are you getting the theme here? Somehow we know that living too long is not a great thing, yet we still strive for it.

The scientists tell us that artificial intelligence will supersede human intelligence by 2045. If you think that is far fetched, consider that in the 90’s a few people had basic brick like mobiles with no internet connectivity at all. The World Wide Web is only 25 years old (the Internet is 45 years old but was not mainstream until later).  Google was only incorporated on September 4, 1998 when it was based in the garage of a friend.

They claim that the speed with which the new machines acquire and process information will be so fast and complex that they will be able to solve everything, a self teaching and improving machine. Some are working towards creating robots with human consciousness, however human consciousness is affected by the unique complex social problems that humans have. Are they trying to create perfect humans? Are not our imperfections what makes us human, and what makes us US?

Burning the Clocks Brighton 2014

This is an image of Rosaria Garcia, she is pregnant here, though you’d never know it! I took the image using my human intelligence to create an image that pleased me, that captured her energy, the colour and excitement of the moment at the Burning of the Clocks in Brighton. No artificial intelligence can recreate what I the photographer or Rosaria the performer has, or what we do for pleasure and love.

One question I have is  – Why is human intelligence is being measured by speed and processing power. For me it isn’t simply processing power that makes us intelligent, and it definitely does not make us creative. The ability to process information (find and calculate) and the ability to evaluate and use information are two entirely different things.

What makes us human is the fact that we are all different, that biology and our past and present environment shapes us. Serendipity begets creativity. What makes us human is that we make mistakes; we all approach things in a different ways and our brains make random connections allowing us to be creative rather than simply productive. We have a consciousness that is uniquely human. We dream and we believe.

Some scientists and technologists claim that the new processors in development now will lead to an end to pollution, war and poverty. They have given it a name ‘singularity’.

Have they learned nothing? It is money and power that creates war and poverty, not a lack of technology. Sadly, though, this too is part of what makes us human.

On the other hand, what of kindness, compassion and generosity? A machine is incapable of feeling.

When the Internet became mainstream, they claimed it would open up global communication to the world, it did. They also claimed it would bring peace and the greatest minds in the world could share their genius. Rural communities would no longer be cut off; there would be online shopping and online learning. The world was getting smaller they called it the “Global Village” what grew was no village, it is a metropolis, more like Sin City. It disseminated many real communities, it changed the high street forever.

The Internet was supposed to give us what we wanted, personalised search, social spaces where we choose who connects with us and who to connect to, enabling us to connect virtually to almost anyone.

Our hunger and need for communication, (and it is a basic need, children who grow up without human contact have problems), has lead to a communication obsession, some even addicted to constant connecting. It has also lead to an information glut, most of it poor quality, if I see another 10 top tips I think I’ll die!

It was supposed to be like swimming in paradise, so why are we all wading though shit? Because power and money can be obtained by using these tools, so our inboxes are filled with spam, we are advertised at throughout our online experiences. Google is the window to the world now. Ways to manipulate the results has always been a big industry. SEO and content marketing became all about creating the most content and links possible, pointless activities that clutter up the online lives of the average person.

The Internet is also used to terrorise people (look at ISIS), it serves as a platform not only to feed our innate need to communicate, but also for all that is wicked in the world. It enables paedophiles to share explicit and harmful content. It encourages and supports mob mentality, trolling and online bullying, cyber crime, online scams and fraud.

All technologies including the Internet are not separate from us, they are the tools we have created to be extensions of ourselves. The Internet was our creation, we inhabit it, it reflects everything that is good and bad about the human race, it is a mirror. We think of the Internet as being out there, separate from us in the ether, it’s not out there, it’s right here. We are its creators.

What is there in our history to even suggest that technology leads to world peace and an end to the economic divide? What are the chances that the new faster smarter technology will be used to obtain power and money, to increase conflict rather than decrease it?

What makes us think that we will not create robots that have our same faults?

Of course the Internet enables people to connect in meaningful ways, locally and globally. Loved ones can stay connected. It is a space for creativity and sharing, it does provide many opportunities for individuals and small businesses, it provides some with a voice. It’s great for people with disabilities. People do share knowledge. The Internet is the perfect place to drum up support for a cause. Look at crowd funding; charities and good causes are having a heyday with new forms of funding opportunities online. I’d go as far as to say that because of the over commercialisation of the web, turning everyone off, anything that appeals to our human qualities (compassion, empathy, ego) is going to do well online. Businesses who tap into this are the ones who will win.

That’s why there is a new wave of digital marketers who reject the old digital marketing paradigm of more is better, and focus first and foremost on creating content that is of the human kind, content that tells stories of real people, solves real problems or answers real questions. Creative content rules now, and that is a good thing, even if it takes a while for many to catch on. Big businesses are now investing in it because it encourages loyalty and trust – human emotions.

Maybe we are realising that we don’t like the way the technology we have shaped is shaping us.


4 replies
  1. Chris Wright
    Chris Wright says:

    Interesting post. I don’t think it will take until 2045 though. I am aware of work that is being done in the advertising industry to enable computers to ‘get’ the emotional impact of pictures. It will never be as nuanced as human emotional response, but it doesn’t need to be in that use case. The idea is to arrive at a short list of possible pictures for a campaign, saving humans the onerous task of trawling through thousands of pictures with a judgement that is being eroded by fatigue.

    One trouble with artificial intelligence is that it’s very hard to include ‘wild cards’ in the same way humans do. If we look at the simple case – recommendation engines, anyone who has tried to use these as a means of identifying, for example, new music to listen to, quickly finds the limitation – the more you guide the recommendation, the more the recommendations start to sound the same. In fact, what we humans respond to is an ‘apparently’ random input that makes sense to us within a wider cultural context.

    Of course this works both ways. I’ve heard a story that may be true, of a woman presenting at the doctor in Toronto with a sore arm. The doctors tried everything they know, to no avail. A computer spotted very quickly that the sore was a spider bite, acquired during a holiday in panama. The moral is that the doctors were blinded by their context.

    I don’t think we have too long to wait before computers start to make decisions on our behalf. Arguably they already do in some areas. My concern though is that the effect will be to ‘normalise’ our lives to a degree I for one would find uncomfortable. And maybe this where art comes in. Great art can provoke or inspire new perspectives. I haven’t seen a computer that can do that.

    Anyway, great post!


    Thanks Chris,

    yes it’s the “normalisation” that concerns me. We have already seen, as you mention, a restriction of choice rather than a freedom of choice on the internet. Just look at local search. Google has decided that we are not interested in any business or supplier that doesn’t live within a certain radius of our search.

    The biological implications are worse though. They are trying to develop insertable devices that control extremes of emotion. Ai that stops us being mad, but I’ve always though we are all mad, just in different ways. Have you read this http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/Articles/98spring/thomas.htm scary stuff!

    Sure technology is brilliant when used to unquestionably improve peoples lives. Chip in the body can make the lame walk already. \they can make the blind see, the deaf hear. The diagnosis example you gave is using computer processing to do what is does best, recognise patterns from large amounts of stored data.

    It’s the mind controlling tech that frightens me.

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