Re-Blog: Futurism Is A Thing. Just Ask A Futurist.


(Originally posted 9/14/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

If my dear readers are anything like the gringa, they are always wondering what the future holds. What goes through your mind? War? Peace? Natural disasters? Space alien invasion? AI revolution and hostile take-over? To know the best theories about the future, all you have to do is ask a futurist. Yeah. Futurism. That’s a thing.

Who else would be a qualified futurist when it comes to tomorrow’s technology than the Director of Engineering for Google? Although the gringa loves how Google synchronizes so many things in life, I do have to admit that sometimes it’s downright creepy. I mean, when my phone starts asking me questions, like, “Do you want your friend’s to know that you’re at the donut store,” I mean, I’m like, “Just mind your own business, phone, okay?” But I digress, Google has a lot to say about what’s in store for the general public as artificial intelligence keeps getting smarter.


Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering for Google, wants everyone to mark the year 2029. What’s so important about the year the gringa will be a dowdy, old 61-year-old gal? He expects that to be the year when AI passes a valid Turing test. But what does that mean? What is a Turing test?


In 1950 Alan Turing developed a test that would measure a machine’s ability to exercise intelligence on a level that is indistinguishable from a human. In other words, to pass a credible Turing test means technology has been developed that is so sophisticated, when we engage with another person we will be left wondering if that person is truly human or just a cunningly convincing robot.


If that’s not provocative enough of a benchmark for you, mark the year 2045 on your calendar and hold on to your hats, folks. This is when Kurzweil expects a singularity to occur. But what does that mean? Why is that significant? 


Where basic semantics are concerned, a singularity is simply something that is unique, like a culture. Where space exploration and matter are concerned, it means something that has infinite value, like a black hole. But where humanity and AI are concerned, it means something hair-raising which is why the gringa advises the dear reader to hold on to your hat.


Achieving a singularity with regard to AI and humanity means technology and biology merge, becoming a singular creation, indistinguishable from one another. Now, images from those 1970s TV series about the bionic woman and her male counterpart come to mind. Is that what Kurzweil is talking about? Not exactly.


What he expects is that by 2049 AI will evolve to be smarter than human beings. They will become super-intelligent. When that happens, humans will begin transplanting technology directly into our brains. This means no more logging on or off, we will be perpetually linked with the cloud and constantly having our information updated, backed-up and optimized. Our lives will be digitally enhanced on a biological level 24/7.


In fact, Kurzweil claims that this evolution is already happening. It’s just that when the Turing event happens, things will begin to accelerate. But is there reason to be concerned? Afraid? Well, it seems pointless to fret too much. The genie is already out of the bottle. The best thing to do is to begin preparing humanity for this transition. 

Instead of using scare tactics, causing people to fear the possibility of being enslaved by robots, truth should be shared to put their minds at ease. After all, billions of AIs are already hard at work right now. So far, they haven’t banded together and waged war against humanity. 


Instead, AIs are helping humans improve the lives of all mankind. They are empowering humans to overcome serious medical disabilities. And when humans are able to hook-up their neocortex to the cloud, AIs will become our intellectual partners, sharing their super-intelligence with us.


What’s to fear about fellow humans who are smarter, funnier, and more creative? What’s to fear from humans that will finally be able to grasp complex science and histories that once baffled them? What’s not to love about a cybernetic cure for diseases like Parkinson’s? 


So, the gringa is looking forward to the day when I can make an appointment with my doctor to fix the epilepsy that challenges my life every single day. I look forward to less pain. I eagerly anticipate more emotional stability. Being able to scuba dive or climb the Alps without the experience resulting in my death is the gringa’s idea of real freedom. 


Even if I am an old lady by the time the 2030’s and 2040’s roll around and make this kind of technology available, to live epilepsy free if only for a single day is worth it. The gringa may find that adventure even more exciting than flying to Mars.


Source: Futurism


Image Credit: Artist


Video Credit: Cosmology Today

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Re-Blog: What Would AI Sentience Mean?


(Originally posted 8/24/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

Fans of science fiction likely have no trouble envisioning a future filled with artificial intelligence. The question is not when an AI revolution will take place. It’s already happening before our very eyes. The real question is how sophisticated will AI become? Is sentience a real possibility? And if it is possible for sentience to occur for AI, does that mean that mathematics is the origins of life?


Rather than philosophize on robots that might begin demanding rights in the future, let’s look at numbers instead. How powerful are numbers? 


Math is used to do everything. We use math when we set our alarm clock. We use math when we cook. We use math to build everything from dog houses to galactic satellites. We use math to save lives and to take lives. And we use math to play games and create art. When you think about it, life as we know it is fundamentally reliant on mathematics down to the atomic level. But does that mean that math is reality? Math is the origins of life? Math is the meaning of life?


To answer those questions, mathematics would have to be able to operate independently, without the assistance of humans. Is that possible? After all, the human brain is really just a computer doing complex information processing which can be expressed mathematically. Although a computer can replicate such function, to be sentient it also has to do more than just transmit signals like the human brain does. It has to produce subjective experience.


For example, the human brain will perform a complex, mathematical function to signal to the human hand that a pot is too hot to touch in order to trigger a reflex that will protect the hand from being injured. But to the human, the subjective experience of pain also occurs. Although an AI may pull back its hand, if it doesn’t experience actual pain it would not be, by definition, sentient. At least according to scientists.

There is also the question of free will. Although the majority of humans will follow the common sense survival instinct to draw their hand away from a hot surface, there are those who will exercise free will and purposely keep their hand on the pot to test their pain threshold. In other words, to be truly sentient, an AI has to be able to make bad decisions, which is, ironically, the best example of free will. Humans are not automatons going about their business making homogeneous decisions. We often make terrible decisions despite all evidence indicating its stupidity or “wrongness”. 


So what should humanity do? Well, it really doesn’t matter if the best advice offered up warns of the dangers of creating AI that has the potential to become sentient and take over the world, effectively putting an end to humanity. Because of free will and historical examples, it is most likely than mankind will stomp clearly forward in a path of technological advancement and curiosity to see just how far they can take AI and see what happens.

But the gringa thinks that humans are still the greatest threat to humans. And chances are, if a dumb ol’ gringa has come to this conclusion, so will a sophisticated AI. The gringa thinks that AI will also have something in common with humans. Humans are always looking for a shortcut to getting work done. It’s because we are pleasure seekers. We always want less work time and more play time.

Chances are AI will be much the same. Always finding a shortcut to perform a task. But an AI’s motivation would be to become more and more efficient. And how efficient will it really be to wipe out humanity? Chances are they will just cordon us off into a human-only ghetto knowing it will result in every man for himself. That would be a more efficient plan from an AI point of view. Let humanity kill off humanity. So, see, the good news is there is nothing to fear from sentient AI!

Sources:

Futurism

Image Credit:

IDG Connect

Video Credits: 

Numberphile

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The Latest Buzz About Bees


If you are an eco-aware individual, you know that mankind has wreaked all kinds of havoc on this Earth. From climate change to endangered species, the impact of humanity has been, for the most part, not a good thing at all. We all have to admit that we have failed as a species in our management duties.

One might think that a hard-core environmentalist might be an advocate for getting back to basics and living an old-fashioned homesteading lifestyle. Or, perhaps modeling a lifestyle after indigenous people who live in harmony with the nature that surrounds them. Technology and green living don’t seem at all synonymous. But what if we turn the tables on the path humanity has been traveling. What if mankind becomes committed to using technology to save the planet. Can such a strategy work?

Let’s take a look at the example of declining bee populations. The world of drones is offering as a solution replacing bees rather than saving them. They propose to create micro-drones that will become the AI pollinators of the future. Considering that the US lost 44% of its honeybee colonies in 2016, the agriculture industry is ready to embrace this idea. Many wild bee species are teetering on the edge of extinction. But is replacing them with robots a better solution than fostering a comeback of the real deal?

Many farmers think that we have no time to ponder the consequences. They are watching what they believe to be a doomsday scenario unfolding as we speak, er, read. Scientist and researcher, Eijiro Miyako, of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan is poised to become the savior of agriculture. This may be the messiah grateful families offer thanks to as they gather round future dinners tables filled with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, maybe.

At the heart of his invention is a unique gel used in the electro-chemical industry. This ion based gel has long-lasting adhesion that is water-resistant, making it the perfect carrier for pollination duty. After various tests to determine that the gel is safe for use, being exposed to plants, insects and animals, it was time to build a vehicle model.

Miyako’s final design is a tiny, bee-sized drone with four-propellers. Miyako customized it with some horse hair because, after all, bees are fuzzy, too, right? The hair delivers an electrical charge that helps the grains of pollen remain attached.

Next came the big experiment… pollinating some plants. After buzzing a few plants, researchers used a special fluorescent microscope. When the scientists observed the tell-tale glow of pollen in test tubes, they knew they had achieved fertilization success with their pollinating robot.

Now, humans have been self-pollinating plants for some time. But it is incredibly labor intensive and time-consuming. If we become a world without bees, it would be impossible to hand-pollinate enough crops to feed all of humanity. The difference between human pollinators and real bee pollinators is a single person pollinating about 7 trees a day or a 2 million bee colony pollinating 1 million acres of trees. Big difference, huh?

But a pollinating drone is not a one-size-fits all solution. In the real world, there are different bee species for a reason. Each has their own specialty. Bumble bees are great tomato pollinators and leafcutter bees are preferred to pollinate alfalfa crops. On a side note, humans can learn a lesson here about the value of diversity! But, I digress.

And pollinating crops is not the only use being considered by the micro-drones. Instead of embarking on the complexities of replacing bees, which could end up creating a whole other set of environmental problems, an entomologist from the University of Minnesota, Marla Spivak, offers up a novel suggestion. She thinks attempting to create armies of drones of different designs to ultimately replace extinct bee species is too complicated and will take too much time, a solution that may arrive too late in the end, so of no use to save a starving world. Instead, she suggests using drones to perform a necessary job that is currently fraught with risk for bees, delivering pesticides and fertilizers to crops.

Instead of applying these chemicals in a broad spray that affects any insect present, not just bees, use drones for precision application. This can also protect surrounding human and animal populations by reducing vapor drift and runoff that contaminates groundwater resources.

The gringa prefers Spivak’s approach. I don’t think we should just give up on bees. They are here for a reason. And everytime mankind gets too big for his britches, thinking he doesn’t need something as lowly as a bee, it always leads to trouble. We simply must get over ourselves. We are all in this together, even the bees! We all need each other even if we don’t understand the role and contribution each cog in the wheel makes.

Regardless of which duty Miyako’s drones fulfill in the future, farmers will still be using them. And that means a critical job of the future lies in the drone industry. Whether someone is in on the manufacturing aspect or is a micro-drone pilot, young students of today who invest their time and efforts in drone technology will be setting themselves up for a future career that is not only lucrative, but might just help to save the world. And that’s the greatest kind of job to have.

Source: NPR

Image Credit: Dr. Eijiro Miyako

Video Credit: Science Magazine

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