The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I, Not a Robot (Yet)

A few years ago, I wrote a post that was entitled "Does This Compute?" and it mostly outlined my exposure, and connection, to computers over the years. I also wrote this, "The Robots Are Coming" back in 2008.

The other night, I recorded a program called "Futurescape" on the Science Channel. It's only a 6 parter and I missed episode 1 (which I will watch On Demand... assuming it's there). But the episode I watched had to do with robots and artificial intelligence and with the possibilities of enhancement of human bodies and brains through technology. I found it very interesting. This episode was called "Robot Revolution" and I highly recommend it.

As the show was talking about artificial intelligence and ethics and morality, I stopped playing with my tablet and paid closer attention. Humans, with rare exceptions, are taught these things as they grow up. Robots, presumably, will also be "taught" these things. It will allow them to be useful as caretakers, for instance, and to interface with humans in most ways.
That and one section on sensitivity of skin, especially fingertips (did you even know some scientists are developing artificial fingers?).
It got me to thinking about how we teach children these things.  They started out with a smooth material for the skin and then decided to create a series of ridges and whorls... an artificial fingerprint, if you will... and were surprised by the increase in sense data that created. I was not. I think our fingerprints enhance our ability to understand what we touch. Do some experiments yourself with touching, you'll see what I mean.

But I want to get into programming of these units. A human child is programmed spontaneously by the world around him. Some have suggested that an unborn child can be programmed, that the fetus hears, can feel, and learn. And, so, they suggest playing music, among other things, to stimulate the fetus. I don't know if that is just wishful thinking on the part of people who mean well or total fantasy. You see, no child is born with the ability to communicate in a complex manner and no child, once he/she learns to speak appears to have memories of what they experienced before birth.

Our childhoods are just part of the programming humans go through. We constantly learn new things and apply these in our lives. We view people as not ready to go out in society until they have at least graduated from high school (12-13 years of educational programming along with social programming that includes ethics and morality). Now an additional 4 years (at least) of college/university training seems to be almost mandatory. So, let's take the low end and say a minimum of 18 years of programming to create a functional human unit. At that point, we say they can vote, join the military, start a family, and begin a career. Yes, I know some start earlier than that and some aren't ready at 25, 30, or 40. See comment about how we continue to learn and apply that knowledge throughout our lives.

Robots will have to be programmed in days, weeks, at most months. Of course, they will be programmed by computers and that will speed things up exponentially. But how about the gaps in that programming?  No computer software is ever rolled out without bugs and glitches and, often, the fixes cause more problems that then need to be addressed.  We should not expect robots to be any better.

The opportunities of cyber-kinetics and the integration of technology into human bodies were another thing which I found fascinating and encouraging; new hands that work, feet, legs, arms, eyes, and so on. Perhaps, some day, we will live forever (or close to) by moving our minds (which are not simply our brains) into humanoid, but artificial, bodies.

What then?

Today, November 22nd, 2013 is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was in an English class in a high school in Orlando when it was announced. I was a Kennedy supporter (in a light way) in those days. I was stunned. Not because I was a supporter but because it was such a horrific crime. Take a moment to reflect on where you were... if you are old enough to have been alive, I mean.



Tom Sightings said...

I wonder if they'll ever create a robot that can beat 90 on the golf course. Meanwhile, I remember what I was doing when Kennedy was shot -- it was one of those rare moments when I was doing homework. I was in study hall and a friend came into the room. He'd heard it on the radio. Nobody believed him at first, and then ... everyone was stuck to the TV in shock for the next four or five days.

Douglas said...

Tom, I could say "90?" but the way I've been playing lately, I am beginning to wonder... As I wrote, I was in an English class. The next three days (we had Monday off) were mostly spent in front of the TV.