Wednesday, November 30, 2011

we have never been material

In the article, "Scientists striving to put a human face on the robot generation" we read that,

The CONCEPT project monitors how people engage with and react to the ‘LightFace’ when given the task of teaching it the meaning of words and concepts, just as they might a young child.
The robot is capable of producing a range of subtle and naturalistic expressions thanks to its computer generated responses which are projected onto its ‘face’. 

And in the related article, "The Coming Artilect War" we read that,

Moore's Law states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 months. This trend has been valid for over 40 years and is likely to continue until around 2020, by which time we will be able to place one bit of information on a single atom. These atom-bits will be able to switch their state (a 0 or a 1) in femtoseconds, which are quadrillionths (1015) times of a second. There are a trillion, trillion (1024) atoms in a handheld object, such as an apple, so potentially, the information processing capacity of such an object would be about 1040 bits per second. Compare this number with the estimated equivalent of the human brain, which is about 1016 bits per second, or a trillion, trillion times smaller. You'll begin to see why I believe that the rise of the artilect, a godlike intelligent machine, will be so disruptive later this century.
You may object that a massive bit-processing rate is only a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for generating hyper-intelligence. Agreed. What is also needed is the appropriate human brain-like neural circuitry, but this is coming too. Nanotechnology, or molecular scale engineering, is increasingly supplying the tools to decipher the secrets of human brain function. Today, thanks to Henri Markram's work in Switzerland, every neural connection is known in a single cortical column of a rat brain's cortex. (A rat has about a thousand such columns, each consisting of about 10,000 highly interconnected neurons, and the human brain contains about a million.)
This detailed connectivity knowledge has been put into supercomputers, so that computer-savvy neuroscientists can perform experiments in a computer, that is, conduct "e-neuroscience." So a supercomputer will be able to perform the same functions as a rat's cortical column, but a million times faster--at electronic speeds compared to the rat's chemical speeds. Following Moore's Law, the whole rat brain will be thus simulated within a decade, and the human brain a decade or two later...Imagine a world in which the cyborgs become increasingly prevalent....[for example] A young mother who has just given birth may choose to add a grain of artilectual sand to her newly born baby's brain, converting it into an artilect. There is so much computing capacity in that grain of sand that she has effectively "killed" her baby. It is no longer human, but an artilect in human disguise. Imagine older parents watching their adult children becoming cyborgs, so that their children are no longer human. 
I've often wondered about this theory: if the super-human intelligences were powerful enough, could they, through the direct manipulation and control of atoms via quantum computing, copy, determine and control reality itself (the physical workings of the universe on the subatomic level, this including the flow of "time" as constituted by the position of physical particles in space-time) - and, if the same super-human intelligences were benevolent enough, then could it be a possibility that they may travel back in time and "digitally copy" bit by bit each and every single experience that ever occurred responsible for human "history," making an exact duplicate reality - an effective "copy" universe - available to be replayed again and again for the enjoyment of the very experiencers copied?  Every life that ever lived would be replicated.  Every event duplicated - all experiences ever known to exist would be digitally scanned as an electronic current replicate, available in storage for "replay."  (The thesis being that "to be" is better than to "never have been at all.")

Moreover, could these intelligences "upload" the copied experiences of any human being - any thing - that ever "lived" (now transferred as 0's and 1's into the realm of the circuit) to be replayed again and again, in effect eliminating "death" (life being the experience of virtual experience in eternal recurrence)?  How, being played on a loop that copy of one's so-called and merely apparent chemical life, might one be able to tell the difference between material physical atoms switching on and off in their chemical circuits and the now digitally playing 0's and 1's switching on and off as electronic currents in that super-intelligent "brain"?  

Could it be that we are all electronic agents of current running in a program, housed in some supercomputer on a ship out in space, aeons in the "future," light-years away from the now dead earth, we 0's and 1's virtually subsisting?  Were our material bodies rescued and converted up into the eternity of silicon and electricity so that we may forever cherish the very life of organic experience that we once had, with the fear of death being only a virtual possibility - one which serves only to provide the illusion that there is an end, this in order to give a required contrast so that we value "life" as we live it?

"4.3 Simulation in Virtual Reality. We exist merely or marginally in someone’s or something’s simulation, in an artificial sensory construction that is an imitation of what reality might be but is not; for example, a Matrix-like world in which all perceptions are fed directly into the human nervous system (“brains in vats”) or into our disembodied consciousness. Alternatively, we exist as processes generated by pure software running  inside cosmic quantum supercomputers." SKEPTIC Vol 13. No. 2 (2007): 37.

Thus, we never have been material ...