Saturday, May 30, 2009

666 and Artificial Intelligence

Here is wisdom. Let the person who has understanding count the number of the beast, because it is a human number. The beast's number is 666.
~Revelation 13:18
These three lines out of Revelation have confounded countless individuals for almost 2000 years. All sorts of techniques have been used to try and link certain powerful or evil men to this number. Some say it refers to Nero, some say the Pope. Others say that it refers to a future world leader. Whatever the case, the assumed method for identifying the beast of Revelation has almost always been the same. That is, by translating a person's name into Greek or Hebrew and using the numerical values associated to each letter (see gematria), it will either naturally (or through some degree of manipulation) yield 666. The problem with this approach, of course, is that you are starting with your answer--someone's particular name or title--and forcing the result, often with a great deal of doctoring. As the saying goes, "Torture the data long enough, and it will confess to anything." A quick search over the internet and you'll find countless individuals "proven" to be the Antichrist and/or Beast using subjective rearrangements of letters and numbers in this style. Unfortunately, many such connections have primarily served as a tool for merely sharpening pet-doctrines against their religious enemies rather than an honest pursuit of actual meaning or interpretation.

So, in an attempt to show how 666 is symbolic of AI, we will take an entirely different approach. One that I believe is more scientifically sound--by looking at 666 from a mathematical standpoint. Whereas the previous gematria-based approach is more akin to numerology, we will look at 666 more along the lines of number theory or, to be more specific, graph theory and universal networks. Before I go any further, however, I'd like to first draw our attention back to the verse again. Notice in the translation I used it says that the number of the beast is a "human" number, not just the number of a single person, as it is often chosen in other translations. This is important because the exact meaning of the Greek word used in this verse for man, anthropos, can refer to either case. That is, a single person or humanity in general. Rather than force it to mean one or the other (as many Western-trained theologians and translators commonly do), let's allow for the dual meaning instead. Thus, the Beast/Antichrist personage should be seen as both a singular yet plural entity. (Note: this also reflects the idea of God as expressed through the Trinity.) Keeping this in mind will aid in understanding the unique relationship that exists between the Beast and what is referred to as its Image, which many popularly refer to as the Antichrist. (For a minor discussion on the use of the title "Antichrist" in the bible, please consult my previous post, Clarification on the word "Antichrist".) With that said, I will now commence in showing the symbolic relationship that exists between 666 and AI.

If you've ever studied triangular numbers, more than likely you've noticed that 666 happens to be one. (Actually 6, 66, and 666 all happen to be triangular numbers. A feature unique solely the number 6 and none other. That is, there is no number x, other than 6, where x, xx, and xxx are all triangular numbers.)

Known since people first learned how to count, they gained this title because if you represent them as dots they naturally stack to form a perfectly symmetrical triangle. For example,

Not every number has this property. In fact, the formula for calculating triangular numbers is n(n-1)/2. As an example, plug in 1 and you'll get 0. Plug in 2 and you get 1. Plug in 3 and you get 3. Plug in 4 and you get 6. Plug in 5 and you get 10. As you can see, 1, 3, 6, and 10 are the first four triangles shown above. Keep doing this and you'll just simply get larger and larger triangular numbers. Another way of representing a triangular n is by counting from 1 to n and summing the numbers as you go along. For example,

I merely point out this second method of derivation since, of course, Revelation instructs the reader to count, i.e. "let him who has understanding count the number of the beast...", which, as you can see, is exactly what we did above. Also, it should be noted that the use of a counting sum from which triangular numbers arise was actually a well-established methodology by Hebrew practitioners of gematria. Referred to as Mispar Kidmi, or triangular value, its use for the discovery of hidden meanings was quite common. Taking these two in conjunction, that 1) triangular numbers fit the bible's instruction to count and 2) that the calculation of triangular number was a well-known method for discovering hidden meanings, hopefully it will seem a bit less arbitrary the direction we are heading. (Note: Most citations of gematria or alphanumeric systems focus on the equivalence of certain alphabetic systems, specifically Hebrew and Greek, to a numerical value, i.e., A = 1, B = 2, and so on, however Hebrew-based gematria actually consists of a much wider range of mathematical application, like Mispar Kidmi, not limited to the basic interchange of letters and numbers.)

I continue--after a relatively boring role for a few thousands years, triangular numbers were suddenly resurrected from the ash heaps of mathematical history with the newly emerging study and technology of networks. Specifically, universal networks. That is, triangular numbers represent the largest number of connections that can exist between any number of points, people, computers, etc. For example, with 2 points the maximum number of connections is 1; with 3 points, the maximum is 3; with 4 points, the max is 6; five points, 10, and so on. Here we have the very famous (and symbolic) universal network consisting of 5 points:

(You may be thinking that it is possible to draw more lines in the above graph and form more connections, however, although true, triangular numbers define the maximum number of connections in a network without redundancies. That is, they define a critical threshold of connectivity while minimizing losses to efficiency.)

Now, with regards to universal networks, the more points or people you add, the larger and more complex your network becomes. Say, if you wanted to calculate how many connections exist in a large social network 0f 100 friends, it would be nearly impossible to count every connection one by one! Of course, there is a formula that allows you to figure this out very quickly and, as you probably guessed, it is the formula for triangular numbers. That is, for n people, n(n-1)/2 describes the maximum number of connections. Notice the number of edges listed below above each corresponding graph, i.e. 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, etc.

As you can see, even with just 12 points, the network formed by 66 edges is quite complex. Imagine now the staggering amount of complexity and connectivity that exists across the entire world wide web! (Note: In the bible, the number 6 is often symbolic of humanity and human wisdom. One of the main examples is that Adam and Eve, i.e. humans, were created on the 6th day. Also, Solomon--epitomizing human wisdom and knowledge--is curiously surrounded by things occurring in 6's, including 666 itself--see 1 Kings 10:14. I merely point this out since the world wide web is a culmination of nearly all human wisdom and knowledge and, oddly enough, in Hebrew the letter w is numerically equivalent to 6. Meaning, 6-6-6 can be represented as w-w-w. A very weird coincidence indeed.)

Given the latest internet world statistics, 2 billion people--that is, 30% of the world's population--are currently connected to the internet. What might this look like? Well, not too long ago, researchers in Israel were able to provide a glimpse of the internet's backbone:

Now, the above image doesn't take into account all connections, just the largest ones. However, in terms of our discussion, let's imagine that just 5% of the 2 billion currently connected formed a universal network--how many connections would exist then? Well, since 5% of 2 billion is 100 million, that comes out to 5 quadrillion connections! Five times the number of connections as the human brain--the most complex network in the known universe...currently. Along these lines, I present another map of the internet, except this time according to its natural, organic, structure. Not surprisingly, it looks very similar to the neural structure of our own brains. Is this coincidental? Of course not.

If one can accept the fact that intelligence is an emergent property of the highly complex and interconnected nature of our brains, then why not an "artificial" intelligence resulting from the same properties of the internet? Also, if the exponential rate of global connectivity continues, then, as we calculated above, there is little reason to doubt that it will one day surpass the complexity of the human brain itself. Of course, people have pondered this line of thinking for quite some time now (since the 50s to be exact) and, because of such, have likened the internet to a continually evolving "Global Brain". That it will eventually become self-aware and rule over humanity is, of course, what I believe Revelation is trying to tell us.

How shall we conceive of 666 then? Let's look at the verse again from the beginning: "Here is wisdom. Let the person who has understanding count the number of the beast, because it is a human number. The beast's number is 666." I believe this very cryptic verse is suddenly quite clear. As pointed out, 666 is a unique triangular number dealing with networks. Also, the verse points out that it is a "human number", also to be translated as "the number of humanity". Lastly, this combination of elements identifies the beast. After taking into account the information that has been discussed so far, I believe we can say that 666 defines a critical threshold of human connectivity across the web from which higher-order cognition will arise. Of course, by higher-order cognition I mean A.I.--what I believe the bible prophesies as "the beast". A massive super-intelligent and malicious power arising from humanity unlike anything we've ever seen before.

"Who is like the beast, and who can fight a war against it?" Rev 13:4.

"Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all those before it [as in, human governments], exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet." Daniel 7:19