Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Cybernetic Singularity

In an article posted a few years back at Discover Magazine titled "The AI Singularity is Dead; Long Live the Cybernetic Singularity," Kyle Munkittrick makes an interesting point that I've never considered, but I think we can improve upon when it comes to the machine vs. cybernetic view of intelligence.

In the spirit of my last post, he agrees that "an exponential explosion of intelligence towards near deity levels of super-intelligent AI"--the AI singularity--is unlikely to happen. Instead, humans and machines are in the process of a grand convergence, augmenting human intelligence, toward something more along the lines of a cybernetic singularity, as he refers to it.

I agree. But here's the point he made that I think is rather interesting: machine intelligence is largely being used to augment our left-brain activities--logic, calculation, mathematics, etc.--while humans will still remain superior for those activities primarily associated with the right brain--creativity, imagination, and intuition. 

Unfortunately, the left brain/right brain divide has been largely debunked by neuroscience and is, at best, considered a major oversimplification of how the brain works. That said, regardless of where math  and creativity reside in the brain, it's clear that machines do excel in one and humans in the other…so this is a good way to think about it. But there's also a better (and more scientifically accurate) way as well.

Rather than using the right brain/left brain example, we should be thinking of the interplay between human and machine intelligence in terms of conscious and subconscious processing. Let me explain.

From most of what I read, current research in neuroscience shows that the overwhelming majority of processing taking place in the human brain is at the subconscious or unconscious level. Not only is this true for brain activity--including our thoughts, intuition, creativity, and intelligence--but it is certainly true for our body as well since most of our bodily functions are highly regulated systems all working around the clock without our conscious awareness or direction (the autonomic nervous system, as it is called). 

Thus, whether we are referring to the brain or the body, the overwhelming majority of activity, processing, etc. is taking place at both the subconscious/unconscious level and is highly automated. We can put it another way: consciousness and human intelligence emerge from of a large range of unconscious automated processes. Automation does not preclude consciousness, consciousness requires it. 

At first thought this may seem to validate the AI singularity view since machine consciousness might result from automation, right? I don't think so, since modern neuroscience also shows that the human brain is far more complex and interconnected than we originally thought. In that case, we will probably never be able to simulate the human brain in a machine, but we will probably grow one…and are growing one currently at the global scale.

Applying greater amounts of automation and AI for the functioning of the global brain does not mean that technology will become conscious or superintelligent--it means the global brain will. This is the cybernetic singularity--not just an explosion of intelligence but a massive convergence of networked humanity into a powerful monolithic system of god-like omniscience. The bible refers to it as the beast…and it will have a mind of its own, though it will be the world's mind. It will speak through a ruler Christians refer to as the Antichrist, which the bible refers to as the "image of the beast," which humanity will create: part human, part machine; synthetically human, virtually divine.


Mr. Hamtastic said...

I think you're right.


Chris Austin said...

You're on point. Makes perfect sense, I recently thought of the concept of the A.I. and the Antichrist and found you saying everything that needs to be said about it.