Exploring the Social Imagination

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How Far is the Social Imagiantion Willing to Go?

John Gallion's photo.
"Image of the Beast" mentioned by John the Revelations is exactly related to the article posted below talking about futurist Ray Kurzweil's thesis ~ The Law of Accelerating Returns. You see, Artificial Intelligence and DNA chimeras are basically mankind creating life in our own image - rather than God's. Right now as I right this things like this photo are being created in labs worldwide. The "beast" is "animal". And as far as AI goes, even Steven Hawking has warned us about the incredible dangers of it.

To make a stronger case for such dangers, I use this article by Drake Baer; presented here without much change given its well written content.

In this recent article, we read about the predictions of Futurist Ray Kurzweil. He relates what is happening by retelling the tale of the inventor of chess and his patron, the Emperor of China.  As it goes in the tale, we read in response to the emperor’s offer of a reward for his new beloved game, the inventor asked for a single grain of rice on the first square, two on the second square, four on the third, and so on. The Emperor quickly granted this seemingly benign and humble request. One version of the story has the emperor going bankrupt as the 63 doublings ultimately totaled 18 million trillion grains of rice. At ten grains of rice per square inch, this requires rice fields covering twice the surface area of the Earth, oceans included. Another version of the story has the inventor losing his head. 
Therein lies the most terrifying, exciting, and mystifying aspect of Futurist Ray Kurzweil's thesis ~ The Law of Accelerating Returns which states that "fundamental measures of information technology follow predictable and exponential trajectories." 

For Kurzweil, we're somewhere in the middle of that chessboard.

"It should be pointed out that as the emperor and the inventor went through the first half of the chess board, things were fairly uneventful," Kurzweil continues. "The inventor was given spoonfuls of rice, then bowls of rice, then barrels. By the end of the first half of the chess board, the inventor had accumulated one large field’s worth (4 billion grains), and the emperor did start to take notice." And it's only when a technology like a smartphone comes in and suddenly shifts our entire culture that we start to realize how quickly things are accelerating.

That's because, Kurzweil says, humans are linear by nature — and technology is exponential. 
Technology's relentless, predictable, and exponential growth will, according to the law of accelerating returns, bring humans into the era that Kurzweil is most closely associated with, the singularity. 

"As exponential growth continues to accelerate into the first half of the twenty-first century," he writes. "It will appear to explode into infinity, at least from the limited and linear perspective of contemporary humans."
The singularity (or Singularity) is used to describe the era when artificial intelligence supplants human intelligence as the most-capable processing power around. 

But some of the world's other great innovative minds are less excited about the whole singularity thing.
CEO of SpaceX, product architect of Tesla Motors and chairman of SolarCity Elon Musk has repeatedly said that we should be afraid of these high technologies. He's said that that "with artificial intelligence we're summoning the demon," and that it poses the biggest existential threat to humans". But for the rest of us, the issue isn't whether Futurist Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns is good or bad. Simply that it exists. 

How far is the social imagination willing to go?

*Source of Kurzweil article -  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/google-genius-futurist-one-theory-183400084.html

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