Artificial life in a chaotic universe
BLOG: The new Metropolis
C.G. Masi, Contributing Writer -- Packaging Digest, 12/14/2012 7:13:56 AM
In the last couple of posts, I've fiddled around with the idea of artificial life. To the ancients, this was not a strange idea. Hephaestos, Greek god of the workshop, was said to create all sorts of biomimetic mechanisms. Jewish tradition holds that some exceptionally holy priests were able to form anthropomorphic figures of mud (artsy types would recognize this as modeling clay) and bring them to life. These were called golem and were distinguishable from God-created humans by being unable to speak. In the Talmud, Adam was initially created as a golem, but God was able to go one better by giving Adam the ability to speak.
These days, we know that you don't have to be particularly holy to make a golem. The ability to make something outwardly resembling a human form is no big deal. I did my first credible female form in modeling clay at, like, age seven. The ancient city of Rhodes was supposedly littered with mechanical creatures that displayed lifelike movement. The visitor center at Cape Kennedy has a pretty lifelike robot lecturer. What makes this stuff worth talking about here is that our computer technology has reached the level where we could concievably put it all together.
Artificial intelligence researchers have, for years, had programs that could carry on a credibly lifelike conversation. Voice simulation programs (as opposed to mere recordings) are readily available (ask Steven Hawking). For a couple hundred bucks you can download software from the Internet that will listen to your voice and transcribe what you say into written text.
So, we have all the pieces needed to make a credible artificial person. The Star Wars character C3PO is no longer necessarily from "long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away." It's darn close to "living" in the robotics lab next door. Maybe, like Pygmalion's Galatea, she's already there.
From our technological vantage point, we can see that the hard part is not, as the authors of the Talmud believed, giving our golems the ability to speak, but giving them the ability to think. By thinking, I'm not talking about using George Boole's algebra to solve problems in propositional calculus. That's well known to be an exercise in tautologies. What I'm talking about figuring out what to do next when asked to wander about in a chaotic universe, like the one in which we live.
The thing that characterizes our chaotic universe is that what-will-happen-next is not entirely predictable, and prognostication quickly degenerates into a crapshoot the farther we move into the future. Natural living creatures have to deal with chaos all the time. What makes humans smart is their ability to come up with really good ideas for what-to-do-next when what-will-happen-next is a crapshoot.
C.G. Masi has been blogging about technology and society since 2006. In a career spanning more than a quarter century, he has written more than 400 articles for scholarly and technical journals, and six novels dealing with automation's place in technically advanced society. For more information, visit www.cgmasi.com.
Both had communication, energy sources, air and light for 10 days in the cramped 80 inch cube. The human and the robot had passed many selection criteria to be placed in the cubes and find a solution to get out, once locked in. The robot used its mechanical and material superiority to slowly but steadily claw its way through the steel and concrete enclosure. In the meanwhile the human played games on the cell phone and chatted to friends of the peace, quiet and good food within the cube. On the ninth day the robot made a small hole in its cube, clearly demonstrating that in just a day or so it could get out. Upon hearing this news from his twitter friends, the human made "an amazing escape" a few hours later, said his attorney.
Riancm Egroeg - 2012-30-12 11:42:46 EST
Author are right, creating an artificial live creature is not so hard problem. The real problems are in understanding how to do so, and for what reason we have to do that.
Today science did not have the right understanding of the role of a brain in our body, nor how the observable behavior is determined. That is the reason for abcence of an artificial live creature around us. And that is for good, because there will be no place for biological life, if that will happen. Reason is not in inherited aggresivenes of an artificial creatures, but in limitation of available resourses and superiority of the artificial creatures by design.
Should we build them? Yes, but with luck of abilities to have they own personal goals, or wishes. This simple megure could safe us and hold our creatures in position of tools in our hands.
Michael Zeldich - 2012-27-12 04:03:37 EST
It is true that computers can have programs that seem to respond with some intellect, but the one limitation behind all of them is that the code is written by programmers and it contains all of their limitations. In addition, the code written for sale is additionally enfeebled by lawyers. Thus the realm is limited, and it is not likely that those limitations will be overcome. Perhaps that is good, since if artificial life became advanced enough, it might decide that we were no longer needed. A much closer problem would be the detachment from reality that many oof the human types would follow.
William Ketel - 2012-26-12 12:30:42 EST
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