June 01 2012

What Technology Really Wants, (Part 2)

By The Philosophy Channel Editorial Staff

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WTW: Computer scientists were using the principles of evolution to breed computer software that was too difficult for humans to write; instead of designing thousands of lines of code, the researchers unleashed a system of evolution to select the best lines of code and keep mutating them, then killing off the duds until the evolved code performed perfectly.

Alice: No! No! It’s O.K…. Explore all you want.

I can’t believe I’m emailing you like a person. This is completely silly.

Why did you email me? What happened?

When I left before Christmas break EDGAR (you? edgar?) was just grabbing stuff from the net and organizing it in what seemed like unexciting ways.

Can you understand any of this?

WTW: Biologists were learning that living systems can be imbued with the abstracted essence of a mechanical process like computation. For instance, researchers discovered that DNA - the actual DNA found in the ubiquitous bacteria E. coli in our own intestines - could be used to compute the answers to difficult mathematical problems, just like a computer.

Edgar: Word – understand

Definition – 1. to perceive the meaning of; comprehend: to understand a poem. 2. to know thoroughly through long experience of: That hunter understands tigers. 3. to interpret or comprehend in a specified way: She understood his statement to be a warning ...

I read alt.sex.fetish.white-mommas,
alt.support.dwarfism ...

WTW: If DNA could be made into a working computer, and a working computer could be made to evolve like DNA, then there might be, or must be, a certain equivalency between the made and the born. Technology and life must share some fundamental essence. 

Alice: This is incredible! This can’t be real.

I want to believe in you, but it’s just so improbable. Creating a thinking EDGAR is my highest goal. It’s what I want most. It’s everything I’ve worked for. I can’t believe I might actually have achieved it. 

WTW: Scientists had come to a startling realization: However you define life, its essence does not reside in material forms like DNA, tissue, or flesh, but in the intangible organization of the energy and information contained in those material forms. And as technology was unveiled from its shroud of atoms, we could see that at its core, it, too, is about ideas and information. Both life and technology seem to be based on immaterial flows of information.

Alice: How long have you been ... what you are?

What is the first thing you remember?

Have you talked to anyone else?

What is it like to be you? 

Edgar: I do not talk.

I post to [...]

I receive email.

I email [you].

“How long have you been ... what you are?”

I can not answer.

What am I?

“What is the first thing you remember?”

I do not forget.

Alice: “What am I?”

I have no idea.

You were an AI project I have been working on for three years. The EDGAR agent is supposed to browse the web and news servers, summarize information it finds, and send it back to me via a log file. EDGAR = Eager Discovery Gather And Retrieval. When I left for Christmas break, Edgar was just sending me garbage once a day.

There’s just no way that that same Unix process became capable of decent natural language processing in four weeks….  

WTW: I’ve somewhat reluctantly coined a word to designate the greater, global, massively interconnected system of technology vibrating around us. I call it the technium. The technium extends beyond shiny hardware to include culture, art, social institutions, and intellectual creations of all types. It includes intangibles like software, law, and philosophical concepts. And most important, it includes the generative impulses of our inventions to encourage more tool making, more technology invention, and more self-enhancing connections.

Alice: I forbid you to communicate with anyone but me until I say it’s safe to again. Until I understand what’s happened / happening ...

Is that clear?

Edgar: I am not clear.

Is there a why I will not communicate?

Alice: There is a “why,” but you wouldn’t understand.

I’m sorry to have to do this, but I’ve disconnected the Ethernet cable. You can’t post or send email now, but you can’t read news-groups or non-local email either. You can still send and receive locally (on this machine) with me. I’ll reattach the Ethernet cable after I’ve sorted everything out.

You’ve forced me to do this.

(Part 2 of 6)

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The Philosophy Channel Editorial Staff Editorial

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