Story world: machines and human intelligence

Before you read: I have written better posts than this.

This does not mean the ideas are invalid, but more that I am bumbling my way through some new ideas, I am not sure if I am on the right way in this and I probably am following a different path than many others. I might revisit this post later.

Six main questions

  1. Can machines make us smarter?
  2. What will happen when we merge with machine intelligence?
  3. What will happen when we get immediate access to all available knowledge?
  4. What is intelligence?
  5. What will change for our human form / what is this “post human”?
  6. Are these the right questions?

Story world assumption/conclusion:

next step in human evolution is all about choice

In my story world, machine-intelligence does not make people “smarter” in the sense of boosting their “IQ”. The people who have this technology will not become super-humans with “IQ 1000” because they extended their minds with machine intelligence (or live inside computers).

The biological units that contains their brains and their mind is still very much the same as ours. Just a bit more optimized and a bit more extended.

I assume that our biological brain is what it is. I assume our “consciousness mind” is actually quite stupid, like a person babbling most of the time without really saying anything worth wile. I assume our “real thinking” happens mostly behind the scenes, matching patterns and bringing several impulses together.

Adding machine-thinking to our biological brain will change nothing in that. Look what 30 years of personal computing has done. We still use it mostly to watch porn, find pictures and videos of cute animals (kittens! talking dogs!) and share our ideas with other people (e-mail, micro blogging, blogs, videos, podcasts, vodcasts).

What I think will change mostly is in these fields:

  1. Decision making – Better personal instruments for decision making.
  2. Choice – More choice, more options, better tools to weight these choices and project/predict the possible outcomes of these choices.
  3. Memory/recording – A more complete moment-to moment recording of our own lives: where we were, what we did, ehat we saw, what we said and what happened inside our bodies.

The end result is a human being (I decided to call “Homo Electio Facies”, “the choice-making human”) with:

  1. More options to choose
  2. More options to change
  3. A better insight in his/her own past

Belief systems

I assume in this post (and in my stories) that Belief systems are the primary limiting factor in choice. “I can not..” is one. “I am not allowed” is another. These limitations become almost ridiculous when they are linked to some magical belief system (“I can not [fill in the “impossible” choices] because otherwise [fill in the magical action] will happen and [fill in/who what will die/get smitten/get affected] will be [fill in the exact consequence of the magical action]), or when they are linked to non-existing problems: which follows the same patterns as a magical belief system.

Even worse in this is stubbornness: “it is as it is and this will not change,” or “we have always done it this way. We will not change that,” limiting and even killing any alternative option you might have had.

For good or bad?

Imagine what you can do with software that predicts possible outcomes of your actions. Both the good and the bad. Then focus on the bad and make it worse. Technology is neutral. Like any tool it can be used to fix things and destroy them.

Self correcting

Like any system, society is self-correcting. So take the above “for the bad” and imagine people on the “other” side as well. Whateve they do and whatever they will be called, will take care of this. (“The invisible man” in my cycle will focus on that aspect.)

Story world

In the alternate reality of “The decline of Europe” I assume that several African countries have moved to a next stage where computing power is merged within their bodies and that the systems that create these in-body “computers” can be transferred in-utero.

Running within these in-body computers (within my story world) are several computational simulations, of reality, of certain processes: “calculating” probable outcomes and painting possible decisions that can be made to either turn situations for the better or the worse. So when you wonder: “What should I do?” you simply look at the simulations and the results they produced and then base your decisions on that.

Europe, instead, is deliberately crippled with all kinds of junk belief-systems that are deliberately designed to limit your options. Think social engineering with the purpose to let stupid ideas win.

Temporal lobe: projecting possible future scenarios

We kind of predict possible situations already with the neo-cortex and the temporal lobe. When we evaluate a situation, this is what I imagine happens roughly:

  1. Predict / project – We create stories of “what would happen if?” using several scenarios involving people, objects and actions.
  2. Evaluate  –  We evaluate the different possible outcomes of a certain action against:
    1. Our (moral) values – Would this outcome be “good” or “bad”?
    2. Our personal economics – What will “I” win/lose? What is more important to keep? What can be sacrificed? These economics range from money to relationships to peer-approval to anything else that we find relevant.
  3. Decide – Based on the predictions/projections and evaluation a decision follows.

Extending this with machine intelligence: merge of mind and machine

What if you would “merge” machine intelligence with human intelligence? What kind of shape would this take? What kind of intelligence would be added?

Note: I use the term “Machine intelligence” out of lazyness. Computers are hardly machines, unless you take the process of electrons moving through/over conductors and semi-conductors a “mechanical” process.

If I look at current developments, artificial intelligence – mimicking the human brain and able to make complex decisions – seems to get behind something else: software that is able to simulate specific situations. From weather patterns (forecasting the weather for the next hour, day and week) and computational models of physics, biology, electronics and quantum physics.

So I assume forecasting / simulation will be the next big thing.

  1. Memory – Imagine endless storage. Basically more storage than you will ever use. Then record everything that happens around you. Sound, visuals. Then record everything inside yourself: changes in blood sugar levels, levels of adrenaline, dopamine, you name it. Changes in tensions in your body. Responses by your organs. The functioning state of your organs. And so on.
  2. Information – Take the internet. Take research. Take databases and structured data. Take shared information between people and groups. Findings, measured results. Information from cities, ranging from pollution levels to traffic to crimes and public safety and so on.
  3. Correlation – Correlation can be on personal levels. Bodily responses connected to recorded data from the environment: sound, visuals. It can be connected to data from your environment. your house, the city, the street. From date online. Mapt it, shape it, allow cross connections, preliminary conclusions displayed as nodal points: “here something significant happens” “here stuff comes together”.
  4. Visualization – When data is correlated, mapped you visualize it. Imagine a 360 degrees view, a view where you are in the center of a globe in which your system places that data, in which you can “look around”.
  5. Simulation and forecasting – So what would happen if you change something? What would happen if you project that data into the future and follow the trends that seem to be emerging? that have already emerged at that point? Where are the hot-spots? Which elements were crucial?
  6. Backtracking – Something happened to you. What was it? How did it affect you? What did you see? What did you miss? (Remember that you have a system that is able to record everything around you, including what happened behind your back.) What can you deduct from that? What can you change?
  7.  Decision making – What will you do next? Which choices will you make? What value systems will you use for that?

The new brain: human intelligence and its limits

Alfred E. van Vogt was one of those writers under John W.Campbell (Editor of Astounding Science Fiction). Apparently Campbell believed much in the super-human and the value of superior humans to drive humanity forward.

Van Vogt wrote several stories in which those super-humans appeared. The world of Null-A, the Mixed Man series to name two. In these stories van Vogt assumes these humans have a “new” brain extending the Neo Cortex and the Temporal lobe, adding even more smart features to our mental capabilities.

Computer intelligence can be just that thing: that “extra brain” or “extra  lobe” that extends human possibilities beyond what we have now, leading to things like:

  1. Absolute memory – Where you remember what was observed, not what your mind made out of things afterwards. You have recordings to show, to review.
  2. Absolute perception – What is recorded by the senses, not what has been translated by the brain into approximations of what you heard, saw and felt.
  3. Extended mental capacities– Like:
    1. Immediate insight – Into situations, processes and so on. Imagine WikiPedia and other sources available immediately.
    2. Non-vocal, instant communication over long distances – Like telepathy but then using things similar to mobile telephony and Skype
    3. Direct manipulation of objects around us – Like telekinesis, but then using systems around us. See “Domotica” below.

When you look at our current state, we are already arriving this point.

  1. Real time recording of your life – Wear a recording device on your chest, like LifeLapse, record everything all the time and allow yourself to mark memorable moments (as most of what is recorded is boring “from A to B” stuff).
  2. Always connected, anywhere – We have internet, we have portable devices like tablets, netbooks and smartphones with wireless internet that allows us to access any online data any time, anywhere.
  3. Upcoming domotica – With prices dropping and more and more systems entering the market, you can remotely open your door, start your coffee-maker, open your curtains, switch on and off your lights.

But when this all becomes integrated, if we can access this anytime anywhere, will we be become smarter? Will our IQ move from 100 (on average) to 1000 and more? What will really change for us?


Your standard set of options

In general we are only aware of a limited set of options: mostly defined by our belief-systems. “What can I do?” has per definition a limited set of answers.

These options you “have” are the options you are aware of (2). The options your are NOT aware of are – however – much greater (3).

So how do you get to more choice? 

Adding options via an “External” system

The trick is to introduce a “new” system that allows you to get access to more options (4).

This “new” system can be, for instance:

  1. A new belief system – “What I think is possible, is only a limited set of the options I can choose from”
  2. Awareness of your own responses – “What I think is not an option is actually [fill in your response]” For instance: “forbidden area according to my beliefs and belief system and thus scary to me”.
  3. A different approach to the problem– For instance:
    1. Looking at all options equally – “lets take a moment and look at all the possibilities that are there. Even the ones I think are not  an option. Then evaluate what is really the best choice.”
    2. Research of the unknown – “I am running out of the options I think I know. Lets do research and see if there are options I do not know about yet”.

So, next question is: what can hamper choice and limit options?

  1. Taboo – It is possible your belief system tells you certain options are an explicit no-go direction.
  2. Social pressure/social status – A soft form of taboo: directly linked to your environment. While some options might be possible, your environment considers it “not done”.
  3. Effect/consequences – Some options can have severe effect. For instance: damage to other people and other objects or temporary or permanent loss. In the worst case leading to effects like death, loss of friends, loss of money, job or business.

What can extend your possible options?

  1. Knowledge/research – The more you know about a subject, the more options become available
  2. Simulations/tests – What if you can try before you act? Project possible situations and possible outcomes and then choose the one that seems best?
  3. An inclusive way of thinking – As discussed before and in the next part, the way we think can either limit or extend our possible options. When you believe everything is hard and difficult, you will get to different results then when you consider all options equally possible and valid until after the evaluation.

Intelligence and choice

Let me start with one simple statement first: IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is overrated in discussions like this. Intelligence is more than your IQ. Sure it helps to be smart and have a well-operating brain that is quick and helps you avoid the stupid mistakes. But machines will not increase your intelligence.

Drugs might. Machines will not (is my main statement).

So what might help to become “smarter” and boost things into a more beneficiary direction?

  1. (Smart) Drugs – The human brain can improve in its functionality by using smart drugs. When you are a student now (2012) you probably tried things like Ritalin and smart drugs containing Cola-nut and other stimulants to support your brain in remaining clear and attentive while you study. They help optimize certain processes like taking out the clutter that is in the way of effective functioning.
  2. Better systems of thinking – Some thinkers, including Edward de Bono and Alfred Korzybski, state that there is something fundamentally wrong with what they call Aristotelian thinking: the kind of thinking that — in simplified terms — assumes that if you dig deep enough, there “is” only “one perfect solution” and “one perfect answer/truth”.
    1. The beef with this system of thinking – Both Korzybski (Non-Aristotelian thinking) and de Bono (attacking the Aristotelian thinking in most of his works I read). One thing being the “either/or” where multiple different (contradictory) ideas “can not exist in the same space”. “Things are either right or wrong and cannot be both”. Another being the classification in linear trees, for instance used to visualize the “order of things”.
    2. The alternative idea –  Korzybski focused – I think – mainly on the introduction of “relative thinking”: what you see is not what “is”. De Bono more on “Lateral thinking“: several things can exist next to each other and you should consider each. “Things can be right AND wrong at the same time and in the same space”.
  3. Better systems of (self) judgement– In brief: what do you do when you make a mistake? How much time do you spend bashing yourself? How important is guilt and “wrong” in your own belief system? How much of that has thinking has been wasting your time and your life?
    1. Other systems of morale – How useful is guilt when it takes over all your thinking? How useful is it to know all the things you should NOT do? How much more useful would it be if you would focus instead on the things you SHOULD do? And is guilt really that effective to prevent people from doing “bad” stuff (including having oral sex and masturbating)?
  4. Better systems of choice – So what do you use to base your choices on? How many different options do you know? How many different options do you really use?

Then the main question: Will we become more intelligent?

I believe: not much.

What I believe will be added to our existing repertoire of options is the following:

  1. More options – The more we know, the more choice we have to solve conflicts, problems and situations that are “sub optimal”.
  2. More choice – Do your really have to shout at someone when something goes wrong? Do you really need to compete? Beat someone down to get better? Or can you reach similar and even better results in other ways?
  3. More self-awareness – Did I really say this? My actions are X, but they generate no real improvement in my situation. Where can I change things?
  4. More awareness of consequences – With every choice comes action and result. (Even if no choice is made). In my stories I assume the software people run on their personal machines is capable of projecting personal choice on the environment around them. “What happens if I dump my garbage on the street?” “What happens if we do not maintain these buildings?” “What happens if I act like an asshole to the people around me?”

Homo Electio Faciens: the choice-making human?

So maybe the next stage in our development is choice-making. Choice-making on a level we do not have now: using “machine intelligence” to project possible futures, possible scenarios, possible outcomes.

We are not getting smarter as so much, but mostly more aware of the options we have. More free to select what might be the best for us, but also for the group.

From “some” options, we move to “many” options.


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