A Perfect Murder

The Soul of the East

The Magic of Scientism: Harry and Ray at Work and Play

The generations to be born towards the end of this decade, or the beginning of the next, should by all means endeavor to preserve their inner child for as long as possible. For the childhood dream of changing reality through a tap of the magic wand, wielded by a playful magus, could soon, in words of Google Lab’s CEO Ray Kurzweil, become “feasible activity in full-immersion virtual reality.” In so saying, Kurzweil actually has in mind a particular magician, the popular sorcerer Harry Potter from J.K. Rowling’s bestsellers. For those acquainted with Kurzweil’s labors, there is nothing unusual in him relying on a fictional character, whose personal traits seem to closer resemble those of the IT geek, like a young Bill Gates, than a classical wizard from our fairy tales. Moreover, Ray’s pop-science book Singularity is Near and Rowling’s…

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2 Comments on A Perfect Murder

  1. Jimmy J. Compeutski // December 13, 2014 at 3:11 am // Reply

    I’ve been having fun watching the alt-media and conspiracy culture folks deal with the concepts of transhumanism and human-computer relations. I think the conclusions of your article — that transhumanism is necessarily anathema to the able individual or team — are incorrect, but your perspective is still very valuable and I agree with quite a few points.

    First, trusted general-purpose computers are tremendously useful devices. They can augment memory, cognition, sheduling — basically, anything that someone else has already understood. The internet brings people together by permitting strangers — just like you and me — to interact from distances and at scale previously thought utterly magical, if not heretical.

    Is humanity at an historic fork in the road, or do all generations feel this?
    Humans have already integrated computers into their eyes, hands, and minds. Will there be self-improving AI? A Kurzweil singularity? I very highly doubt it, Moore’s Law gives us cheap-as-free computing but thermodynamics limits our designs to a flat plane. that means it’s still kind of hard to create neural networks as interconnected — and as fast — as those in the human brain.

    And yes, I am of the opinion that human consciousness, personality, will.. mind — is entirely contained within the body. That is, mind is the effect of the history of interactions between the body and its environment. History weaved in a web of spindles, axons, dendrites, and receptors. I see no need to postulate external dependencies when things are explainable — though not yet explained — without invalidating our prior knowledge of the physical world.

    What’s being built is Bayesian prediction algorithms. Kind of like your spam filter, but for any question, not just “is this spam?”. These are pretty useful, but they need a lot of data, about as many people as possible, for as long as possible. In short, a marketer’s wet dream.
    This is the transhumanist vision of Google and In-Q-Tel and the rest of the Silicon Valley hangers-on. Collect, classify, and predict.

    Others may see transhumanism differently. In a very real way, it’s already here. The merge isn’t physical, but our minds are augmented by google and dependent on search. That’s fine and good though — if Google disappeared we could run our own google-clone together to achieve the same results. So it’s helpful, and in the long run it cannot be used as a reliable means of control.

    Consider, for a moment, your favorite hand. It has no will of it own, it obeys only you, nor can it choose to, or desire anything other than obeying your command. “Snap fingers, hand.” **SNAP**! If you have the same relationship with a computer, it can do no harm, and it just might help. However, making sure you can really trust it is a little complicated – but possible through strong cryptography.

    So I reject the Kurzweilian transhumanist target, but allow open-source transhumanism. Where we gradually get better at communicating with machines we can trust, so that the machines can be used easily and transparently. Machines can bring people together — telegraph or Skype. They can also vastly increase the power of a single mind. So I cannot say with certainty that the improvement of the interface between man in machine is a bad thing. We just need to mind what those machines are doing, and whose orders they are carrying out.

    • Yes, Ive written several articles along the same lines agreeing that AI will not work in the Kurzweil sense. It is predictive algorithms that are key. Thanks for your comments.

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