Quantum, Artificial Intelligence, Dilbert and Duct Tape

December 16, 2015
By David E. Meadows


Moore’s Law is dead; long live whatever succeeds it.


This is almost like an end-of-year bonus—writing about artificial intelligence, quantum technology, robotics and even electronic warfare. I miss Moore’s Law, which showed computing/processing speeds doubling every two years. And even that was a moving target—after all, two years down the road was somewhere nebulous.

Then, I wake up to press announcements December 10-11 that seem to show Moore’s Law of 24 months definitely has been revamped. Wow … and here I was blissfully thinking under Moore’s Law that, no matter what I said or wrote, I always had two years before being proved wrong. But I, like millions of others, was busy stimulating the global economy during this holiday season and was caught unaware though forewarned.

During these two critical days, MIT announced a major breakthrough in artificial intelligence (AI) whereby machines were learning quicker than humans. This entailed approaching artificial learning using a Bayesian Program Learning (BPL) model. If you have been following the recent Dilbert cartoons, they show the dangers of AI in robots.

My recommendation, while thinking of it, is to start stockpiling WD-40, duct tape and cans of coffee. There is nothing in this world that moves that cannot be fixed with the first two. If it is supposed to move and does not, then use WD-40. If it moves and it should not, then use the duct tape. If those fail, in a world of anarchy cans of coffee can be traded for most everything except maybe beer and toilet tissue. Come to think of it, add toilet tissue to that stockpile.

Then, the very next day Google announced it has conquered Quantum computing with a Quantum computer named D-Wave. In keeping with today’s political correctness schemes, engineers did not assign a gender pronoun to it. But D-Wave makes me think of the human named Dave trying to regain control of his spaceship from a computer forced to protect him in Arthur Clarke’s 2001: a Space Odyssey published in 1968. To help with this analogy, D-Wave lives in isolated cold in a NASA Lab, which I mentioned in my June 11th blog, “The Clash of Two Physics.”

Google has been identified publicly in its quest for business growth in quantum technology, artificial intelligence and robotics. This commercial giant is not alone. A lot of major industries, labs and large academic campuses such as IBM, Microsoft, defense labs and Lockheed Martin are pouring research dollars into AI, quantum technologies and robotics. With increases in minimum wage coming, a rumor has emerged that we might be seeing the fast food industry becoming another R&D arm of AI and quantum.

By the way, those clicking, clattering, clanking noises you hear are the AI robots along the edges fighting the extreme cold required for their quantum brains to work as they wait for the call. Long live Dilbert!

David E. Meadows, MBA, MS, is a retired U.S. Navy captain and the author of The Sixth Fleet, Task Force America, Seawolf and Final Run.

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Most folk still seem unable to break free from the traditional science fiction based notions involving individual robots/computers/systems. Either as potential threats, beneficial aids or serious basis for "artificial intelligence".
In actuality, the real next cognitive entity quietly self assembles in the background, mostly unrecognized for what it is. And, contrary to our usual conceits, is not stoppable or directly within our control.
We are very prone to anthropocentric distortions of objective reality. This is perhaps not surprising, for to instead adopt the evidence based viewpoint now afforded by "big science" and "big history" takes us way outside our perceptive comfort zone.
The fact is that the evolution of the Internet (and, of course, major components such as Google) is actually an autonomous process. The difficulty in convincing people of this "inconvenient truth" seems to stem partly from our natural anthropocentric mind-sets and also the traditional illusion that in some way we are in control of, and distinct from, nature. Contemplation of the observed realities tend to be relegated to the emotional "too hard" bin.
This evolution is not driven by any individual software company or team of researchers, but rather by the sum of many human requirements, whims and desires to which the current technologies react. Among the more significant motivators are such things as commerce, gaming, social interactions, education and sexual titillation.
Virtually all interests are catered for and, in toto provide the impetus for the continued evolution of the Internet. Netty is still in her larval stage, but we "workers" scurry round mindlessly engaged in her nurture.
By relinquishing our usual parochial approach to this issue in favor of the overall evolutionary "big picture" provided by many fields of science, the emergence of a new predominant cognitive entity (from the Internet, rather than individual machines) is seen to be not only feasible but inevitable.
The separate issue of whether it well be malignant, neutral or benign towards we snoutless apes is less certain, and this particular aspect I have explored elsewhere.
Stephen Hawking, for instance, is reported to have remarked "Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all,"
Such statements reflect the narrow-minded approach that is so common-place among those who make public comment on this issue. In reality, as much as it may offend our human conceits, the march of technology and its latest spearhead, the Internet is, and always has been, an autonomous process over which we have very little real control.
Seemingly unrelated disciplines such as geology, biology and "big history" actually have much to tell us about the machinery of nature (of which technology is necessarily a part) and the kind of outcome that is to be expected from the evolution of the Internet.
This much broader "systems analysis" approach, freed from the anthropocentric notions usually promoted by the cult of the "Singularity", provides a more objective vision that is consistent with the pattern of autonomous evolution of technology that is so evident today.
Very real evidence indicates the rather imminent implementation of the next, (non-biological) phase of the on-going evolutionary “life” process from what we at present call the Internet. It is effectively evolving by a process of self-assembly.
The "Internet of Things" is proceeding apace and pervading all aspects of our lives. We are increasingly, in a sense, “enslaved” by our PCs, mobile phones, their apps and many other trappings of the increasingly cloudy net. We are already largely dependent upon it for our commerce and industry and there is no turning back. What we perceive as a tool is well on its way to becoming an agent.
There are at present more than 3 billion Internet users. There are an estimated 10 to 80 billion neurons in the human brain. On this basis for approximation the Internet is even now only one order of magnitude below the human brain and its growth is exponential.
That is a simplification, of course. For example: Not all users have their own computer. So perhaps we could reduce that, say, tenfold. The number of switching units, transistors, if you wish, contained by all the computers connecting to the Internet and which are more analogous to individual neurons is many orders of magnitude greater than 3 Billion. Then again, this is compensated for to some extent by the fact that neurons do not appear to be binary switching devices but instead can adopt multiple states.
We see that we must take seriously the possibility that even the present Internet may well be comparable to a human brain in at least raw processing power. And, of course, the all-important degree of interconnection and cross-linking of networks and supply of sensory inputs is also growing exponentially.
We are witnessing the emergence of a new and predominant cognitive entity that is a logical consequence of the evolutionary continuum that can be traced back at least as far as the formation of the chemical elements in stars.
This is the main theme of my latest book "The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill" which is now available as a 336 page illustrated paperback from Amazon, etc.
Netty, as you may have guessed by now, is the name I choose to identify this emergent non-biological cognitive entity. In the event that we can subdue our natural tendencies to belligerence and form a symbiotic relationship with this new phase of the "life" process then we have the possibility of a bright future.
If we don't become aware of these realities and mend our ways, however, then we snout-less apes could indeed be relegated to the historical rubbish bin within a few decades. After all , our infrastructures are becoming increasingly Internet dependent and Netty will only need to "pull the plug" to effect pest eradication.
So it is to our advantage to try to effect the inclusion of desirable human behaviors in Netty's psyche. In practice that equates to our species firstly becoming aware of our true place in nature’s machinery and, secondly, making a determined effort to "straighten up and fly right"

Peter, congrats on your second book. It is obvious from the passion and length of your comment that you are truly convinced about the idea that nature and IT are intertwined and that the growing Internet of things will turn into next cognitive entity, which you called Nelly, is on the horizon. I don't necessarily agree with your hypothesis without some rationale & logic trails that show the reasoning. I do agree with Stephen Hawkins comment about AI. I think you are taking it further, which shows how much thought you are putting into this theory. What I came away with is that you provide lots of statements, but paucity of explanations/logic trails as to how you reached your basis. It took be several reads, but I came away thinking of the Star Trek adversary 'The Borg' which were a physical combination of machine and humans. I really think you have a lot of potential for a great story/book if told in simpler terms with a logic trail on how you reached this point. My thanks for the obvious time you took to place a comment on my light-hearted blog. All the best and may the holiday season be filled with good health, lots of adventures, and prosperity. Cheers, Dave

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