Posted by: okathleen | May 22, 2008

Even a sheet of paper has two sides

I sat slumped on the sofa watching a Japanese professor drone on about artificial intelligence and intelligent artifice. Bored by the banal Apprentices, and zombified by the hype of football in Moscow, I had flicked over, and was intrigued by what the silver fox had to say.

He was looking at the future of AI, and how it could never succeed without an equal dose of emotional intelligence. He looked at ‘second life’ and the 3D future of the web. But more interesting to me were the robots who were making their own decisions. MIT is making huge strides in this field. The Prof looked at images on a computer screen, competing against a robot to recognise specific pictures jumbled up on the screen. The robot won hands down. Was it thinking for itself? The juxtaposition was a severely depressed woman in the States who had electrodes implanted 8cm deep in her brain. By adjusting a control in her hand she could make herself happy or sad. Another academic warned that those who were not on the IT bandwagon would be left behind.

I thought about ‘Never let Me Go’ – Ishiguro’s science fiction novel about human cloning. The implications are to me, terrifying, to others revelatory maybe. Humans are overtaken by machines, and machines become more human. As humans we can already choose new bodies, now it seems we can choose new minds. Machines might be able to ‘make meaning’, but will they ever be able to ‘make feeling’? Frankenstein’s monster is only decades away, I too, like one of the contributors, hope that emotional intelligence absorbed by any artificial being leads them down the altruistic route… and we don’t end up in human zoos with laughing ‘make mash not smash’ robots in control!



  1. I love the assumption in all of these discussion that somehow we are not machines. Aren’t all species bacterial ‘machines’? And when/as we evolve and the machinery changes isn’t it the bacteria leading the change? Of course it’s apocalyptic – there will no doubt be a war in the not too distant future fought by genetically modified humans whose ’emotional/empathetic’ component has been removed/replaced. But that’s just an evolutionary move from where we are now. If you are fascinated by such visions either Ballard or Gray (Straw Dogs) is worth a look.

  2. Thinking about machines. Machining is a verb across the pond, machining something as opposed to manually making it. Ricky Hatton as fighting machine. We proles are minute cogs in an anonymous factory. The future does not fascinate me, it squashes me, and chills my maternal instinct, which frets about the fragility of my children. Clone city already exists. I live in it, and am drawn into it, and hate myself for it.

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