#Idea – Remember to thank the dead and the unborn / 27.09.17

You built your accomplishments
And your life
On the works of countless people who came before you.

And when you are dead
Perhaps you will be awarded the honour
Of others building their achievements on your work.

It is not a matter of standing on the shoulders of giants
It’s a matter of standing on the shoulders of thousands upon thousands of people
Over thousands of thousands of years.

Culture and science,
That is to say human achievements,
Are ‘additive’.

No one can really claim credit for doing a thing on their own
Because they built upon the achievements and groundwork
Of the people who came before them;
All the way back to the first monkey to link cause and effect
Or the first caveman to scrawl simple arithmetic on the floor.

For example, anyone who creates a billion dollar app
Leverages hundreds of years of physics, and decades of computer science
(Amongst other things)
Going all the way back from the people who invented the coding language used to build the app
And the first folks to lay down the formal mathematics we use to build a computer.

black white circuit photo
Photo by Darron Birgenheier

The same with music;
The now famous musician who writes a hit song
Has to give credit to the countless number of people
Who developed the linguistic structure in which he or she has written the lyrics
The musical structure in which harmonic, melodic and rhythmic parts of the music combine
And the recording technology in which he or she was able to capture his or her work.

In your achievements
Perhaps you can acknowledge that
You are a link in a great chain
And that you are helping to build this great thing
That we call human knowledge (or human culture) together.

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”Albert Einstein

Photo by jason-sh

#ThoughtExperiment – Quantum Mechanics vs. Free Will / 11.08.17

On free will…

First, your thoughts;
As we understand it, your thoughts are tied to electrochemical processes in the brain
Electrochemical processes which, at their root ,
Are tied to subatomic , quantum processes
Which are random
And by their nature unknowable.

…Here we have randomness

Secondly, your desires;
You can choose to act upon your desires or not
But you can’t choose your desires.
…Here we have determinism.

Neither randomness, nor determinism, are compatible with Free Will.

Obviously, you are not ‘a robot’.
Or, if you are, you are at least a fleshy robot that is, much more unpredictable than a regular robot.

Inspired by things I read in ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow ‘ by Yuval Noah Harari 

Photo by MassiveKontent

#Idea – ‘We Are In The Midst Of A Machine Takeover And Most Of Us Haven’t Even Noticed’ AKA ‘The Machine Takeover Will Be Bloodless’

Ever considered how comfortable we are with our electronic gadgets?

And, dare I say it, dependent upon them?

I don’t know your situation too well so I will take myself as an example.

My smartphone is my lifeline to the world. My touchpoint to my ‘digital self’ (and writing about this digital self is a separate article all together).

My phone expands my capabilities – with it I am able to record memories (or should I say data?) in the form of images and words, to communicate with others, to navigate, to track my food intake, to entertain myself with media (etc)

It’s a surrogate brain. My calendar is an example – I am not particularly good at remembering where I need to be at any time and so have outsourced most of that function (without fail) to my calendar.

You (and me) would probably suck as a hunter gatherer

If you compared your brain to that of a hunter gatherer of 30,000 years ago you might notice that your memory faculties are different, or that your attention span wasn’t quite as long as it needs to be.

hunter gatherer photo
If a hunter asked you to join him on the hunt, you might not be able to muster the right kind of thinking required to chase down your quarry. Maybe you’d find yourself distracted by the scenery. Maybe you’d get reallym really bored, waiting in ambush. You would probably need time to adapt… Photo by Chrissy Olson

Because the body is an adaptive system, and it is adapting to technology. Or put another way, technology is rewiring how our bodies operate.

Which leads me to the next point…

How many steps are we from having of all that wonderful smartphone functionality directly attached to us? Interfaced into your brain, perhaps? I don’t know – for that ask a technologist or a futurist.

Or ask a man called Kevin Warwick – dubbed the ‘World’s First Cyborg’. Kevin, currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research at Coventry University, has got things off to a strong start – with personal modifications that include an RFID chip in his arm (see Project Cyborg for more of the what he’s been upto).

Kevin Warwick of Project Cyborg in 2011
Kevin: his human flesh is merely a disguise :3 (Image Credit: Andy Miah)

On a slightly more low tech note, some of my closest friends have silicon implants under their skin (not under the breasts, but on the arms – creating a series of ridges). This practice is part of the ‘Body Modification’ subculture.

But what is natural? Clothing? The skins of animals? You could argue that ’technology’ is anything beyond your naked flesh – be it that fancy Apple gadget or the sharp stick you pick up to fend off a wild animal. All of it is stuff that augments our natural human abilities. Body/technological augmentation is perhaps a matter of degree and perspective.

How much is too much? Your call. Where do we draw the line between hip replacement and cortex chips? Do we even draw that line?

If I offered to install a mobile phone into your arm, would you say yes…?

If someone offered to wire my mobile phone into my arm, and interface it with my body (and they gave me some assurance of the process not causing any harm) – I’d say yes. I see no reason not to. For a start I’d never fear losing it again ^_^

Perhaps I am unusual. Perhaps not everybody (of our generation) would be too keen on the idea. I’d understand why. Maybe you hold the flesh sacred for religious reasons. Maybe you’re just scared of metal stuff jammed into your skin (though you may already have a piercing or two..?)

piercing photo
I wonder what this guy would make of cybernetics… Photo by Eder L. Aguilar

But, as time goes on, the older generations die off and societal norms change (as they inevitably must). I don’t see people resisting for long. After all, kids are growing up with tablets in their hands and Facebook accounts reserved for them by diligent parents…

So, if this were an idealogical war between flesh and ’not flesh’, I’m going to argue that the machines have reached a turning point.

Consciousness, genes and reverse engineering your nature

If this wasn’t quite weird enough for you I’d like to push the boat out a little further.

There’s a parallel from consciousness and genes that we might be able to draw here.

Put simply: Genes ‘gave life’, life lead to consciousness, consciousness (eventually) lead to gene manipulation and the creation of life. Or, put simply, conciousness developed from life, and turned the tables on life.

Now think about consciousness and technology…

Consciousness lead to the creation of technology, which may lead to the creation of consciousness. Or, put simply, technology develops from consciousness and may perhaps turn the tables on consciousness

Or, perhaps this is stretching it :3

But what do we now…?

You don’t have to do anything. But, perhaps bear this in mind when you’re on public transport watching near everybody staring into their phones. Or when you give a tablet to your kid to keep them entertained during a moment of parental frustration :3

child smartphone photo
Photo by r.nial.bradshaw

Maybe it won’t be Skynet or that computer from Wargames computer nuking everybody. Maybe the machine takeover will be bloodless, and so subtle that we don’t even notice it happen.

Maybe, as I think Kevin Kelly (and many of the Transhumanists) have said, humanity may just be ‘the midwife for technology’.

Whatever you make of it, I think it the takeover has already begun :3

Photo by Abode of Chaos