NeoLuddites: Start Your Engines

This abbreviated post–about a topic that I consider important stuff (I have generally given up trying to make such matters audible via blog)–was prompted by my running across a fairly-recent tweet I posted (Twitter: more feathers blowing in the hurricane).

My tweet said: strong AI by 2023 is far greater a techno-threat to society than threshing machines. NeoLuddites, what now?

AI is, of course, Artificial Intelligence–whose near-term incarnation should be, but is not, one of those technological consequences best dealt with BEFORE rather than after we see the dust cloud of its arrival. Sentient AI is just beyond the horizon. If you think computer technology has intruded too far into humanity’s, society’s and your family’s life already, hold onto your hats.

And yet, we once again seem to be content to acquiesce to the notion that, if it can be done, it should be done. The mere ability implies the moral imperative to apply.

Indeed, there is considerable good to come from the inevitable collaboration of nanotechnology, robotics, synthetic biology and computers. I consider, for example, the near-certainty of elder-care robots.

If you think this is an absurd exaggeration of a non-issue, spend some time following the links from this Mashable treatise on the issues involved.

The author concludes that our response should be FAB: Fear, Awareness and Bias. The consequence of a silicon-based dominant force on Earth sounds like science fiction. If we remain unaware and apathetic, it will most certainly be science fact in the lifetimes of some of you reading this seemingly-outrageous blog post.

The advent of the Power of the Peaceful Atom once held such promise. We just didn’t notice the moral-ethical dust cloud beyond the horizon of our myopic vision, and by our dispassion became the Destroyer of Worlds, as Oppenheimer sadly admitted.

Now back to your regularly scheduled,  benign and parochial Fragments tree hugging.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Perhaps we can use robots with artificial intelligence to clean up the Peaceful Atom mess we’ve created rather than with human sacrifice, starting with Fukushima.

  2. Much of what is now normal in our everyday lives (the internet or smart phones, for example) would have been considered fantastic science fiction just 20 or 30 years ago.

    Some argue that transhumanism (cybernetics), or the advent of increasingly complex self-relicating computers that will replace finite carbon-based life, is just the next stage of human evolution.

    It’s seemingly crazy stuff. But so was the notion of a pacemaker or artificial heart.

    There really is a lot to ponder here. Thanks for getting the synapses firing this morning. 🙂