“…As regards the powers manifested in the aeroplane or the wireless, Man is as much the patient or subject as the possessor, since he is the target both for bombs and for propaganda… From this point of view, what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.” – CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man, 1943
A strange world is emerging from crises both engineered and natural. Economic turmoil has resulted in even more concentration of wealth. Tensions between governments and their constituents are reaching an explosive crescendo. Meanwhile, a technological revolution is happening that threatens to reshape humanity forever. New tools of genetic manipulation will allow generations to be crafted to the liking of those before them – without their consent. Mankind will be confronted with complex legal, political and even spiritual issues.
In an April 2000 article for Wired magazine, Co-founder of Sun Microsystems Bill Joy warned that in the future, human beings may become obsolete. Joy quotes a passage from Transhumanist leader Ray Kurzweil’s book The Age of Spiritual Machines. The quote says in part that the elite see humanity as “superfluous” in the coming technological era. In response, the elite decide to eliminate the burden of useless humans.
“Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite.”
Only on the next page does Joy reveal that the mysterious quote was in fact from Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski. Regardless of his reprehensible acts, The world that Kaczynski described 15 years ago is rapidly coming to reality. Because of advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics, jobs that were once held by human beings are now manned by automated systems. Many scientists are predicting that by the year 2025, 30% of jobs will be taken by robots. Recent news headlines demonstrate that this trend is already well underway.
Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
‘Will we be the gods? Will we be the family pets? Or will we be ants that get stepped on? I don’t know.’ – Steve Wozniak, Apple Founder
Despite predictions of A.I. displacing humans 10-20 years from now, recent headlines are showing us that it may happen much quicker than anticipated.
As the South China Morning Post recently reported, China is building a fully robotic manufacturing plant in Dongguan. The current workforce of 1,800 individual humans is set to be cut back 90% to only 200. The rest of the work will be fully automated. As the Post reports, “By 2016, up to 1,500 of the city’s industrial enterprises will began replacing humans with robots.”
India is following the same wave of the technological revolution. Artificial intelligence systems and robotics will displace around 47,000 workers at Wipro, India’s third largest IT firm. The CEO told Business Today India that the “…the focus is not on eliminating positions, but gaining greater efficiency.”
Apple founder Steve Wozniak recently remarked that humanity could become the pets of advanced artificial intelligence. His remarks are similar to his contemporaries Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, who are warning that humanity is at a critical crossroads and may face extinction.
Much attention is given to advanced, self aware A.I. Early artificial intelligence is being used to assist human beings in decision making. The Department of Veterans Affairs is using IBM’s Watson A.I. to assist in medical decision making. IBM’s press release states, “The VA joins leading healthcare organizations that are working with IBM Watson to help improve efficiency and quality of care being delivered.”
Watson gained renown after winning against human opponents on the popular trivia TV show Jeopardy in 2011.
In the quest for artificial intelligence, the human brain is being intensely studied and mapped in an attempt to mimic its complex functions. While much research into the human brain is slanted towards studying neurological disease, the ability to artificially enhance – or degrade – human cognitive function is also coming into focus. These developments point to a future in which not only will advanced artificial intelligences exist, but also human beings who choose to integrate technology into their bodies.
In April of 2013, United States President Barack Obama announced an initiative to unlock the mystery of the human brain. The initiative, titled Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, drew comments from University of California neuroscientist Steven Hauser. He wrote in Annals of Neurology,
“The enormous promise of modern neuroscience research will only be realized if neuroscientists are able to direct and also fully participate in society’s critical conversations at the intersection of neuroscience and ethics.”
Hauser told The Atlantic that brain research will inevitably reach controversial areas of study. Hauser stated that “There will be unexpected applications that may have to do with extending life span or enhancing capabilities” through cognitive enhancement.
Hauser even states that our mental privacy could be at risk. “…With a new understanding and an ability for science to reach deeper within each of our nervous systems, our mental privacy might be at risk.”
Facebook users are helping to build A.I. systems
Facebook users might be surprised to learn that they are not only conveniently creating intelligence dossiers on themselves for the government, but they are also contributing to the rise of artificial intelligence. Facebook hired prominent A.I. researcher Yann LeCun in 2013 to begin working towards the goal of “replicating the human brain.”
Facebook users are in fact helping to create artificial intelligence systems when they share their information online. These self learning systems are expanding every day as more information is posted. Your Facebook pictures, status, likes and other information is being sifted through by AI computers that are constantly learning. The CEO of Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian venture capital company, invested heavily in Facebook in 2010, saying that it would be “…one of the early platforms for artificial intelligence sometime in the next 10 years.”
Additionally, Facebook’s co-founder Dustin Moskovitz is attempting to “replicate the human brain.” His startup company Vicarious is leading the initiative, which hopes to develop software that “thinks like a human.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook’s artificial intelligence research is currently focusing on ” image tagging, predicting which topics will trend, and face recognition.”
“Choosing to be disconnected may be considered suspicious behavior”
Our lives will become increasingly digitized. A.I. systems will be making decisions for us on a daily basis. Our smart watch, linked to social media accounts, may tell us which friends are likely to hang out with us at a certain location on a particular day. A.I. systems will make important decisions for our medical treatment, as well as stock trading decisions.
Eventually, following trends of nanotech and miniaturization, virtual games and digital screens will be embedded everywhere in the environment dispensing virtual rewards and points to millions of “players”. They will be in your car, on light poles, cereal boxes, walls; Even in your glasses. The question is, who will decide what the rewards are based on? This system has the potential to be the social engineer’s dream come true. Will the programmers of A.I. systems mold society in a certain direction?
By 2040 – and likely before then – many futurists and scientists are predicting that technology will have advanced exponentially, bringing the much anticipated “singularity” closer to reality. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense hints at some of these possible developments, including the emergence of an internet of things, radical life extension technology, and surveillance of workplace personnel via mood sensing devices.
Computing will become pervasive everywhere in the environment. According to the report, “The virtual networks will consist of communications servers linking individuals and objects, many of which will be networked through individual Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.” Ultimately, as stated in the paper, it may become difficult to “turn the outside world off,” and “…Even amongst those who make an explicit life-style choice to remain detached, choosing to be disconnected may be considered suspicious behaviour.”
The transition from nuts and bolts A.I. that operates on racks of computers to humanoid beings with the trappings of consciousness is bringing with it a debate surrounding the “person hood” of such beings. What about transgenic creations? Mice with half human brains have already been created. As the New Scientists reports, “The altered mice still have mouse neurons… But practically all the glial cells in their brains, the ones that support the neurons, are human.”
The debate around the personhood of non human entities often assumes the position of anti-human rhetoric. “In some ultimate sense, humans are both nothing more, and as wonderful as, compassionate monkeys,” said University of Alabama bioethicist Gregory E. Pence in his book Who’s Afraid of Human Cloning?
Wesley J. Smith, writing for National Review in 2002, said that ,
“Transhumanist theory has arisen in the context of a strengthening nexus between the views already popular in bioethics and animal-rights advocacy. This intellectual intertwining is most evident in “personhood theory” — according to which rights come not from simply being human but rather from possessing relevant cognitive capacities. The relativist approach of bioethics, ironically, dovetails nicely with the absolutist view of animal-rights ideology that accepts no moral distinction between humans and “nonhuman animals.”
Some religious leaders of today are attempting to argue that robots, cyborgs and other forms of artificial intelligence will in fact have consciousness, qualifying them for Christ’s redemption. Rev. Christopher Benek, an associate pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, stated in a recent essay that,
“I am not talking about iPhone’s Siri, a Roomba vacuum, or one of those toasters that can make perfectly timed toast with a likeness of Jesus on it. … I am talking about an autonomous creature that has self-awareness.”
“…an AI that is very much like us but exponentially more intelligent (could) participate in Christ’s redemptive purposes in the world” and “help to make the world a better place.”
The closest science has come to a humanoid robotic creation so far may be the iCub. Several European laboratories have been working for 10 years to create the human-like robot. The robot can dance, manipulate objects, express emotion, and responds to touch. An article from Science World Report describes the iCub,
“What if a robot could act and even feel like a human? Researchers are getting a bit closer to accomplishing that feat.”
“The application of cognition in technical systems should also mean that the robot learns from its experiences and the actions it performs,” said Frank van der Velde, one of the researchers, in a news release. “A simple example: a robot that spills too much when pouring a cup of coffee can then learn how it should be done.”
Our technological future will not only involve advanced A.I. systems. Technology will also integrate with our bodies, merging us with the “consciousness” of the machine.
So called “Augmented reality” technology is enabling wearable devices like google glass to display digital information over the real world. The 1984 sci-fi movie Terminator depicted a humanoid robot with this ability to target, track and scan people. Now, in a merger of man and machine, it is becoming a reality for police and military who will wear a contact lens that will give them a “heads up display” of digital information.
The NYPD started a beta test of google glass last year. According to Venture Beat, “Google Glass may soon become a favored tool for law enforcement agencies in the United States.”
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the National Science Foundation are developing a contact lens that will give soldiers a full color heads up display right in front of their eyes. The lenses will likely be implanted permanently.
Steve Wiley, Chief executive of Innovega, told the Scientific American that “…special operations might really like the features involved with our system, but the last thing they want to worry about are contact lenses behind enemy lines,” Willey said. “You might think of hardwiring these in to have them permanently.”
As with many other technologies developed by the military, augmented reality contact lenses will ultimately land in the hands of police, and eventually private citizens.
How would police use this technology? Will it enable on the spot facial recognition and identification? How will it impact civil liberties?
Imagine a scenario in which an officer’s lens scans a persons face and ID’s them as a terrorist. The individual is detained and quickly escorted to a secure facility for interrogation. But here’s the catch; the suspect was added to the terror watch list because of a controversial facebook post ranting about the encroaching police state.
Will police officers of the future obey unblinkingly the information displayed in front of them – information that has been entered into a database by someone else – or will they use their own judgement?
This scenario is a very real possibility in the near future.
Analysts writing in the 2008 U.S. Army War College paper “Leadership in the Era of the Human Singularity: New Demands, New Skills, New Response,” portray a future in which multiple scenarios are possible. One sees a new renaissance and unprecedented human development aided by technology, the other a new dark age of world-wide high tech totalitarian control.
In the Human Singularity paper, Dr. Barton Kunstler documents the impact of ESI’s (Enhanced Singular Individuals), as well as the profound effect on society that human-enhancing technologies may have. Kunstler states,
“This is the crux of power and also a focus of much futurist thought. Technocracy has long been depicted as uniform and oppressive, with social control the primary aim. In broadest terms, ESIs will influence social organization to reflect and favor the expression of their outsized talents. This shift could imply a commitment to creativity and innovation, with society organized to favor artists, visionaries, scientists, and inventors… Or it could result in 1984-like scenarios due to the power endowed by invasive, body -and psyche- penetrating technologies.”
Kunstler continues, foreseeing a possible scenario of “…absolute totalitarian global control.”
“The level of intelligence and physical well-being ushered in by the human singularity could lead to another type of singularity, a “historical singularity.” It could turn out to be a condition of absolute totalitarian global control. Or we may witness its opposite: a dramatic rise in collective wisdom…”
Kunstler’s scenario revolves around human beings that are enhanced by technology. What about a future revolving around synthetic A.I.’s that take over human society?
Famed physicist Stephen Hawking has been talking a lot about A.I. He said recently that “Computers will overtake humans with AI at some point within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours.” Hawking continued, “Our future is a race between the growing power of technology and the wisdom with which we use it.”
The Molecular Vision of Life
“Where do we think we shall stop — with the control of the speed of rotation of the earth, of its revolution around the sun? … Pride goeth before a fall.” – Chester Bernard, President of Rockefeller Foundation, 1948-1952
There are deep underlying philosophical presumptions that have been gradually filtered into our society which serve to support the growing technological revolution. Tax exempt foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation helped to nudge society in a direction of accepting eugenics and a “Molecular vision of life” that saw human beings as nothing more than a soul-less collection of firing neurons.
Dr. Lily E. Kay is a recipient of the Smithsonian Fellowship at the National Museum of American History, and an assistant professor of history of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her acclaimed book “The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology,” Dr. Lily E. Kay examines the Rockefeller Foundation’s influence in shaping molecular biology and the science of social engineering. Dr. Kay writes,
“…by the end of the Progressive Era, even before the large-scale commitment to the “advancement of knowledge” spurred by World War I, the human sciences received considerable support from the large foundations. Their numerous projects and the unprecedented scope of their financial and institutional resources shaped the development of culture and the production of knowledge in the United States.”
Chester Bernard, who served as president of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1948-1952, was unquestionably a member of the establishment. He saw what the Rockefeller Foundation and much of the scientific community was attempting to do and spoke out against it, but couched his criticism with the assumption of pure motives. Bernard writes in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 1948 Annual Report,
“Inherent in our systematic efforts to promote the welfare of mankind there may be an assumption that… by reason and science we may govern the future of unborn generations in ways that we know are right… Do we mean that because we have learned to navigate the tides we shall also control them? … We have already begun the attempts to regulate local weather. Where do we think we shall stop — with the control of the speed of rotation of the earth, of its revolution around the sun? … Pride goeth before a fall.”
“The conditioners have been emancipated from all that,” writes scholar and author C.S. Lewis. “They know how to produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce. They themselves are outside, above.”
Lewis’s thought as expressed in his 1943 book The Abolition of Man is clearly influenced by the rise of the so called “Science of Man” that took place during his lifetime. This great initiative to discover the inner workings of man in order to better control him was initiated by the immense wealth of the Rockefeller empire in the early 20th Century.
Natural Law: Can we program morality?
Human beings are capable of perceiving a subtle but powerful force in our universe that pushes us to make certain choices over others – even at the expense of our own lives. It is an awareness that has been “written on the hearts” of mankind. The “Molecular Vision of Life” implies moral relativism; Right and wrong hold little meaning in a world that reduces humanity to the level of animals.
“However far they go back, or down, they can find no ground to stand on… It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void.”
These words, penned by C.S. Lewis Abolition of Man, remind us that there truly exists a phenomenon called natural law, or the Tao as Lewis calls it. Natural law – the idea of good conduct, right behavior, how human beings should operate – has been recognized for as long as history has been written. To deny it takes the conscious effort of a normal human being. The idea of inalienable rights – the foundation upon which the United States Declaration of Independence was written – springs from natural law.
Writing on the Tao Lewis states, “It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected… The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves.”
As artificial intelligence continues to advance, eventually making important decisions for individuals and society, the question needs to be asked: Can we program morality into a computer? Will it know how to make the “right” choice if we place A.I. systems in positions to make such decisions?
Will those individuals developing the technology take this factor into consideration?
The elite of today are rebelling against natural law and the established order. Arthur Kroker, Professor of Political Science at the University of Victoria and Director of the Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture identified an abhorrent element within the technological community.
“Suicidal nihilists”, states Kroker, “…occupy the commanding heights of digital reality…” He elaborates, “They can very happily ally themselves with a notion of nuclear holocaust or perfect exterminism… They’re creating again and again the exterminism of human memory, the exterminism of human sensibility, the exterminism of individuated human intelligence, the exterminism of human morality itself.”
Will we maintain our humanity going into the future? Or, will being human lose its special place in the order of the universe as transgenic, artificially intelligent beings come into the world? The implications are disturbing. The general public is being acclimated to these ideas through Hollywood movies and video games. If humanity wants to have a choice in these developments, the debate needs to move away from closed door meetings and entertainment towards a serious discussion about all of the implications of A.I. and other issues raised in this article.
This article originally appeared at Old Thinker News.