Archive for the ‘Intelligent Life’ Category

Intelligence, Artificially Created   Leave a comment


Credit:  Brain Art Posted on Flickr

If only.

If only there had been a substitute pilot, perhaps one of artificial origin, perhaps the passengers flying that day on Germanwings might’ve experienced an eventless flight.

If only artificial intelligence was just like those robots in those movies, they’d come to the rescue.

Which of the above sentences are true?

Well, in theory, all of them.

Presently, the airline industry is investing in planes operated by either robots or remote operators.  Not exactly drones, these alternatives to flesh-and-blood pilots are being designed to work alongside a pilot or, in some instances, instead of one.  As it is, the technology is already present in F-16 fighter jets and is credited with saving the life of an American pilot during a battle with Islamic State forces.  Airbus uses software that guides the pilots and only seven minutes of the pilot’s time is required to manually fly the plane.  Had there been either software or some sort of AI present in the cabin of the ill-fated Germanwings plane, perhaps things might have turned out differently.

But is this an example of AI?  Not in the purest sense, but it’s a step in the right direction.  Software is making decisions to operate a plane in a specific manner – keeping it aloft – and as such, is preventing tragedy.

With this weekend’s premiere of Ex Machinaa new kind of more complex, believable robot makes its premiere.  True, it’s more about the character of the Ava, the new artificial life form.  But then again, Steven Spielberg already explored such a concept with his 2001 film, A.I. Artificial Intelligence.  Or, why not consider I, Robot – either the film or the masterful Issac Asimov short-story series upon which it’s based?  Heck, right now I’m reading his Caves of Steel and it tells the story of a humanlike robot passing for a detective.

One can correctly argue that true artificial intelligence is the result of a manufactured being (i.e. robot/android) thinking and feeling and dreaming and wishing, like Bicentennial Man.  And yes, Robin Williams’ character Andrew did, in fact, evolve to close as human as one can get, but he had the benefit of multiple upgrade surgeries to accomplish his goal.  But someone had to put that notion in that circuited brain first, right?  So instead of God, man becomes His substitute and creates an artificial version of what He rendered.

Now, here’s something to consider: if artificial intelligence is dependent upon its creator, then will the created be only as smart as the person who coded it?  What exactly is embedded in that code to get that ‘bot a-thinkin’? Will it reflect the coder’s own limited pool of experiences, or will the code be such that it takes on a life of its own via nano-sperm and ovaries, replicating its own Matrix-y ilk?

Ponder that one and see what your brain comes up with – artificial or not.

Mind Matters   Leave a comment


Harvey Cushing Brain Drawing

So I’m back after a bit of a holiday, spent at the New Jersey shore and elsewhere.  Alas, it’s time to begin the new year with something I’ve been meaning to write about for quite some time.

You can say it’s been on my mind.

Did you ever notice how much of science fiction has to do with all the stuff rattling around in the brain?  Quick, close your eyes and in ten seconds, name as many cranial control films as you can.  What’s your number?  Three? Seven?  Zero?

Aw, c’mon.  There’s so many out there!

All right.  Here’s a list.

Why exactly does the mind intrigue us so?

Generally speaking, a human’s interior organs are fairly cut-and-try.  The heart pumps blood, the liver cleanses it, the lungs keep you breathing and all the other bits and pieces keep you going.  The brain, however, is smarter than them.  Whereas all the other body parts have one or two functions, the brain governs them all.  And if we were to stop there, it’d still be a pretty remarkable job description.

Trouble is, the brain’s so much more.  It’s who we are.

While the brain is churning the engines, it’s threading stories through its cells, directing proper ones to safe storage, to be retrieved when our bodies recline to rest, popping alive as dreams.  It helps us remember the good, the bad, to make decisions, to weep, laugh and smile.  Why is it that some brains are healthy and others are weak, or the soul that inhabits the body deserts the brain to resort to evil?  How come we can sit and simper one moment, jump up and cheer three seconds later then show disgust immediately following?  Or why can it remember thousands of books read over a lifetime, yet recalling the location of keys becomes impossible?

Perhaps it’s mystery that draws us in.  Venturing into one’s consciousness is a journey into the unknown.  Wondering why she said that.  Guessing what he really means.  Why do one thing and say another?  How can you live with yourself; what were you thinking?

It’s no wonder mind control is such fodder for science fiction.  It’s the ultimate revenge tactic.  How else to get back at that girl you liked and she blew you off?  Create a plot line about a high-maintenance chick that stood you up who suddenly discovers she can only do makeup and hair standing au naturel in Times Square.  Or the guy who butted in front of you and stole your seat?  From now on, in your story his brain dictates him to sing, “I’m a little teapot” (as well as act out the song) during any and all sports events.

Controlling the mind is engaging the recipient to do one’s bidding.  Now the brain manipulator orchestrates an army of individuals (say, The Borg) to become a collective.  Imagine what can be accomplished with millions of minions.  I mean, why stop at one mind, when you can dominate the world?

Think about it…

Wonderful Sci-Fi Graphic Art Piece   Leave a comment

I had to share this amazing piece of graphic art by artist Anders Nilsen entitled “Me and the Universe,” appearing in the 9/25/14 edition of The New York Times. It’s an extraordinarily poignant piece, detailing how he came to be from the beginning of time, until memory of his being fades from the living, and concludes with the end of all that is known by intelligent life.

Quite detailed in all respects, with a bit of humor thrown in, it really made me ponder my place in the order of things.  Hope you’ll find it as interesting as I did.

Enjoy!  Here it is.

Where Is Everybody?   Leave a comment


The New York Times had an excellent article on the possibilities of life Out There.  You know, all that space that the universe occupies.  According to Carl Sagan, there was no reason not to expect life that was comparable to humans.  But if you asked the competition, evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, we were it.  Sure, it was reasonable to expect primordial soup in other locales, with perhaps a few vegetables thrown in for variety, but Mayr was steadfast in his beliefs that the chances for humanlike life anywhere but here was slim to nil.

Naturally, there’s also that school of belief that attests to aliens living among us, including the abductees who’ve been tested and probed.  Those unexplained sightings of strange ships hovering over dark highways in remote locations – that can’t be fake, eh? There has to be something real  under Area 51, right?  After all, why do they protect it so fiercely?

If you ask me, I’d bet the rent on life existing outside our little blue dot.  Compare it to the lottery.  The higher the stakes, the more players become involved.  Eventually, a number’s picked and a winner is paraded before cameras as the newest bazillionaire.  On occasion, though, there’s more than one winner, and regularly three or four.  I’m no mathematician, but what are the chances that several people will bounce into the local gas station, drop $20.00 on gas and another $3.00 bucks for a few Powerball tickets and all come out winners?  It happens.  So why not expect life on other planets?

Carl Sagan maintained that sound waves generated from TV and radio drifted out among the stars would signal to intrepid space voyagers our existence.  That was detailed in Contact.  Those sound waves possess properties that cause them to stretch and grow as they wander further from their source.  By the time those waves are detected, what discernible information remains attached to these signals would be challenging to interpret.  But then again, the right exoplanetary scientist might find them an intriguing prospect: thin signals meaning what?  A project to research, to turn heads into another direction to discover their source?  Our planet, uncovered at last?

What’s to say there isn’t a planet with inhabitants who share the dreams of finding others, only to be told the possibilities are so incredibly remote it isn’t worth a bother?

Here’s how I see it:  out there, far from Earth, a soul ponders what bioforms rose and prospered elsewhere in the abyss of space.  Technologically advanced to send out space probes, this soul launches a machine capable of seeking clues, if not evidence.  Time passes, the soul dies, but other scientists take this soul’s place and keep on with the vigil.  Eventually, the machine wanders so far away from its home planet that even its trail of crumbs grows cold.  After a great deal of time, the machine is lost to memory and passes into legend, but the language on the foreign planet evolves to the point where even the legend transforms into a mystery and eventually forgotten.  Meanwhile, life on that planet succumbs to its own evolution as its inhabitants face other issues that seem more pressing or trivial, but interest in further explorations has shriveled as it’s become necessary to focus on the lack of rain, food, or a dwindling resource that is elemental to the stability of life on said planet.  Or, life for the other planet’s inhabitants is fulfilling, and therefore interest plummets because all needs are met and exceeded.  Curiosity fades as the inhabitants indulge in The Good Life and place high importance cultivating perpetual happiness.

On a peaceful September morning, blue skies except for drifting patches of cumulus clouds, a flash streaks across the sky.  Whatever caused it crashes into a suburb of a medium-sized city, resulting in a fair amount of damage to both the landscape and the object.  Upon cautious examination, its solid core leads Earth scientists to believe it’s not merely silicon.  Placed in the hands of a particularly observant scientist, a barely imperceptible vibration reveals a secret only a sensitive hand would notice.  “Hey,” says the Earth scientist, “I think we got something here…”

No alien spaceships, no apocalyptical force, only a simple device, badly damaged and time-worn, offers a clue to a glorious civilization similar to our own, whose own culture is seemingly lost to the wastelands of space and disbelieving souls.

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