As cold as it seems, it’s always interesting to see a robot is coordinating humans in any given activity. Even more so when you consider the juxtaposition of Honda’s ASIMO conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to perform “The Impossible Dream” (See song’s origin).
While it’s more compelling to see this in the flesh, throughout history we’ve been trading individual power for collective consciousness by way of signaling machines. In the name of efficiency, we’ve obeyed traffic lights, referenced Google search ranking, and even shopped based on Amazon’s recommendation engine.
What’s happening here?
Computing machines are incredibly apt at mundane, complex decision processes, and we often use it as signals for coordinating our collective behavior. Given too much power, humans might not be able to cope with too many inputs and they have been subject to corruption. We are intrinsically selfish creatures after all. If you were to reduce our key evidence of existence, it could be narrowed into the action of mimicking for survival, or what we call memes.
As a unit of cultural evolution, a meme in some ways resembles a gene. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The Selfish Gene (1976), recounts how and why he coined the term meme to describe how one might extend Darwinian principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples include tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, and fashions.
Given that machines do not have intrinsic motivations of their own survival (yet!), they are ideal at performing less appealing tasks. I do wonder if that leads them to exist outside the sphere of our cultural evolution… hard to say since we design them, bit of ourselves exists in them.
If our goal is efficiency, it is not hard to imagine us putting machines to coordinate larger sets of human behavior. We might often think of a future outcome of this in light of the fictional Skynet, but does it have to be that dreary?
Alex Halavais pointed out a great video on what the next version of humans (2.0) would be. There is a moment in the near future that scientist believe will transform the notion on what it is to be human. Ray Kurzweil depicted this in The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which spoke of the future course of humanity, where he sees a merger of artificial intelligence and human consciousness. Such a moment is what he calls Singularity.
After the jump is a documentary about how Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity could occur, and the arguments for and against it: