Reading Summary (5): Will Robots inherit the Earth?

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Will Robots Inherit the Earth?

– Marvin Minsky

With this article Marvin Minsky discusses a utopia future where biology no longer holds us back and humans will eventually replace their worn limbs with machines and brains with nanotechnology. Currently there are many biological issues that are stopping this utopia from becoming reality that Minsky touches upon such as, longevity, biological wearing-out, replacing the brain, and knowledge and memory limitation.

This utopia world can obviously be not reached by current biology knowledge even though we have developed many cures for diseases we have yet to increase length of life span. The current life span is 75 and health care has no effect on this maximum. Humans being are one of the longest living warm-blooded mammals, although it is inescapable that some accidents and aging of genes shorten human life span. We have learned that our genes are prone to “wearing out” because our genetic systems are not designed for long-term maintenance. There is no catalogue in the human body to build or rebuild the body, but in computers however it is easy to install a systems program that routinely checks for needed updates. No animal has ever evolved like schemes most likely because these types of algorithms cannot develop in natural selection. We are only a few thousand genes evolved from gorillas and chimpanzees, which could theorize that the addition of more genes could allow for a long life span. When it comes to replacing the brain, a transplant would not work because you would lose knowledge in the process, but that is not to say tissues of the worn out brain cannot be replaced. As a species we have seemed to plateau in our intellectual development because everything takes us to long to learn with our slow brains. This means that the capacity of our brain also needs to change so we can find more ways to improve our brains. This method will have to extend past the limitations of biology, which will lead to all parts of the body being replaces and therefor we will make ourselves into machines. In order to become a full machine, we would have to learn the inner workings of synapses, which control how signals jump from one nerve cell to another and the brain contains trillions of them, and then find a way to build them. Once we know what we need to know, nanotechnology can enable us to construct replacement bodies and brains that are not bound to ‘real time’. The events of a computer, currently, are million times faster than those in the brain cells; hence we could design brains that could think a million times faster. For such a being each hour would be the span of an entire human lifetime. Although many thinkers maintain that machines will never have thoughts, such as sentience, consciousness, and spirit, like humans no matter how you build them. Minsky concurs with these arguments because human thought has many ingredients that are similar to machines and researchers in the field of Artificial Intelligence have developed various forms to represent knowledge. Human brain makes the same mistakes a computer can, but what differs them is a human will simple revaluate the situation and think of a new idea. Minsky raises the point that there are also many ethical questions that we have yet to confront such as, “how many people should occupy Earth?” “What sort of people should they be?”. Traditional systems of ethical thought are focused on individual matters, but instead it should be the rights and roles of a larger scale and help prepare for the change of the future.

In conclusion Minsky states that robots will inherit the earth, but they will be our children that are transformed into robots. It is our job now to develop the means for this to happen for our future children. I myself find this article to built on many ‘what-ifs’ on the development of technology and science, which makes for a weak argument. Many of Minsky’s hypothesis are made up inventions based on unrelated studies. The studies used in this article are no way creditable or can be considered as evidence towards this plea. The overall deliverance of this article feels more of a personal rant from a blog, than an article that could be considered seriously. Whether or not our future children inherit the earth as robots, this article, by itself, did little to convince me that this is a probably reality.

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