Larry Kilham Blog
Suppose a humanoid AI robot and a person were the only witnesses to a murder. At the trial, they give contradictory testimony. Which one would you trust?
This is among the issues discussed in my forthcoming book Free Will Odyssey.
When a country collapses, often it is due to a combination of a critical decline of its resources, growing economic losses, and an unwieldy and complex government which, even if it has good intentions, can’t change the Titanic’s course in time.
Are we in the early stages of this now? Is that why the general population, who may be more aware of this emerging catastrophe than the media would have us believe, are so distrustful of their business-as-usual government?
This is a dialogue where truth should be foremost, but it has been lost in invective.
Before we get to computers, let’s see some examples of how truth is handled in everyday life.
“When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses,” proclaimed
Humprey Bogart as Frank McCloud in Key Largo (1948). Your whole life that Bogart refers to is all the information relating to an issue you have accumulated over a lifetime. This is a huge amount of information distilled to an essence, which may well closely approximate the truth about the issue.
You are unlikely to find and express your version of the truth unless you are unfettered in an environment of liberty. José Martí, the Cuban philosopher and poet (1853-1895), got to the heart of the matter when he wrote, “Liberty is the right of every man to be truthful…” Ironically, the absence of liberty today in Cuba shows up as the lack of truthfulness there.
This same relationship is manifest in a wide variety of human endeavors. For example:
Politics Politicians, at the least, must compromise their actions originally based on truth, for actions based on expediency. As the saying goes, “Politics is the art of compromise.”
Science Almost all scientists are concerned about criticism and advancement, so they prefer peer-acceptable results over pathbreaking scientific advancements. They become intellectually trapped when in the university and related research institutions. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), on the other hand, did most of his most creative work while employed as a clerk in the Swiss patent office over the years 1903-1906. His productivity seems to have diminished after he joined universities later on.
The Military Generals and admirals must trade their best judgement about military strategy, the truth about when, where and how to win, for survival at the hands of their political masters. The various American conflicts after World War II are good examples of this.
Now, about the computers getting involved in the search for truth:
Artificial intelligence (AI) introduces a new factor into the truth realm. Computers that think with AI, do not have biases against seeking and stating the truth. Non-computer biases against the truth include emotion, egotism, and self-preservation.
As access to databases becomes comprehensive, such as seems will be the case on Google search, and sophisticated search and analysis systems such as IBM’s Watson become more comprehensive, computers will be ever more able to separate non-truths from truths.
How will a computer know a truth to be the truth when it produces it? People will become more concerned about this because, in a world of big data, they might come to trust only what can be verified electronically.
The biggest problem today is hearing the truth from politicians. How can they tell the truth? They need liberty to search for and to tell the truth. All their personal, family, group, and organization compromises restrain their ability to reveal the truth.
I don't know where truth ends and fiction begins. Let's explore this together.
Think of subsumed or meshed bodies and minds:
The mother and son.
The long married couple
finishing each other's sentences,
physically develop, suffer and die the same way.
The owner and dog.
Then there was Hal the Computer.
Then, man and computer.
Then man and accumulated internet sites for him.
We all know about someone else who we know can finish our sentences. How about a computer that can finish our sentences? A virtual mirror of our brain and whatever it has memorized?
Certainly the reverse is true for the young people of the upcoming generation. Many of them are extensions of the characters in songs, movies and video games. To them, it is easier and more fun to absorb the programming of an electronic medium than it is to accumulate a lifetime of microexperiences that would become the intellectual essence of one's mirror medium.
For those so trapped in virtual reality, real megareality is no longer frightening or to be confronted because it has been denied and blocked out. When there is a megacrisis such as someone trying to conquer the world yet again, will anyone care?
Life is an adventure to be lived. Now there is the antilife of the computer.
With the development of the Worldwide Web all information that can be written down is interconnected as one resource. Apparent answers become so easy that imagination and invention cease to be worthwhile.
As the new generation and younger people with formative minds become absorbed by virtual reality and standardized information formats, imagination may whither away. Society will look like computers living and dead.
As Albert Einstein wrote: The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.
(c) Lawrence B, Kilham 2005
Larry Kilham is a Sloan School of Management graduate from MIT, received three patents, and has founded two high-tech companies. Many of his product designs required innovative use of computers, and as early as the 1960s he was researching artificial intelligence (AI).