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Monday, 26 June 2017

Humanoid sapiens, our future descendants

In Episode 5 of "The Mind of the Universe", Prof. Robbert Dijkgraaf states the following: "On the Temple of Delphi in ancient Greece, it was written: "Know thyself". However, if we hardly know ourselves, how could we then know our machines? It's a matter of time and these machines will beat what a human can and their reality is not ours. It's an illusion that we can then keep up with their thinking. Are our machines our descendants rather than the Mind of the Universe?"

Ever since its broadcasting on 4 June 2017, Robbert Dijkgraaf's question has bugged me. Is it possible that we are "creating" our "next of kin" without even realising it??

Our view on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics is largely based on Fear or Love. This makes sense given human firmware and emotions. Most Sci-Fi movies are rooted in Fear, like Alien (1979), Matrix (1999) and Terminator (1984). I only recall a few Sci-Fi movies based on Love: Bicentennial Man (1999), E.T. (1982), Ex Machina (2014), and Her (2013).

Scientists seem to be in the 2nd category: Love. Prof. Pascale Fung, one of the scientists in episode 5, is an example with her work on empathetic human-robot interaction. Another example is "Alice your personal care robot" (video) which looks like a favourite doll or a grandchild (my 19 July 2016 blog). Much to my surprise, the response of the elderly people is positive.

I am still puzzled why humans are so eager to develop humanoids, or AI robots resembling humans. Is it possibly related to our eternal quest for immortality??

In part 2 of the the documentary Why are we here, the Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri states that we feel inside like "an inward cathedral" despite our small size. Actually, our mind must feel trapped inside our body. Our mind seems limitless but our body has many limitations (eg, ageing). What if we could combine an artificial body with our - enhanced - mind??

In 1637, René Descartes wrote "je pense, donc je suis", which translates in English as "I think, therefore I am", or "cogito ergo sum" in Latin. Based on that reasoning, our mind is essential and our body is interchangeable. Transhumanism, "one of the world's most dangerous ideas", is also rooted in that thought (also see my 8 July 2015 blog).

The human quest for immortality is already documented in the "The Epic of Gilgamesh", originally a Sumerian poem (c. 2150-1400 BCE). Gilgamesh was a demi-god who was said to have lived an exceptionally long life (Sumerian King List126 years) and to be possessed of superhuman strength (Ancient). Despite his epic quest, he ultimately fails to win immortality.

Today, the quest for longevity and/or immortality is more serious than ever before, especially in Silicon Valley (eg, CNBC, Guardian, Newsweek, New Republic, New Yorker, Wired). We may once be able to tweak our body and enhance our mind but what about our soul ?? I believe in a Body-Mind-Soul concept. Soul with a capital S.

Soul With a Capital 'S' (1993) by Tower of Power - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2