Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Earthly Beings or Soulless Slaves

This photo and a version of this essay was published in the Concord Monitor 12/2014
Human beings, like this forgotten tennis ball
in a tree along the Merrimack, must find
their place in the natural world
CC Jean Stimmell:11/28/14
Artificial intelligence describes computer systems that perform tasks that used to require human intelligence and perception but are now accomplished by software and robots. This has lead to more unemployed Americans and significantly slowed our recovery from the Great Recession.

Alarmingly, experts predict that this trend will not only escalate but become deeply disturbing in other ways: “in the wake of recent technological advances in computer vision, speech recognition and robotics, scientists say they are increasingly concerned that artificial intelligence technologies may permanently displace human workers, roboticize warfare and make of Orwellian surveillance techniques easier to develop, among other disastrous effects.[i]

Even in today’s world, we find ourselves unable to protect our fellow workers because of political gridlock, which appears seamlessly related to the unprecedented power multinational corporations hold over not only our government but governments around the world.

As if that is not bad enough, a more terrifying scenario may soon await us: the prospect that this accelerating progress in technologies will cause a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control. 

This is called the technological singularity hypothesis or what I would call the ultimate nightmare: Because the capabilities of such an intelligence may be impossible to comprehend, the technological singularity is an occurrence beyond which events are unpredictable or even unfathomable.”[ii]

To me, the choice seems obvious: either we return to our biological and spiritual home – reconnecting to our bodies, our communities, our sense of place, and Mother Earth – or become soulless slaves to the machine.

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