Tag Archives: computers

Thought #44. Completely hooked?

Life was transformed with the advent of smartphones. People from my age group, whose upbringing was highly influenced by the availability of the first personal computers, regard this invention as a metamorphosis of those cumbersome machines that used to entertain us every now and then. However, the social transformation that has taken place in the last decade is beyond our wildest dreams.

We used to have play dates; we would spend a whole evening at the park playing soccer. The weekend was synonymous with going out and enjoying fresh air. Family gatherings and friends hanging out were a common sight. Married couples watched a film on TV to unwind from a stressed week at work. Now, it is highly improbable that we would stumble upon a group of children without a smartphone, or that we might see a couple just talking in a cafeteria. More and more elderly people use them every day to keep in touch with younger family members.

A smartphone is more than just a combination of a computer and a phone. The constant improvement of high-speed networks and handsets has resulted in sophisticated pieces of technology that monitor and control our daily life. Curiously enough, we barely use our smartphones to make calls. Instead, we prefer to communicate using multimedia chats, where immediacy and convenience set them apart.

The millennial generation has become hooked on technology. They will go to any lengths to get more gigabytes when their data plan is exhausted; even the most wayward of children will behave well for fear of having their smartphone or tablet confiscated. However, smartphones do have a plethora of advantages such as the ability to make us better understand the global problems that afflict our time. Most would agree that information equals informed decisions.

There is a long way to go to comprehend the profound changes that our societies have undergone and, consequently, we do not have any other option but to wait and be hopeful about what the future holds. In my opinion, humankind has evolved throughout millenniums and, by and large, our welfare has always improved so there is no point in dramatising the risks of this kind of addiction. Only time will tell.

Thought #13. AI bias.

Once upon a time, people knew the difference between rightness and badness. As if it was an Opera, the history of AI (acronym of Artificial Intelligence) began promisingly, but then things started to go wrong.

The opening of AI goes back to ancestry when the Greek mythology created Pandora, the first “artificial” woman. Each Olympus god was commissioned to make a contribution to Pandora’s process of creation with the sole aim of taking beauty into account.

During the interlude, step by step, new features and unique gifts were conscientiously added by the band of male creators. They went to great lengths to make Pandora in their own image (a mental image of a sexually arousing creature).

Pandora received a jar as a wedding present and was told not to open it. Thinking that it was a mere misdemeanour, she could not help opening the jar, triggering unexpected consequences.

To the astonishment of the ancient Greek gods (and goddesses) of the epoch, the sad coda was that Pandora ended up in a poetry epoch column (probably from a tabloid) depicted as an archetype and role model of future women generations:

“From her is the race of women and female kind: of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmates in hateful poverty, but only in wealth.” ― Hesiod, Theogony

Fear for inventions and machinery has been thenceforth present. The Industrial Revolution seemed too profound a change to overcome, but eventually all the criticism levelled at technology advances started to wear off.

AI is a force to be reckoned with but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it will eventually surpass human capacities. Think about a relatively recent groundbreaking invention: the digital camera sensor. If George Orwell had known about such an invention, Nineteen Eighty-Four would probably never have been written.

Those who try to undermine science (or engineering) by spreading false alarms concerning the so-called perils of AI should be treated with the contempt that they deserve. They seldom use nothing but devious tactics to succeed in turning utter nonsense into a burning issue. Should nonsense be regarded as tantamount to blatant ignorance? Apparently, according to Prof Stephen Hawking and others of his ilk, it should not.

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” ―   Stephen Hawking

“Artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat.” ―  Elon Musk

Nevertheless, as far as some basic safety rules are not wilfully ignored, AI is harmless, secure and risk-free. Just as women are the most perfectly created sculpture ever chiseled, driverless cars (aka autonomous car) are also something that will become ubiquitous in the forthcoming years.

Do not blame me! My complete disregard for the underminers is based on their own arguments, which should fly in the face of common sense. The inability to comprehend how technology works still rankled with them.

Not being in the mood to reproduce in my own blog more quotes from them, I rather like the idea of presenting you with a biased view of the issue, based on as yet unproven facts:

“Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.” ― Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

“The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim.” ― Edsger W. Dijkstra

The rest is history (to be written).