December 4, 2009
"Hans Moravec predicts that machines will attain human levels of intelligence by the year 2040, and that by 2050, they will surpass us. But even though Moravec predicts the end of the domination by human beings, his is not a bleak vision. Far from railing against a future in which machines rule the world, Moravec embraces it, taking the startling view that intelligent robots will actually be our evolutionary heirs. "Intelligent machines, which will grow from us, learn our skills, and share our goals and values, can be viewed as children of our minds." And since they are our children, we will want them to outdistance us. In fact, in a bid for immortality, many of our descendants will choose to transform into "ex humans," as they upload themselves into advanced computers. This provocative new book, the highly anticipated follow-up to his bestselling volume Mind Children, charts the trajectory of robotics in breathtaking detail. A must read for artificial intelligence, technology, and computer enthusiasts, Moravec's freewheeling but informed speculations present a future far different than we ever dared imagine."
"Moravec is optimistic that robotic labor will make life more pleasant for humanity, but inevitably evolution will lead beyond humans to a world of “ex-humans” or “exes.” These post-biological beings will populate a galaxy which is as benign for them as it is hostile for biological beings. “We marvel at the Earth’s biodiversity … but the diversity and range of the post-biological world will be astronomically greater. Imagination balks at the challenge of guessing what it could be like.” Still, he is willing to hazard a guess: “…Exes trapped in neutron stars may become the most powerful minds in the galaxy … But, in the fast-evolving world of superminds, nothing lasts forever …. Exes, [will] become obsolete.”
In that far future, Moravec speculates that exes will “be transformed into intelligence-boosting computing elements … physical activity will gradually transform itself into a web of increasingly pure thought, here every smallest interaction represents a meaningful computation.” Exes may learn to arrange space-time and energy into forms of computation, with the result that “the inhabited portions of the universe will be rapidly transformed into a cyberspace, where overt physical activity is imperceptible, but the world inside the computation is astronomically rich.” Beings won’t be defined by physical location but will be patterns of information in cyberspace. Minds, pure software, will interact with other minds. The wave of physical migration into space will have long given way to “a bubble of Mind expanding at near lightspeed.” Eventually, the expanding bubble of cyberspace will recreate all it encounters “memorizing the old universe as it consumes it.”
For the moment our small minds cannot give meaning to the universe, but a future universal mind might be able to do so, when that cosmic mind is infinitely subjective, self-conscious, and powerful. At that point our descendents will be capable of traversing in and through other possible worlds. Unfortunately, those of us alive today are governed by the laws of the universe, at least until we die when our ties to physical reality will be cut. It is possible we will then be reconstituted in the minds of our super intelligent successors or in simulated realities. But for the moment this is still fantasy, all we have for now is Shakespeare’s lament:
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil …"
“Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great
astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”
“—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s
memory works both ways.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass