Archive for February, 2011
Computers are getting faster. Everybody knows that. Also, computers are getting faster faster — that is, the rate at which they’re getting faster is increasing.
So if computers are getting so much faster, so incredibly fast, there might conceivably come a moment when they are capable of something comparable to human intelligence. Artificial intelligence. All that horsepower could be put in the service of emulating whatever it is our brains are doing when they create consciousness — not just doing arithmetic very quickly or composing piano music but also driving cars, writing books, making ethical decisions, appreciating fancy paintings, making witty observations at cocktail parties.
If you can swallow that idea, and Kurzweil and a lot of other very smart people can, then all bets are off. From that point on, there’s no reason to think computers would stop getting more powerful. They would keep on developing until they were far more intelligent than we are. Their rate of development would also continue to increase, because they would take over their own development from their slower-thinking human creators. Imagine a computer scientist that was itself a super-intelligent computer. It would work incredibly quickly. It could draw on huge amounts of data effortlessly. It wouldn’t even take breaks to play Farmville.
Probably. It’s impossible to predict the behavior of these smarter-than-human intelligences with which (with whom?) we might one day share the planet, because if you could, you’d be as smart as they would be. But there are a lot of theories about it. Maybe we’ll merge with them to become super-intelligent cyborgs, using computers to extend our intellectual abilities the same way that cars and planes extend our physical abilities. Maybe the artificial intelligences will help us treat the effects of old age and prolong our life spans indefinitely. Maybe we’ll scan our consciousnesses into computers and live inside them as software, forever, virtually. Maybe the computers will turn on humanity and annihilate us. The one thing all these theories have in common is the transformation of our species into something that is no longer recognizable as such to humanity circa 2011. This transformation has a name: the Singularity.
Have a look at this list of 10 common ways you might go about achieving your goals. Most of these should be familiar, but which ones do you think work? More to the point: which ones do or don’t you use?
- Make a step-by-step plan.
- Motivate yourself by focusing on someone who has achieved a similar goal.
- Tell other people about your goal.
- Think about bad things that will happen if you do not achieve your goal.
- Think about the good things that will happen if you achieve your goal.
- Try to suppress unhelpful or negative thoughts about your goal and how to achieve it.
- Reward yourself for making progress in your goal.
- Rely on willpower.
- Record your progress.
- Fantasize or visualize how great your life will be when you achieve your goal.
A facial-recognition system developed at the M.I.T. Media Lab and commercialized by Affectiva tracks face movements and links them with a database of expressions. In the video below, the program tracks the distance traveled by the corners of the lip, and the angle of the movement, to calculate the chance that the expression is a smile. A probability of 60 percent or more indicates a smile.