Saturday, January 26, 2008

Will my Grandkid's Grandkids work for robots?

My wife has a Roomba vacuum cleaner. It does a good job cleaning the carpet without assistance, and it doesn't need many brain cycles to do that job. But consider Moore's law compounded across multiple generations. Fifty years is 10**9, a factor of one billion. One hundred years is one billion x one billion. How many brain cycles will a Roomba have when my grandkids have grandkids? Will it clean the whole house, or will it own the house and it's occupants?

According Ray Kurtzweil and others, history points out that Moore's Law is simply a lower bound. Silicon efficiency is just one factor in the advancement of technology. Improvements in architecture, software, chemistry, biology, nano-construction, etc., all contribute acceleration factors to progress. "Punctuated Equilibrium", articulated by Stephen J. Gould, as a model for evolution of life species can also apply to technology. At some point in time, breakthroughs in multiple disciplines combine to throw a few more zeros on 10**18.

My grandkids will likely have iRoomba devices that are smarter than I am. They will use these devices for tasks I can't imagine though I am sure they will be indispensable. But as Beyond AI, J. Hall Storrs asks in "Beyond AI", at what point do "humans" become the "plants" - objects to be nurtured, and perhaps enjoyed by the machines.

AI is coming. Google is likely in the lead with their zillion-Pentium server farms and parallel processing algorithms. The world wide web becomes the world wide computer. Cloud computing resources like Amazon's EC2 will soon be available to virtually anyone. (Though few will really control it.)

The world wide social computer with millions of humans sharing perception and knowledge with millions of computers: a symbiosis for unpredictable futures.

Kurtzweil's "Singularity" not-withstanding, what do machines do for fun in 10,000 years? Do they climb into space ships and roam the galaxy for eons to find other "plants" to harvest? If that is inevitable, why haven't machines from other worlds visited Earth yet? Maybe machines lack the genetic blueprint for exploration, or the "dread of boredom"? Perhaps, like my Roomba, they get stuck in a corner and simply stop.

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