Transcendence.

by Bear Hunter

I forced myself out of my place over the weekend.  I decided to see the movie “Transcendence” starring Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall.  I know what the film was meant to represent and I appreciated the sentiments brought up near the end but I wasn’t convinced.  I won’t give away any surprises and spoil things for anyone.  I just want to talk about the concept.

In the film scientists are racing to be the first to create an artificial intelligence that can help mankind take care of any problem we might ever encounter.  The AI would have superior intelligence and knowledge to every human mind that has ever existed in history combined!  It would have free reign over the internet and would be self-aware.  Without going too deep into the story Johnny Depp’s character becomes part of a new super AI.  He is the component that makes it self-aware.  There are also questions of what makes our soul what it is.

I enjoyed the movie and yet I couldn’t stomach the fact that an intelligence could have unlimited knowledge and resources, and yet still be an intelligence.  I have always believed that our limitations play an essential role in who we are.  The obstacles we face force us to learn and adapt… to grow as people.  We are creatures of necessity.  If we can have anything we want or do anything we want we lose our inherent need.

Life is a struggle for power, one species trying to survive in competition with others.  We form bias’ – rational or not – to put ourselves above other animals.  We deserve the food not them.  We deserve the shelter not them.  That natural prejudice is part of what makes us self aware.  If we instinctively saw everyone as equally deserving we have no justification to fight to survive and we die.  An ultimate intelligence would have to consider all options and opinions.  In my mind that would lead to a reduction in bias which would cause the AI’s “mind” to unravel itself.

Prejudice is not the only bias to consider.  Love is also a bias.  Love plays a cool part in the movie – which I enjoyed.  I wonder, why would the AI need love?  If it has all the knowledge and abilities it needs why would it need nurturing?  Why would it need a partner to compliment it if it can compliment itself?  The romance wasn’t lost on me just the lack of logic.

I have an invested interest in artificial intelligence – I won’t say why.  I just think we get carried away with this whole “All-knowing” entity thing.  I’ve always believed that to know all is to be all and to be all is to be nothing.  If you have no point of reference outside of yourself how can you set yourself apart or even recognize yourself?  Lots of logical holes there.  Can’t we embrace limitations, bias and variation?  I want to know how a real IA could exist and how it would separate itself from the world and organisms around it.  How would it see itself as fitting into the greater scheme of things.  I want to see more movies that cover that.

– Bear Hunter

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