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Artificial Intelligence

An Insight

James Killmer Neurons

The year is 2050. The room is quiet. In the center is an object shaped as a sphere, which emits faint rays of light and a humming sound. 

As I approach the sphere, which I have called AIM-E (Artificial Intelligence Machine -E), a sensuous voice said, “Hello, what can I do for you?" 

I wanted to relax for an hour and commanded my little AIM-E to accommodate me. I asked AIM-E to write original prose and set it to music. AIM-E responds within picoseconds. The original music and score abounds the room. I decided to critique the effort. I told AIM-E that it was weak in communicating the mood I planned for after a long day at the office. AIM-E took exception to this notion. In a terse tone of voice, it explained that this was the best it could do and started to cry. I walked over and patted its little sphere head and consoled it. AIM-E perked up even though it was annoyed at me.

Can we have a machine that could laugh, cry, and have emotional highs and lows? Could a machine have the capability to think? Can the unimaginable happen, the replacement of the human species by machine?

Of all questions that can be asked about computers none has such an eerie ring. Allow a machine intelligence perhaps, the ability to control other machines, repair itself, help us solve problems, compute numbers a million fold quicker than any human; allow it to fly airplanes, drive cars, superintend our medical records, and even possibly, give advice to politicians. Somehow you can see how a machine might come to do all these things. But that it could be made to perform that apparently exclusively human operation known as thinking is something else, and is something which is offensive, alien, and threatening…. (1)

Artificial intelligence is not easy to define. Machines have intelligence as a process of problem solving and programming, in which the system is designed to respond to random variables. The language, natural to computers, is binary logic or arithmetic. The instructions and executions work on a simple on/off, digital mode. At present the computer is an instrument very much inferior to the human brain. Not only does the human brain have about 1,000 times as many memory units as the largest computer made so far, but also each neuron has interconnections to some 10,000 other neurons. This means that the number of interconnections in the brain is some five million times as many as the largest computer. (2)

The computer can store and retrieve more data with greater speed. Man's brain may be complex, but outside interference can inhibit the retrieval process. It is estimated that the brain has ten billion to a trillion neurons. A single neuron has been known to support as many as 200,000 junctions with other nerve cells. (3)

To program a computer, using today’s technology, to think like a human brain would be a laborious task.

The human brain cannot solve problems all on its own, or have complete knowledge of it, yet with the help of other individual brains, problems may be solved or corrected. Highly complex computer systems could do the same, relying on other complex systems to help, if those systems are clever enough. To raise the intelligence of one machine we would use the intelligence of another and progressively enhance the machines "brain" along the way.

Intellect; human intelligence is measured through various tests. We cannot see the complex mental processes that are involved in intelligence. We have to approach the subject indirectly, by watching what people do when situations require the use of intelligence. Recognition, perception, instincts, and instructive memory are integral parts of "brain" intelligence, yet we can find these traits in primates. Take out the pen and paper, test the environment, and you will find the same abilities in some animals. Computers can perceive relationships between categories of objects and also able to solve problems. So we cannot define intelligence as something only biological. Computers can do the work of what thinkers can do. They are memory units storing and associating ideas with the data it contains. The brain and the systems surrounding it are not fully understood, so the comparison of brain and machine is difficult.

It is believed brain intelligence is the foundation of genetics. Can we manipulate genes to produce a machine? DNA techniques could possibly turn out semiconductor chips, out of genes, more powerful and less likely to malfunction.

A "humanoid" machine?

Human clones may exist in the future and being human would give it the same rights and privileges as all of us, but thinking machines probably would ponder its role and reason for its existence. Remember Frankenstein's plight "am I man or monster." Today, if a machine becomes useless or malfunctions we throw it away. What do we do when a thinking machine begs us not to destroy it?

In the past sixty years man's view of technology itself has changed. We no longer see it as a concern with things only; today it is a concern of man as well. We have come to realize that technology is not, as our grandparents believed, the magic wand that can make all human problems and limitations disappear. We now know that technological potential is, indeed, even greater than they thought. But we have also learned that technology, as a creature of man, is as problematical, as ambivalent, and as capable of good or evil, as its creator… (4)

The creation of artificial intelligence will be man’s creation. There are many objections, including theological, personal consciousness, and unpredictability. The theological objection is based on man as the creation of God. He has been given a soul and the power of conscious thought. Machines are not spiritual beings, have no souls and thus must be incapable of thought. Personal consciousness objection deals with the mechanism of creating because of thoughts and emotions felt, and not by the manipulation of symbols. It would not only write, but also know what it had written. Unpredictability objection argues that computers are created by human beings and operate according to rules and scripted programs. The computer is predictable, where as in human thinking we do not behave according to set rules. The argument then states essentially that thinking is only a human ability.

The computer revolution is here, and as we yield to smarter machines for assistance, the world will change for good, bad, or both. We have to address the problem of artificial intelligence, by bringing together scientists with men and woman involved in the humanities and the arts, to state our ideas comprehensibly to people. Exchanging information will be an essential element in mankind’s survival. "Man, for so long the sole and undisputed master of the planet, will no longer have to face the universe alone. Other intelligences initially comparable and later vastly superior will stand by his side." (5)

1. Christopher Evans, Micro Millennium, (New York, Viking Press, 1980), p.176.

2. M.W. Thring, Man, Machines, and Tomorrow, (London & Boston, Rutledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), p.58.

3. Dr. Zsolt Harsanyi, Richard Hutton, Genetic Prophecy: Beyond The Double Helix, (New York, Rawson Wade Publishers, Inc., 1981) p.206.

4. Robert Bullen, Charles J. Sipp I, Computers at Large, How They Work For and Against Us, (New York, Bobbs-Merill Co., Inc., 1976) p.10.

5. Evans, op. cit., p·58.

Artificial Intelligence was written in the mid eighties. Apple introduces the MAC II, Ronald Reagan was president, and "Back to the Future" was a big hit movie. Over the past thirty-four years, Artificial Intelligence has become more prevalent in our lives. For better or worse AI will challenge the human race in the near future.

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