Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

26 October, 2009

WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO OURSELVES?

I should not do so much thinking and delving in to certain issues facing us in today's society.  More often than not, I end up perplexed because I am not capable of resolution. 
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My sleep last night was interrupted by two unsettling fact-of-life realities:  1) the advent of "artificial intelligence" and 2) the reality of a "post-Christian era".  In some strange way, the two may be related in that we are responsible for allowing them to happen.
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ISSUE #1:  When I fire up my computer each morning, I never cease to be amazed by how much "thinking" that little grey box of electronics is starting to do for me.  In fact, I rely on it at least a dozen times a day for information of all sorts.  Amazingly, this complicated algorithm apparently processes about three billion other Google searches daily, and all within split seconds.  "Data mining" as it is called, has crept up on users of computer search engines around the world and it is really quite mind-boggling.
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Equally astounding, the other day I read a report noting that computer speech recognition is approaching human capabilities, and that this capability seems to require 0.01 per cent of the volume of the brain -- the analogy suggesting that modern computer hardware programs are fast reaching a magnitude as powerful as the human brain.  Some researchers have even gone so far as to suggest that artificial intelligence may in fact eventually eliminate the human race, and humans would be powerless to stop them.  Far-fetched science fiction?  Maybe yes, maybe no.
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In reality, we humans are responsible for extending ourselves and creating a phenomenon that was predicted some 50 years ago by I.J. Good who wrote of an intelligence explosion.  Good suggested that if machines could even slightly surpass human intellect, they could improve their own design in ways unforeseen by their designer, and thus recursively augment themselves into far superior intelligences.  The prospect of that happening is now very much a possibility.  We have reached a point of no return.  How smart is that?
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ISSUE #2:  I have always held to the theory that we are called to be stewards of a good creation, not spoilers.  In so doing, we must distinguish between two rational methods of reasoning.  The one, science, follows the nature of things and proceeds by demonstration.  But when we turn to matters beyond the material realm, or implied by their existence, we have "probable reasoning" as described by Rev. Dr. Joseph McLelland, professor emeritus at McGill University.  In fact, the later encompasses the most important things -- our values, our emotional and our psychological life. 
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Modern society is sometimes called post-Christian because the Church has lost its place as arbiter of social norms and quasi-official  religion of the Western world.  Clearly, we now live in an increasingly pluralistic world, with values derived from science or economics.  Rather than simply lament the passing of the good ol' days, we must face the situation head-on and think through our faith in light of the new challenges.
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Here again we have contributed to the demise of our once cherished religion through arrogance, complacency and ignorance.  As before, I ask:  "How smart is that?"  Is reversal a possibility?
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I'm too dumb to know the answers to any of this.  I am smart enough, however, to fear the possibility that ultimately we will be responsible for our own undoing.  Maybe I should check to see if Google has some answers!

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