October 10, 2005

"In a minute a computer can make a mistake that would have taken many men months to equal it.

A stramge quote from an anonymous source. A rebuke from those mechanical number crunchers we use everyday perhaps? Would that be a the killer point when we decided machines had finally reached our level of intelligence?

Can a computer someday equal a human mind?

Yes, no, certainly, don't be daft! are all common responses to this question. Are we on the verge of knowing the answer within a century of Turing's breakthrough of insight on the nature of our modern computer?

Computationally speaking we're close. Moore's Law has been strictly followed to this day only struggling recently as we ever near it's naturally implied limit. Other design structures and perhaps the budding vein of bio-tech computers may soon give us the computational capacity to simulate the mechanical workings of the human brain within 20 years.

Yet even with all the number crunching computer power we have could we really create a mind? Inject intelligence into the craft of our hands and take onto ourselves the mantle of creator?

Could the machine ever have a soul?

Who knows? It really depends who you ask which effictively means no one. Some think we're entirely physical constructs and so it's natural for computers to reach our present level of consciousness. Other's belive wholly in the sanctity of life and find the idea that we might somehow claim the power of creation a gross arrogance. To succeed in any venture of this form would in fact require God's personal touch to breathe a soul into the construct of our fashioning. Many people just don't know, although most lean one way or another, this fence ain't too easy to sit on.

Why are our reactions so typically extreme or confused?

Fear seems a likely candidate for both extremes. Typically those purporting no discernable difference between a machine and the mind need to believe in this view fot it holds true with their largely secular stance. To admit the existence of a soul admits God no? Similarly to admit we can create life and intelligent life is blasphemy to the ears of most of the devout, be it Christian, Muslim or Jew (etc).

Personally I more or less fall into the former camp. Yet I don't find the idea of us building intelligent machines irreconcilable with a belief in a creator. If God exists and he really wanted to create an intelligent species would he really just snap his fingers and pop there they come? Surely we don't give him enough credit. This virgin race would need time to adapt to their new home and fit into the ecosystem. Likewise the world he'd fashioned as their new home surely needs time to adapt to this new influx of visitors. Now God's a clever guy so why not build in this necesary adaptation as a natural process? Scientists call it evolution or natural selection.

Now if the Creator could do things using a plan as elaborate as natural selction then why not another? The thought which really strikes fear into many of us is not perhaps the thought of machines as our equals but of them surpassing us. For if we're nothing more than elaborate number crunchers then from what we see of the advancement of tchnology machines surely will and the day approaches ever faster.

Perhaps this is all just another phase in the plan. Our purpose: to engineer the next stage in intelligence, a race of machines to succeed us. A lacklustre fate for the human race to some. Maybe wonderful to others.

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