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Offbeat – 21 March 2013

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The output is a variable result. For instance if you add two and two together on your computer’s calculator, you get four. The output can change however, depending on various circumstances. For instance, it you use a spreadsheet as well as I do, two and two might add up to B3:C3+G8 and a whole lot of swearing.

I’m looking at this thing. It’s a telephone. It has buttons and it has a handset with a curly cable. The mouthpiece and earpiece are joined by an arch. Sometimes looking at things in a fresh light is great. I’m looking at a telephone and it looks bizarre, now that I actually stop and think of it.
Time and redundancy change everything.
Open up your e-mail software. I mean, you are reading this, which implies you must have a computer, and you must have e-mail. Look at that thing. What you are seeing is something that is about to go redundant, if not now then in a couple of years.
What’s going to replace it? Shared file storage, instant messaging, and mail retrieval from an online site, easy as that. And for everything else, there is social networking. My betting is that laptops and desktops will become specialist in a couple of years. Pads? No. Probably not. Look what Google is doing with glasses. It’s your own personal heads-up display.
If they can just get a combat flight simulator on the things, we can all run around pretending to be fighter pilots. It will be even more fun if there are networked games. Just imagine shopping malls full of people running around with outstretched arms making jet and shooting noises.
I’ve talked about the notion of the singularity before. In case you don’t remember, it’s a notional event when a single technology arises that basically changes everything. The idea of the singularity comes from plots of various technological events, all of which seem to be converging on one point.
A lot of the pundits mention the idea of artificial intelligence. I think they may be right, but I am not entirely certain that they are right in the way that they think they are.
Computers take stuff called inputs, process them and then spit them out again as output, reconfigured in a way that is supposed to make sense. The part used for processing is short-term memory and other memory gets used long-term, for instance files which have names that you can’t remember and only find two years later, precipitating a complete existential crisis as you debate whether to chuck the thing away or not?
The output is a variable result. For instance if you add two and two together on your computer’s calculator, you get four. The output can change however, depending on various circumstances. For instance, it you use a spreadsheet as well as I do, two and two might add up to B3:C3+G8 and a whole lot of swearing. If you are mathematically inclined the result might be two infinities squared, and a machine that loops so badly, the processor gets fried. Whatever the case, outputs can be variable, and this is important to remember because… you’ll see why in a couple of paragraphs.
The thing that the singularity proponents all base their hypotheses on is reliance on energy of a technological type of nature, for instance circuitry. But what if the processing was actually human?
Imagine if the artificial singularity used human inputs, human processing and arrived at human outputs at the end of the day? The quality of the outputs depends on the quality of the inputs, and some outputs can be tailored by fiddling with the inputs.
What if it was sort of like Facebook, or Baidu or Twitter? We know the sort of inputs it would receive, and we know it would process them in a very fuzzy way, with little or no objectivity? What sort of a result would that sort of thing achieve?
It would probably be something like how to behave, what to think and what to like.  My guessing is it would probably change its mind on a fairly arbitrary basis from time to time. This thing, would be very credible, because most people want to think the way other people think. Standing out from the crowd is never a good idea. Just ask a chicken with a very long neck, if you can find one.
Enough of this nonsense now. It’s all just science fiction anyway. The pundits have spoken. One day a computer will come along to do all our thinking for us. We just have to wait.

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