Kurzweil was a stunningly successful technofile who created
an astonishingly broad and detailed canvas illuminating the future and increasingly intertwined paths of man and machine.
But in his mental meanderings he seems to have missed several important details.
First, chaos. We all know the Jurassic Park version of the chaos story:
why should this not apply to the incredible chaos that is the digital environment? Especially given the deliberate
injection of chaos into everything digital, from the analog neural controllers in Joe Ayer's robolobsters
to the ground swell of genetic-algorithm based machine learning. Evolution IS
chaos, be it digital or biological evolution.
Secondly, Kurzweil missed the Neanderthals.
Actually, we all missed the Neanderthals. Seems they had a little problem with Darwin's law, but at least they
are not here to complain about. The problem is Kurzweil is not a biologist--he seems to have overlooked Evolution
101 and Darwin's first law: one niche, one species. [OK, Darwin didn't really number laws, so unselect me]. But
anytime species compete in a niche, one survives, one doesn't. It's a Biological Thunderdome: Two species enter,
one species leaves. Just ask the Neanderthals-- victims of an intelligent, sentient, compassionate species
that has empathy, emotions, caring and nuturing hard-wired into its brains for reasons relating to natural selection.
The digital environment is totally chaotic, beset by viruses, worms and trojan programs.
Scrambled by genetic algorithms, evolutionary programming, machine learning, autonomous agents and unpredictable recombinations
of all sorts of powerful meandering code. Who is Kurzweil (or Hawkins) to say that everything coming out of this digital
primordial soup will be kind and caring to human needs? Humans are deliberately programming malicious, destructive variants
of code on a daily basis. What gives anyone the logical authority to claim that those malevolent creatures that do arise will be ineffectual, non-sentient and
not conscious? We should consider that Kurzweil is not omniprescient-- the fate of Mankind (and Womankind too) hangs
in the balance.
Our concerns here are not with the machinations of some pud-wanking Gibson-wannabees.
The issue is the military-industrial complex, or its current multinational incarnation. Gibson's visions of "black ice"
are entirely appropos: digital warfare and digital competition are going to increase at a furious pace over the coming decades.
Deep Blue was an awesome creature on the chess pitch, but he was but a fleeting glimpse of the AI's to come. The chapter
on water-based consciousness. is relevant, but deeper exploration will be found in The
Power that Be (tba).
Dan Knudsen, a DEAC sympathist, kindly gave me a copy of Kurzweil's "Singularity",
but I have not (as of this writing) opened it, instead prefering to follow my own thought paths. I greatly enjoyed browsing The
Age of Spiritual Machines and find the man-machine blend to be intriguing and partially plausible-- but this does
not rule out pure AI's and these purely digital creatures will mostly not share our instincts of empathy. "Other Intelligences",
be it dolphin, whale or chimp, are hard to fathom and communicate with: expect similar rifts between AIs and humans.