Monday, March 30, 2009

Computers, Internet and the Future

I remember Star Trek and Wargames and other shows where computers were the tip of a wave of fantastic times where computers would be used for amazing feats of mankind. Computers would do the information gathering and calculations at lightening speed leaving humans more time to consider the moral issues of the final actions to be taken. Alas! It has almost turned into a time of people serving the machine. I will never forget the early days when, what ever went wrong, the person would say 'my computer is down' or 'the computer has not given us the information yet' as if the machine sat there making decisions and the person just stood at the end of a long table waiting for the answer so they could pass it on. Computers became another excuse for inefficiency and delay. Now we use words like 'glitch' or 'harddrive crash' or what ever the current terms are. The truth is, if the machine does not perform, it is human error because we make them in the first place. We must take the responsibility or we become the servants instead of the masters.

The Internet had such great possibilities. People around the world could communicate with each other and get to know the different cultures. Information could be freely posted for all to benefit from. Business could prosper because of swifter communication. Unfortunately, the great possibilities have been diluted to the point of unreliability by those who would make a buck at all cost and without regard for others. An angry person with programming abilities can wreck whole systems or a single computer. A scam can spread at lightning speed and cause financial diaster to a trusting person. Privacy is invaded as a simple way of doing business. Morals and intregity are out-the-window as if it could all be blamed on the virtual world. Truth and lie are so intermingled that separating the two becomes a trying and time consuming task. In short, the Internet is becoming more and more useless. The search engines, where good information once ruled are now mostly advertising machines where the highest bidder gets the best spot.

The future seems to be bleak, at least, sofar as my early excitment over a new age of communication is concerned. Commercialization now reigns online. Computers are being used in amazing ways in bionics and medicine and space but those sysstems must be isolated from the world system to prevent contamination. Like drugs in our physical society, misuse and misinformation in our virtual society have rendered the system unreliable and unpredictable. We can learn one lesson from this. Should we ever invent a true AI, it could not be left with complete freedom to evolve. It would consume all information out there and would operate under many false assumptions.

I would like to see a computer system where one could walk into a room and ask a question and get a correct answer based on current knowledge of proven facts. I would even like to see a computer system that could reason so that you could present a scenario and it would search and compare until it gave out a best answer based on the information it had. Maybe one exist, unfortunately, the question must be asked: Could the public be trusted with such a tool or would it be corrupted if it were made available?

Link to 'I Wonder'

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