Wednesday, May 16, 2018

We are more than we think

I read and hear pronouncements about the human future.  Just today, I read from the wonderful Yuval Harari, author of the memorable "Sapiens", the most intelligent book on who we are and what we are like that I have seen recently, that "organisms are algorithms".  That was in a speech given by the professor, who is a very smart man but I take the idea with a grain of salt.

We are in the beginning of the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning.  We are in the beginning of the age of genetic manipulation. We are thinking as fast and as hard as we can, but we are still in the grip of biological and brain mappings and subroutines that drive us to sex, magical thinking, and to fears and dreams that we don't understand and can't control.  We continuously hear that plenty of evidence is piling up that our brains are much more than our conscious minds, which are themselves incredibly complex and only sporadically rational.

We really have very little idea of just how intelligent we are and how driven by age, biology, prejudice, fear and dreams we are.  We like to think we are in a time of engineering and purposeful, tested design while at the same time, several governments around the world and several experienced thinkers about political systems are fearful of populist and narrow-minded forces and convictions that seem aimed at environment destruction, fewer civil rights and more fear-based tribalism.

If there is one thing that stands out in a review of attempts by humans to see where they are going, it is the tremendous error in forecasts and predictions. Whether it is the conservation of drinking water or the ability to rebound from the effects of poor government, you only have to look around to see that we don't know ourselves.  We don't know what we can do. Each of us is the product of millions of years of evolutionary shaping. We have intelligences, reflexes, and ideas in us that we haven't begun to examine, test and improve. Stay tuned, hang loose and get your sleep. You will need to be well-rested for tomorrow.

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