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Are computers getting too smart?

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Joined: 27 Feb 2001
Posts: 1255
Location: The Void
Are computers getting too smart? PostSun Sep 02, 2001 12:26 pm  Reply with quote  

Stephen Hawking seems to think so....,6903,545653,00.html
Stephen Hawking, the acclaimed scientist and writer, reignited the debate over genetic engineering yesterday by recommending that humans change their DNA through genetic modification to keep ahead of advances in computer technology and stop intelligent machines from 'taking over the world'.
He made the remarks in an interview with the German magazine Focus. Because technology is advancing so quickly, Hawking said, 'computers double their performance every month'. Humans, in contrast, are developing much more slowly, and so must change their DNA make-up or be left behind. 'The danger is real,' he said, 'that this [computer] intelligence will develop and take over the world.'

Hawking, author of the best-selling A Brief History Of Time and a professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, recommended 'well-aimed manipulation' of human genes. Through this humans could 'raise the complexity of... the DNA [they are born with], thereby improving people'. He conceded the road to genetic modification would be a long one but said: 'We should follow this road if we want biological systems to remain superior to electronic ones.'

He also advocated cyber-technology - direct links between human brains and computers. 'We must develop as quickly as possible technologies that make possible a direct connection between brain and computer, so that artificial brains contribute to human intelligence rather than opposing it.'

While scientists are excited by the huge possibilities of genetic engineering and human interaction with machines, ethicists urge caution as the experiments could go wrong.

Sue Mayer, director of policy research group Genewatch, rounded on Hawking's remarks. 'He is trying to take the debate about genetic engineering in the wrong direction,' she said. 'It is naive to think that genetic engineering will help us stay ahead of computers.'

[Edited 1 times, lastly by RidesTheWind on 09-02-2001]
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Joined: 21 Apr 2001
Posts: 1386
PostSun Sep 02, 2001 7:29 pm  Reply with quote  

Where to start?

First of all, computers don't double their performance every month. Someone needs to remind Mr. Hawking of Moore's law, which states that processor power doubles every 18-24 months.

The other mistake in logic that he is making, is that processor power does not equal overall performance. There is a bottleneck in the both storage and memory bandwidth which continues to cripple today's computer technology.

Let's put Mr. Hawkings obervations to the test. The fastest commercial chip available right now is the Intel Pentium 4 2.0 Ghz. We'll see if there is a 4.0 Ghz chip hitting the shelves by October.

Now, even if there was any truth to his observations on the rate of increased computer performance, the machines still have to overcome an enormous hurdle before they quit crunching numbers and make their Bid for World Domination. They have to achieve self awareness. I doubt if it will ever be possible to endow a piece of silicon with this property. However, if we start merging merging human consciousness with computer technology (as Hawkings suggests) this may well become possible.

Lastly, if the this threat is to be considered real, the solution is not to start screwing with human DNA. Genetic engineering hasn't progressed to the point where we can start playing God, just yet.
The solution is to the pull the proverbial plug out of the wall. Problem solved.

[Edited 2 times, lastly by Chem11 on 09-02-2001]
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Duncan Kunz

Joined: 19 Oct 2000
Posts: 582
PostSun Sep 02, 2001 8:11 pm  Reply with quote  

Well, I was gonna write about Moore's Law, but my colleague Mr. Chem11 beat me to the punch. He (chem11, not Steven Hawking) is absolutely right, of course; not only does 'performance' not double every month, but there's no evidence that a computer has become 'self-aware' or is even nearing that state.

As a matter of fact, no one can even say at what point a silicon computer will be able to become 'self-aware' given the number of neurons and the number of possible interconnections among those neurons, the biggest (in terms of number of transistors) IC is wa-a-a-ay below the magic number.

The only thing I disagree with chem11 on is the 'solution' to pull the plug. Computer chips, like GM foods, stem-cell research, etc., are genies out of the bottle, and we're never gonna get 'em back in.

Duncan Kunz /
Mesa AZ / 480-891-2525
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