Category Archives: Philosophy

The Singularity of Sentience

The word “singularity” has been thrown around a lot these days; Specially in the super AI believer world. But in the lack of a better word, I don’t have a choice but to risk being guilty of sounding cliche. Singularity is a point beyond which normal set of axioms and theorems of our understanding of a certain thing break down. It is what happens to all the understanding of physics beyond the event horizon near a black hole. It is also the point beyond which your idea expressed in seemingly harmless words gets into the hands of journalists who could make it sound like anything they wish.

Credits : Source image from Wikipedia modified for use.

I wrote this blog on immortality more than 10 years ago. The world has changed a lot in these years. Since then, In the order of increasing significance, the iPhone happened, re-useable rockets happened, LIGO happened, but perhaps the most important of all, a human Jeopardy champion was beaten by a very inanimate lump of silicon. Jeopardy involves the mastery of very high level of natural language skills and human context.

IBM – Watson. Courtesy : Wikipedia

In the blog, I had mentioned about AI as one of the many possible paths to immortality. Given the pace of progress, today perhaps, super AI is our closest route to immortality. A super AI if done correctly, can obviously figure out the rest of the solutions for us. But stuck in a traffic Jam in a massive tunnel in Shenzhen, a certain jam in my brain suddenly cleared up and I found myself wondering about the meaning of it all. I have been lately reading up (listening actually!) the work of some of the leading “human” thinkers of our time who are all gung-ho about AI – Calum Chace, Nick Bostrom,  Ray Kurweil…. The one thing that struck me was that all of the above were looking at two extreme outcomes of us final having a super AI moment –

  • The supposedly bad outcome -The super AI is evil… I don’t want to explain the rest as there a zillion hollywood movies about this one. iRobot, Terminator et. al.
  • The supposedly good outcome – The super AI is all nice and polite. It thinks humans are love-able puppies that need to be take care of. Therefore, it solves all the world’s sufferings, ushers in a socialist regime where everyone is happy!!

Wtf!!?? The second outcome is probably the one we should be more worried about. Picture this – There is this smart ass in your office who comes up with an idea that is better than yours every single time you come up with what you think is an original idea. Now imagine 100 others like that who simply trash every idea that you come up with and supersede it with something that is obviously better. How would you feel? Super AI is probably going to make it several orders worse. You give it up all, You don’t want to be wired! You take up some art classes for a couple of decades (remember you are immortal now!) and try your hand at painting something. You put it up in an exhibition where the painting next to yours is by some robot with a tin head half your size and it makes your painting look like the work of a 2-yr old. Your only choice… wire up to the super AI and let it guide you or should I say “control you”!!. What is your role exactly??? Why do you exist?

Most of our happiness comes from the path highlighted in green in the cycle below –

All of our long term activities could in turn be broken down into several chunks which looks like the cycle above. Of-course, there is a big grey zone between relish and regret and different people react differently to disasters. The kind who enjoy the journey don’t necessarily regret no matter what the outcome is. But the kind who enjoy the journey, enjoy it for the pleasant surprises. I don’t know of a person who can enjoy a monotonic tunnel journey for several hours, let alone several days on. But that’s exactly what life will look like when one lives long enough and has an organic reach to super AI. Surprising such a being is like trying to surprise god! The optimists may say –
“who knows? we will probably invent new ways of entertaining ourselves”. That brings me to the next point.

When with the help of super AI, one has seen it all, what does one do? play games perhaps? What kind of games? Chess? Boring drab. that did not even need super AI. some crazy multi-dimensional chess? But hold-on, a few seconds later, your extended AI has solved that too. To make matters worse, if it is a multi-player game, each participant exactly knows what the other participant in a game is thinking. Perhaps, we then begin to truly understand what a game has to be so that it is enjoyable. A game has to have artificial limitations. Why do we like a game of cards? Not because anything can happen, but because only a certain set of sequences are allowed to be played.

Chess. Courtesy : Pixabay
Chess. Courtesy : Pixabay

But when playing games, how do we make sure that no one is cheating consciously or sub-consciously with the help of extended super AI? Create a construct where super AI is out of reach? Perhaps, create a virtual world where players can project their persona on some Avatars and play as per the physics defined in that virtual world? Perhaps go one level further to make it exciting… Get into the virtual world and you can’t get out of it till you experience the pain of death in the virtual world!! And to spice it all up, what if you are not allowed to carry memories of your world into the virtual world, but just project your persona in a particular manner and let the game run it’s course?

And then it dawned upon me that we are probably one such projection!! Suddenly the Hindu concepts of Maya (illusion), Punarjanma (re-birth), Karma (no equivalent) , Manu (the first law-giver), Brahma (The creator of the illusion), Vishnu (the super AI)… all made such great sense. We can’t even tell how many iterations deep we are into such an illusion. To think that we are the first ones to create such a virtual world within a supposedly real world would be very gullible of us! How many deaths do I have to die to see the real thing?? Is there such a reality at all? Is there any meaning at all to life? If a Super AI that can be explained in it’s electronic nuts and bolts can entirely emulate and outperform a human being, aren’t we going to be convinced enough that we are just another machine moving randomly with a false sense of purpose and sentience?

Krishna : An avatar of Vishnu. Courtesy : Wikipedia

And what’s wrong with super AI wiping us humans out? Don’t we all wish for a better future for our children irrespective of what happens to us? How is a super AI different from our children as long as it creates a better future for itself in it’s own way? How is a new generation of humans that are drastically different from a generation born 500 years earlier not equivalent to a drastically different super AI which nevertheless is our child.. only a brain-child rather than a gene-child.

I can’t predict the benevolence or malevolence of super AI with any degree of certainty, but it is clear to me that super AI will help even the dumbest of us to understand the meaning or the lack of it in our existence. And that will lead us to our Nirvana – The singularity of Sentience.

I am just beginning on this topic again after a decade! More to come in the subsequent posts.

Parva,The Mahabharata that I never knew

Originally posted here on my ancient blog site.

Recently I read a novel in kannada by one of the well known writers,S.L.Bhairappa,Parva. At times, I used to feel that I am forgetting my mother tongue. Even more so, when I mostly found myself thinking in English. So actually started reading the novel coz i thought it would get me back in touch with Kannada. It was tough time in the initial few pages as I even had trouble pronouncing a few words properly. Slowly picked up and by the 50th page I was back to my original speed. Anyway, lets leave the trivial details at that.

The novel has a completely different perspective of looking at the great war that defines Indian culture, the rights and wrongs, literature and almost all walks of life. All the people in the epic have been brought down from mythical status and are just ordinary human beings. There are no extraordinary arrows of Arjuna that split into a thousand arrows and shower upon the ordinary mortals. Everything has been just analysed the way it should be. There is great stress on values of those times and how the war was an inflection point from where the Indian ethos changed. The ending leaves you with a kind of mixed feelings. All though its again defined as a victory of good over bad, this book manages to convince that it meant victory to none. Superb way to end the tale. Won’t try to compare this with the Vyasa-Mahabharata or any of the numerous versions but would definitely say that it gives a very fresh look at things.

According to the book,Here are some wonderful things that I never knew………

Ones relating to the main story:

If you remember the Tele-Serial, Dharamaraja and co. the Pandavas were young handsome hunks.Analysis says they were between the ages of 50-60 at the time of the war. Bhishma was an astounding 124 years old. He was hardly able to command his Battalion let alone the whole war. And his soft corner for the sons of Kunti was a big reason why half the Battalions of Kauravas get wiped under him.

Bhima killing Jarasandha was quite pre-decided as Bhima was 24 and Jarasandha was 72 when they wrestle. Drona is also a 100+ old aged man. Drushtadyumna again obviously had not trouble killing him. Again Krishna finishing off Kuansa is also not surprising as everybody around had considered him to be born for the very purpose and that was a such a big confidence boost against the already wary and scared Kaunsa. The author writes that Kaunsa died even before Krishna touches him(poor feeble heart I believe).Krishna has been bereaved of his powerful Chakra but the novel substantially justifies his triumph everywhere given his razor-sharp wit. Krishna’s strategies throughout will convince you that he was a genius. One would realise from a practical and realistic view as to why the Kauravas had to lose.

In Vyasa-Mahabharata Jayadratha is killed by Arjuna when Krishna darkens the skies by blocking the sun. In Parva the situation is something like this- Arjuna is desperate to kill him before sunset,they break the formation planned by Drona and almost reach Jayadratha, But by then sun has almost started to set,at that moment Krishna asks Arjuna to order his troops to withdraw.Hearing Arjuna shout, Duryodhana Shouts back,”See here is Jayadratha live and kicking,Should we ready the pyre for u?”and that small moment becomes good enough for Arjuna’s arrow to get the undefended and unexpecting Jayadratha’s throat.And then Krishna shouts back,”See the sun has not set yet”.Duryodhana gets confused in the first place because of some elephants in the formation that block his view.

Most of us believe that the Pancha Pandavas were such good brothers and hardly had any differences.But this book refers in detail to the lots of quarrels they had. Sometimes so serious that they were about to kill each other.Specially Bhima’s fury against Dharmaraja. At one point he scolds Dharmaraja,”Dont mask ur cowardice by Dharma, I wish I cut those hands that gambled and brought us to this pathetic condition”.

 Social Practrices:

Unlike the present day society most ppl did not consider pre-marital sex as a taboo.But we can definitely see that it is during this period that morals like the one above began to change.Specially in the name of Arya Dharma which began to take various definitions in the hands of inexperienced court pundits.For example in Madra Desha(somewhere near present day Afghanistan ) it was considered good to marry a woman with children as it would be a confirmation of her fertility. And the one who marries her has to accept her children as his too.But at the same time Kunti giving birth to Karna before marriage was considered unacceptable. There were so many matriarch tribes too.The Devaloka(Present day Tibet) had completely surprising customes. There were 32 Tribes among them, and all men and women of one tribe were spouses to each other in any case other than being close relatives such as brother-sister mother-son and so on.But the children would always belong to the mother. Most customs were such because of the war like situation that they always had. It was almost considered a sin to waste the Ovum produced by a woman. So most women were pregnant all through there potent life.

There were practices like Niyog which allowed having children through a potent man in case of Husband’s Impotency,to continue the lineage of a family. Kunti had her children thus. Even Pandu and Dritarashtra were born the same way. Even Nakula and Sahdeva through Madri. I think we have a lot to learn from the broadminded culture then.

Ok, guess I have written enough, if I continue I think I will be betraying the many surprises in the book.To anyone who can get hands on the book,I say,its a must read.

I m mortal,going to be immortal? (cntd….)

Originally posted here on my ancient blog site.

After seeing the technological aspects of immortality whether or not one wants it, I feel it is surely is coming. Luckily or otherwise we may be the last generation to die!!! But now lets take a look at the catastrophic repercussions of the same.(Most problems dealt here do not hold true to all kinds of technologies listed in the previous article, reader’s discretion necessary)

Social Factors Just a few days before one of the greatest events that repeats every four years.. FIFA World Cup came to an end and with it came the end of greats like Zidane, Carlos, Ronaldo, Totti, Kahn and the list goes on.. If we had immortality at hand,that would never be the case. Football would soon be a boring stuff that the same Ronaldinhos and Messis keep juggling with for centuries. You would never see a new face. Ofcourse so many years of experience would make the players far more perfect, but one needs change of faces too.

One would have to definitely choose between immortality or having children. Otherwise population explosion would literally be explosion. So, what would one do? Initially one may choose immortality, but as years pass by and there are no children left, it will be one big hell deprived of innocent beautiful faces. A time will come when atleast a fraction of people when people will begin to choose death.

Death will be death like never before. People will start to be extremely cautious about accidents, wars, diseases etc. Imagine what a crime homicide would be. Lots of philosophies of different religions will take a beating too. Almost all religions glorify deaths in battlefield or some great sacrifice and talk of heaven or some promise of wonderful afterlife. Will people risk it then? People in India have the habit of blessing with a Sou saal jiyo(may u live for hundred years) after somebody sneezes, would it be a curse then?

What about life partners? Would the bonds stay that long? Would multiple partners become acceptable? What about capital punishment?The list doesn’t seem to end.Would there be new laws for all these matters?

Economic factors The first thing that comes to mind is insurance. Would anyone give a life insurance? What about lifetime warranty?Economy in general will have a huge revolution the moment immortality becomes available. Lets say the technology is too costly to begin with.Rich people start living forever while the poor working class will keep shifting. And because the rich get immortal,they will continue to get richer and the poor will remain poor. Disparity will increase and then some day poor people may start to revolt. What will happen then? Right to immortality bill will be introduced?This is one way to look at things.In the other case,Immortals may after all loose interest in wealth because they have had too much of it for too long a time and they will become philanthropists??!!

At this point i took a long break and decided that I should quit thinking about the Socio-Economic factors. I think it is something that needs a research for years to completely understand the consequences. So I will try to cover the whole topic in another post. I seriously wonder why this topic hasn’t been brought to thought seriously till now.The technology is not far. But are we ready for it?

I m mortal,going to be immortal?

Originally posted here on my ancient blog site.

Technology has taken its fastest strides in last century. We have already started playing god in so many fields. But one thing at last undoes all that we do throughout our lives, our death. Its the ultimate end, the eternal and most peaceful sleep. Over the years, definitions of death have also changed. It used to be the last breath,then last pulse, then the last neuro signal and so on. But ultimately it seems like the last irreversible damage after which a being can no longer have any motivated action on its surroundings. That means that we can as well stretch it through some means to eternity!!!!

Lets define Immortality first. Rene Descartes very wisely put life’s definition as ITTIAM, and it holds to this day. So the main challenge is to make our thoughts live.i.e. Our brain or some artificial equivalent of brain has to live eternally. The rest of the body may be changed or made durable. At present, the most promising steps taken in the direction of immortality are in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Genetics , Stem Cell Research, Nanotechnology.

Artificial Intelligence– we might in future have machines that are capable of human behaviour and have the gigantic memory that we have.(even the lowest estimates put it to arnd 2-3 TeraBytes which is about a 20 harddisks of a present day computer.The highest is unimaginably high). Apart from that we have the densest network in the known universe in the space between our two temples. And Brain’s compression algorithms beat all the algorithms man has ever designed for storing data neurons down 🙂. Despite all this complexity, in 30yrs or so,we might after all start to make artificial brains. Nano technology may make ckts smaller by a factor of 1000.And Artificial Neural networks would have come close to their natural counterparts.With both these put together its definitely possible. But now comes a huge question. How do we transfer all that our brain has?? First of all even now, very little is known about the way brain stores huge chunks of data. Once we know that, we need to have non-Intrusive scanners that will scan all that our brain has in it. One can’t imagine the data rates at which it will have to do the transfer. Otherwise it might take a year or more considering the huge memory(The poor fellow in the scanner would have died of inactivity by then ;)).

Okkkkkk!!!!, Once all this is done our artificial brain can be plugged to an artificial world where it will live for ever like a software till someone pulls the plug.Yeah!! the same thing in the famous Sci-fi movie Matrix. Ofcourse it will never feel that its not in a real world. In-fact that world can be filled with all kinds of real things minus the so called bad ones like AIDS virus,Mosquitoes,Rodents.etc.Seems like heaven isn’t it? We might have another more real solution too. Clones. We would have perfected the art of preservation of bodies by then. So make ur clone, put it in a freeze till age of 20, by then u will be say, 50, and then put ur brain’s info in the 20 yr old. U r back to youth again!!But be sure u do that with ur spouse too 😉.

Coming to Genetics.We already have a little idea of the genes that cause ageing. What this means is that till now we were programmed by nature to die. And we were also programmed such that we lose all interest to live before we die. That’s why we wear off as we grow old, lose teeth, lose all senses and so on. We might as well modify these genes to suit our needs.The big trick is to modify them so that we age till age of 25 and then stop ageing. Otherwise, we might have eternally living stupid babies only. And one more thing, if u r already even a zygote, this technology even if discovered cannot be of any use to you. So I wonder about trauma the scientist who discovers it will go through. He will die happy if he thinks the Jesus way.

Speaking of the Nano-Technology and Stemcell research, this seems like the most possible solution and most the desirable one too. Stem cells have the capability to convert themselves into any kind of cell.We have already had one scientist,Mr.Hwang Woo Suk, Having made false claims about Human Stem Cells and got his due for that. Lets leave it at that. These cells can be made to grow a complete human body and then go the AI way or can be made to grow parts of human body and then replace the original parts one by one. So our body after every few years will go through a servicing period where in all worn out parts get replaced. The big trick here will be do to do it with neurons. Future may throw some light on that too.The role of Nanotechnology is to help repair body parts using tiny robots that identify ageing parts and repair them. They will be infused in our bloodstream where in they will do all the work. I wonder if they can get small enough to pass through the ever vigilant filter,Kidney. Otherwise they’ll Piss Off everyone, literally!!!. So we will need to program the robots to identify damaged parts,which will be another headache.

So can we or should we hope that all these speculations will be a reality before we pass out of our youth??

Coming soon… One more article on immortality dealing with the effects that it can have on society and individuals and more.

Of Saints, Prophets, Criminals, Terrorists….

originally posted here on my ancient blog site.

Are u asking urself what kind of classification that is?

Well, atleast I see a great lot of things common between the two kinds. For one, Both seem abnormal to the so called average humans. Afterall both are products of the unimaginable complexity of our brain. Both are beyond the usual horizon of our understanding. Now when i talk of criminals here, I mean the ones who understand what they are doing. The other kind shouldn’t be called criminals at all.

Saints think that they are doing good to the society by spreading their perspective of things. Most of them project that ppl should come out of the bondage that the mundane world has on them. Some criminals do it in better fashion,they release others’ souls directly:). Mind you some of them are as released from all bondages as are the saints. Talking of Bin Laden for example;He knows what he is doing and I m sure is happy to do so. Afterall what is life?its just a set of chemical reactions that will come to an end some day. All feelings are but simple electrical signals. He has renounced ordinary life and takes others in his stride too. Jihadis as u all know are so clear in their minds. So clear that they prove it in action by taking there own lives for a cause. I bet most saints cant do that. So criminals like Osama think they are doing good to society too.

And can anybody in this world prove beyond doubt that
right is right and wrong is wrong? Everyone simply does what one thinks is right.They are no “rights” and “wrongs”. Both are just constructs to differentiate between two kinds of phenomena that maintain the whole world in balance. And that Balance is essentially the spirit of human existence. Its the freedom of mind that the world needs,be it in whatever form. Because, I believe that nature hasn’t put in so much effort for 4.5 Billion years not for nothing. It’s built our Brain,the most complex system in the Universe as we know it.

So why then do we hail saints and loath criminals? Shouldn’t we be happy about both? That they are necessary for the balance?Absolutely not. If u read this and then start thinking that criminals aren’t all that bad, then that is exactly the undoing of what I m trying to convey here. U are a part of balance too. Don’t forget to give ur own shape to it. What u think is what u should think.

At this point i cant resist myself from qouting one line from one of my favourite movies-Fight Club. The narrator talks of the world…”Everything is simply a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy……”,and it goes on ‘N’ number of times. And the hero fights the same to the end. Thats the spirit. Be original. Be urself.
Have I influenced u a bit? That I hope is only an influence. Not the perspective itself.

Am I wrong? Anyone?