Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Binary Code of Existence

Ok, so I live or I die? Is it as simple as that? No, I am not suicidal. I am just wondering is that decision so easy to make with just two outcomes; is there any middle ground that we can achieve? Fortunately for us, there isn’t any legal or moral ground which lies between these two facts of existence. Spiritually speaking, there might be certain things as spirits that might be able to transcend these boundaries, or even religiously speaking we might as well have a soul & might even be reincarnated. Ethically speaking, we might wonder what might happen to the people who depend on us. But that’s pure speculation as far as my thought chain is concerned.

Sometimes I wonder why they called it “artificial intelligence”. After all it’s a box of wires & circuits, why call it intelligent? Just because it will be able to make decisions like ‘do I need to do my laundry’, on its own? The whole concept of this computer thingy, getting all decisive rests upon a simple concept, transistors. I call it “The Stuff”.

There are two results, TRUE / FALSE. For the Stuff to work, it needs either a signal to pass through it or not. Now the funny part is, when these transistors are arranged in arrays in various combinations, they do miraculous things like calculate 10,00,00,001 multiplied by 12,34,56,789 in just about a fraction of a second. Just on the basis of TRUE FALSE, the chip does it. When it needs to pass a signal through it, it’s TRUE & when it feels lazy, its FALSE. We program it, we teach it, and we make it do what it does. Is it why they call it artificial intelligence?

Lets think about primates for instance, largely us. We assume things are complex in nature, certain things definitely are, but our decision engine, works on a very simple premise, “I want to do it OR I don’t want to do it”. Sometimes this conclusion might take a hell lot of time to occur, but when it does, that’s what we name as “CHOICE”.

I often get a little mixed up early in the morning when I make tea for myself. How much sugar is it that I want to have in my cuppa today? This is a very complex situation to deal with, since my mind has to evaluate certain basic processes like, do I have diabetes? Do I feel like having a sweet tea today? Do I really care about my paunch? Do I want less sugar in the tea today just to see how it tastes? All these go thru my mind in just about a few nanoseconds until I decide to pour in that spoonful of sugar into the boiling tea. All these primitive processes lead me to a final decision, do I need to have sugar in my tea or not. Do we deliberately complicate things or is it the nature of our biological systems to evaluate all targets for a YES/NO answer before we make every decision?

We humans believe in the complexity of nature, or rather we admire the intricate design of all natural things. How everything is connected to every other thing, how everything is mutually dependent to every other thing. This amazes us. People even go to the extent of believing that there is an intelligent designer who has masterminded all these things & have placed us bang in the middle of everything to try & make sense of it. Also leads to another vital point of belief mechanisms. Religion allows us to study the pattern of belief mechanisms to a large extent. It is so because, certain research has proven that religious beliefs can be genetically induced. Apart from the speculation, we have to look at the fact that there are TWO kinds of decisions, I believe in God, or I do not believe in God. This is another of those binary choices, making a common man’s life miserable again, trying to find the underlying reasons of his belief. Added complexity.

An artificially intelligent machine is specifically made to think on the same lines as that of a human being. For our quest to humanize every image, every random thought, every random observation, we now need a machine to make these random choices. There is some serious amount of programming required to make a simple program to try & make it think on its own. “Think” is another understatement, which makes the whole event seem more complex. To think is to drive through a series of binary questions, in order to reach a final outcome, which is in itself another outcome of a larger binary choice. This cascading of binary choices is what we call as a thought chain. I don’t claim that there isn’t any complexity at all, but to look at this complexity from a binary point of view makes it seem more manageable.

Something as random as the bourses, have made some real people build real stuff like neural networks in order to fascinatingly predict some of the future outcomes of stock prices. Darren Aranofsky’s movie, called Pi, deals with a similar scientist who creates this program to predict stock prices & tangles himself into a ‘complex’ mesh of choices where religion & science collide. What does the machine actually do, what happens under the whole fancy jargon is, that the program makes choices on the basis of some empirical data & some added spice of human error & tries to simplify the whole process by making it a ½ probability for a buy or sell choice. It isn’t as simple as it sounds, but the machine’s sole purpose is to decide whether to buy or sell. Whether the market will be bullish or bearish?

We encounter decisions of this nature & complexity every time we deal with things involving another human being. We don’t argue with the washing machine whether we want to dry our clothes or not, in the same way, when we expect to humanize a machine, what exactly are we trying to do? A machine is more capable of incorporating the binary nature of things, according to the data fed to it than a human can, since the cascading of the several internal binary choices that the machine has to make, will be programmed by a human, & would be far too less than what our brain is programmed to handle.

This tree of binary choices that lead us to our final decisions is dependent on previously made choices. We don’t learn everything right from our birth, do we? So this whole building up of choices & adding a dash of genetic traits to our thinking, how do we actually claim to design a machine which is capable to imitate our own choices? Its like having the entire population of the world pool in data about their choices made & document them & then have it fed into a machine’s memory so that machine’s program is capable enough to compute which choice to follow next including the human element of stupidity, which I cleverly concealed above by calling it an error (sometimes I can’t resist).

The whole concept of the sci-fi thriller trilogy of the Matrix, lies on this very simple premise, how much choice do we need to provide to the machine? How many levels of choices should the program have in order to reach certain outcomes independently? Also there is the ethical decision of whether a machine is allowed to just obey commands or to behave as it may just like another “human”, as we have seen in Asimov’s I, Robot? Does the machine choose to evolve? Make internal changes in it & spawn generations of its own kind? Or do we need to curb our enthusiasm & be content if it can calculate a huge multiplication on its own?

So the choice is, should it be really intelligent or not?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

interested to read your stuff on binary. I discovered knowledge on from my own brain or through my brain, that explained what I called the human binary code, because I knew no other name for it. It was fascinating, scary at first and showed how we all work scientifically and this basically was a binary code. War could be won or lost with this info. Also reading about you, I can tell you that your star sign of extreme importance and makes another fascinating study. Also while reading about you, I too like to analize some movies and look at the directors and actors perspective. I find it interesting what different people see in a movie, how they read it. I'm always in search of accurate information which can be proven "factually" and scientifically as we know it so that it makes sense to our brains. My favourite questions is "whats really going on". Thnaks for writing your stuff, best of luck, cheers joe