W. 16 blog post

Transcendent Man vs. AI: Artificial intelligence in artificial realities

Ray Kurzweil’s “Transcendent Man” predicts a future of exponentially accelerating technological advancement. Eventually, the film proposes, computers will be so advanced that they will be able to rival the human brain, eventually surpassing it, resulting in a world so affected by rapid technological advancement that it’s incomprehensible to modern humans.

Stephen Spielberg’s “AI” experiments with a similar future. Melting polar ice caps have forced humanity to adopt robotic children as surrogate objects of affection rather than overpopulate the stark remaining land. David, one such robot, is the first of his kind to “imprint” upon a human being, simulating childlike love with uncanny accuracy. At the film’s end, the world has frozen over. Highly advanced technological life-forms are the sole remaining progeny of humanity. They dig up David to probe his brain for memories about humanity.

Since Spielberg seems to generally accept Kurzweil’s theory of advancement, it’s crucial that we examine the congruity of the ideology with the film’s mythology. The text and its proposed reality suffer from a few inconsistencies:

1. Reconciling the “icepocalypse” with the advanced state of technology required to create a human brain-like computer.
– – If humanity is capable of recreating its own brain, complete with childlike emotional attachment and the ability to chase a dream, how is it not capable of computer models accurate enough to develop a plan of action that wouldn’t kill themselves off? Even today, we can predict certain weather phenomena with surprising accuracy (at least in the short, days-long term) and plan accordingly. There’s simply no way humanity would have died off in an ice age. I consider my suspension of disbelief thoroughly violated.

2. The techno-life isn’t capable of scanning David’s brain to extract his memories.
– – Instead, they resort to simulating David’s “natural environment” and try to glean information about humanity from observing David’s reactions to his resurrected mother (I’m not even going to dignify the “science” behind the res. with a deconstruction) in a sort of secondary-source mode of scientific observation. Not exactly the most reliable of methods, particularly not for techno-beings who are millions of times smarter than any human being.

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