I was just thinking…
How easily we’ve accepted artificial intelligence, how cozy we are when we’re introduced. Recently NASA delivered Valkyrie, its humanoid R5 robot to Northeastern University and M.I.T. where the response was exciting but quaint, like a family reunion.
We were interested, but not awed. In an earlier era, we would have gawked at his size and the audacity of his mission, to land on Mars!
For the next two years, as scientists and engineers prepare him for his long journey, we’ll go about our business of texting, emailing and being slightly annoyed with our technology. Meanwhile, Valkyrie’s cognitive intelligence will be developed. He’ll be given the ability to reason, to build and to understand logical assertions taken from his sensory perceptions and to use that information to solve simple and complex problems.
We’ll be momentarily fascinated and encouraged by reports. But we’re not going to ask ethical questions. We’re not going to wonder if we might’ve gotten a bit ahead of ourselves, that maybe we’ve placed the cart before the horse. In fact, our quick success at artificial intelligence hasn’t required us to question organic intelligence. We haven’t paused to understand the universe, or our place in it. Not all of us are smart enough to create a virtual galaxy, to write code or to even understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
We don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg and we’ve resolved ourselves to possibly never knowing the answer. We don’t know, nor do we truly care how the internet or our cellphone work, we simply need them to work. We entrust it with our most important information, from bank accounts to telephone numbers, those things once stored in our heads.
Artificial intelligence seems a good name, as the imperfect create perfection. There’s a possibility that we’ll get it right, because sprinkling bits and bytes of humanity doesn’t seem too far off, besides we’ve managed pretty well by not knowing things.
But these are extraordinary times! The stars seem to have aligned themselves and mankind’s journey seems to be destined for greatness. Once again genius has arrived, as if there’s an honored time and place, some synergy to when great minds are born. It’s not likely that great minds would be understood by the general population; the Newtons and the DaVincis would have been lost to prosperity, had their peers been unable to understand their ideas. Up until now, it’s been organic intelligence that’s changed humanity, propelling us forward across oceans and into space.
As if technology had been placed into our sleeping psyches, allowing us to make use of mathematical equations and scientific knowledge via smart technology. Giving us a chance to experience space, black holes and zero gravity, without having to touch them.
And by training Valkyrie for a mission to Mars, we might be in training to become our better selves.
I was just thinking… What were you doing?