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Thoughts from Lo and Behold

Lo and Behold

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is a 2016 American documentary film directed by Werner Herzog. In it, Herzog ponders the existential impact of the Internet, robotics, AI, the Internet of Things, and more on human life.

Definition of Everything in the World

Project Xanadu

Ted Nelson presented the Project Xanadu in the first section. I used to think that Xanadu is the father of hyperlinks, the way to jump from one page to another. But I was wrong. Xanadu Project is, in fact, hypertext (or say, quotation, according to Ted Nelson in the film). It means that certain pieces of contents in two different documents are similar. From Xanadu's idea, I can think of two scenarios:

  1. In theory, a document can be composed only by quotation. In fact, Lawrence Li started to do this recently;
  2. According to the Law of Large Numbers, when the information is massive enough, the occurrence frequency distribution of all words will be a certainty, thus the occurrence frequency distribution of certain words combination will also be a certainty. Can certain combination be the definition of a certain thing in the world? If this were true, anything in the world should have a perfect precise common recognized definition till then.

Does this sound familiar to you? It is very much like Wikipedia, which contains massive definitions of things co-edited by all human beings. As time goes by, the definitions in Wikipedia will be more and more precise and finally become unchangeable. It means that the information is massive enough to make the Law of Large Numbers succeed to give definition to everything in the world. In other words, it represents perfect common sense are becoming truth that all of the human beings have the exactly same cognition to the world and everything in the world — we are like one, we share one brain. It's a world without social class.

Dark Side

black mirror nosedive rating

The development of law is far behind the exponential growth of technology. And the new technologies also trigger some moral issues never met before. For example:

Who is going to be liable in case of an accident? The on-board computer?
Its designer? the GPS system? the Internet? Or the driver who eats his breakfast?

I've already accustomed to the dark side of technologies after learning a semester's length course Exponential Innovation taught by Vivek Wadhwa. But unexpectedly, I found we neglected that some new types of diseases are emerging as the side effect of the technologies, for example, the sensitivity to radiation is a new disease that has not been recorded. The dark side of technology is broader than I used to think.

Another example is the Internet addiction:

We know of many cases happening in Korea and China that people who are dying at the computer because they are playing for 40, 50, 60 hours at a time and completely neglecting their body 's physical needs.

Will the emergence of VR and AR make this situation even worse?

End of the World?

Internet has been deep rooted in human society. We need Internet for food, shelter, and spiritual sustenance.

Lawrence Krauss, Cosmologist @ Arizona State University, said:
If there is a solar flare destroying the information fabric of the world right now, modern civilization would collapse, and billions of people would die.

And if all of these are becoming truth in some day, the Print Wikipedia Project no longer be called ART project anymore.

AI Risk

Elon Musk

Elon Musk talked about AI risk in this movie and gave some new points:

I think that the biggest risk is not that the AI will develop a will of its own, but rather that it will follow the will of people that establish its utility function, its optimization function, and that optimization function, if it is not well thought out —even if its intent is benign—it could have quite a bad outcome: If you were a hedge fund or private equity fund and you said, 'Well, all I want my AI to do is maximize the value of my portfolio,' then the AI could decide, well, the best way to do that is to short consumer stocks, go long defense stocks, and start a war.

To summarize, we taught the machines to optimize, but we don't tell them where to stop.

Tweet Thoughts

Recently, Mark Zuckerberg tweeted his thoughts about writing with thoughts:

A few minutes ago at F8, we shared a project we're working on that will one day allow us to choose to share a thought, just like we do with photos and videos.
Our brains produce enough data to stream 4 HD movies every second. The problem is that the best way we have to get information out into the world — speech — can only transmit about the same amount of data as a 1980s modem. We're working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about 5x faster than you can type on your phone today. Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale. Even a simple yes/no "brain click" would help make things like augmented reality feel much more natural.
Technology is going to have to get a lot more advanced before we can share a pure thought or feeling, but this is a first step.

The interface of "thoughts" is better than touch interface or speech interface that we are familiar with.

Zuckerberg's solution is: sender => thoughts => type words => receivers.

But what if people can communicate via thoughts directly like this: sender => thoughts => receivers? A professor from Carnegie Mellon University in the movie gave a scientific foundation:

The electromagnetic energy is just sitting there. So when you talk about telepathy — communication across a distance — we can already go a few millimeters and it's just a matter of time before we can go thousands of miles. You could essentially tweet thoughts in the not too distant future. So not type your little tweet, but think it, press a button and all your followers could potentially read it.

A fun killer application by Werner Herzog: Detecting the women who are passing by and spotting you is just about to fall in love with you.

In my mind, transmitting thoughts will be a game changer to our life:

  • Communicating with famous people like Bill Gates at any time by simply copy their thoughts and even brain.
  • Everyone becomes an instant expert: thoughts transmission is fast enough to teach the four-year university knowledge to a guy in several minutes.
  • Cloud of human brain and thoughts
  • The physical companionship of humans and the real world may be no longer important — Internet and virtual companion may be enough.

If all of these became truth in one day, the world will be a little bit scary to me. And the guys I mentioned above who get the new disease of sensitivity to radiation will be the only "survivors" from virtual reality and live in the REAL world. From this perspective, these new types of diseases are no longer disease — they are the sword in the darkness.

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