AS STATED, here on this site we are largely concerned with the application and use of computers and communications technology; whereby we wish to establish and apply the fundamental principles of the application of information technology to the problems of humanity in general (on biggest and smallest scales).
Put simply, we wish to learn how to blend the physical, digital and biological spheres in beneficial and optimal ways.
At first sight the computer, based as it is on logic and digital electronic circuits; appears to be a benevolent force in human society. This might reasonably be so for several reasons; and notably because they all contain identical components, implement similar plans, plus they are (in any case) designed by humans. However after delving a little deeper into the matter, one wishes that it were only so.
Unfortunately computers everywhere are following dark and hidden agendas; for example spying on us, limiting and controlling actions, plus collecting/hoarding our personal data for nefarious/unknown purposes. And in the author’s view, rather than making all forms of communication easier to achieve, computers routinely block the open and free exchange of ideas.
Therefore despite apparent advantages, computers are today— all too often—about restrictions, limitations and control. And so unlike the great thinker Dr Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), I cannot agree that we are living in the best of all possible worlds.
Au contraire; because when it comes to modern computers, there is enormous room for improvement—and in terms of the capabilities, helpfulness, and ultimate purposes of information systems, and their corresponding influence(s) on humanity.
Goodfluence(s) / Badfluence(s) of Computers
Patently and obviously, computers (taken en masse) are too often—and in many ways—operating to the detriment of mankind. Despite undoubted effectiveness in specific areas, and convenience-of-use (sometimes) for tasks such as data processing, information retrieval and rapid communication; computers operate as a net badfluence with respect to the true needs, wishes and basic requirements of the vast majority of people in the world (evidence coming soon).
You may now be wondering; to which limitations do I refer? But instead of making a long list of the same here, I ask the reader to (briefly) accept that these same computer-related negative tendencies do, in fact, exist; and in anticipation of full explanation(s) to be given later-on. In this section, we put aside all consideration of machines as real-world entities, and skip-over issues related to the design, operation, and practical function(s) of computers.
Prior to discussing these applied aspects of computer systems; it is necessary to first understand what these machines actually are, in and of themselves. Accordingly, we ask: what are computers fundamentally? Do they posses an inherent nature? Can computers—in any sense—think? Do they self-evolve? Do they possess self-determination? Or are computers merely implementers of human desires/instructions?
Computers as Self
Philosophical questions of this kind may engender lack of focus. Therefore lest we forget our ultimate purpose, a brief reminder is useful. Desired here is clarity of vision with respect to the end-results of the computerisation of everything. In this regard, what seems most perplexing in the present year of 2020, is not only how computers have came to have negative effects for humanity as whole; but why human beings have allowed profoundly anti-humanistic policies and outcomes to occur in relation to computers (examples coming soon).
Are computers somehow evil—following dark and self- determined purposes? Or is there always a human designer—A WIZARD OF OZ—for example Steve Jobs (1955-2011) or Mark Zuckerberg (1984-)—behind all computer systems.
Do we blame the megalomaniacs or the demonic machines?
As a foretaste of my thesis; it shall be my position that all the negative effects of computer systems stem from a poor understanding of what computers actually are; because they are not tools or independent entities, but, as I shall argue and demonstrate, an intimate and inseparable part of self.
Negative Aspects of Computers
Most of us prefer logical explanations, and so we begin by exploring the machine world. Once we fully understand the nature of computers, we can then consider the potential form(s) of those relationships that human beings can and do have vis-a- vi computers. In this respect, one assumes that computers could in no way surpass human understanding, and because they are human creations. But if computers are truly following negative agendas—what on earth is happening—and how? In coming chapters, we also ask: can/do computers—in any sense—make slaves of humans? If so, how can we prevent such outrages?
Firstly, my apologies to Artificial Intelligence (AI) fans, but I do not believe in machine: intelligence, thought, free- will, motivations, self-determination, sentience or life! I agree with Jaron Lanier (1960-) and class computers as: a mere artefact of human thought. It is not that I do not believe per-se in the possibility of any of type of machine based life/ consciousness; only that I do not believe it has happened yet —on earth—or else will happen here any time soon.
But others do believe in AI, and even in machine self- determination. Therefore we must consider such views carefully—because if these ideas do turn out to be true—then there will be profound implications for humanity.
A first approach is to consider computers as ‘patterned’ actionable machine-processes (without self-determination); that ultimately follow human instructed agendas. It logically follows that computers must necessarily, on the whole, have outcomes that turn out to be for the benefit of man—or at least the computer owners/programmers. One assumes that only a defective technology would fail to meet its original purpose; or else, when in error, its creators would simply shut it down.
As an aside, we do acknowledge the fact that technologies sometimes have unintended consequences. However we put aside any consideration of accidental negative outcomes (initially). Later on we do list examples of unexpected outcomes
My purpose in this section is to introduce the reader to the interesting topics of machine autonomy/thought/free-will; prior to opening up a deeper and more comprehensive discussion of these same subject areas in later chapters.
Human-designed artefacts are created for specific purposes, and one might expect any created semi-intelligent things to likewise respect or follow their designed purpose; and hence to do everything they can—within the design framework—to ensure that said purpose is achieved. Such simplistic (but infallible?) logic would appear to be self-evident.
But the corollary must be also true, that computers, if operating to the detriment of mankind (as a whole) must have been deliberately designed to harm. That is so unless we accept the other (opposite) viewpoint—that computers are somehow self- determining, and can follow anti-humanistic agendas by themselves, or else are capable of fulfilling their own specific purposes in some way (deliberately and/or accidentally).
Questions of machine: self-determination, evolution and independent decision-making—are the focus of this chapter. In particular… Do computers control the functions/purposes of computers? OR—Do humans control the functions/purposes of computers? and… on which factors does the future of mankind depend?
The answer(s) will have major import for human destiny. Put in another way, we seek to identify:
- Evidence of self-determination for computers
- A process of intelligent self-design for computers
Originally the term ‘computer’ referred to a human being who performed mathematical calculations, but such a meaning is no longer used. From our perspective, it is useful to begin with a modern definition of the term computer.
A computer is a general purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a set of arithmetic or logical operations. Since a sequence of operations can be readily changed, the computer can solve more than one kind of problem. Conventionally, a computer consists of at least one processing element, typically a central processing unit (CPU) and some form of memory.
The processing element carries out arithmetic and logic operations, and contains a sequencing and control unit that can change the order of operations based on stored information. Peripheral devices allow information to be retrieved from an external source, and the results of operations to be saved and retrieved.
Etymology of computer: Combination of COM: to come together; and PUTER: to clean, arrange, value, judge, suppose, ponder, consider, think, settle, adjust. The primary notion of putare was to make clean, then to bring cleanliness, to make clear, to reckon, to think, to purify.
Hence to compute; is to: arrange items clearly in one’s mind.
Computers are logic machines; following sets or sequences of instructions (without deviance). At once here we put aside such an ‘ordinary’ definition—and the normal functions of the computer—and skip forward to consider a bigger question.
Can a computer think creatively; does it have any intuition—can it make an educated guess about unforeseen events and/or likely future outcomes? The field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) attempts to create such true ‘thinking’ computers.
The OED defines intuition as:
The action of looking upon or into; contemplation, inspection, a sight or view. The action of mentally looking at; perception, recognition, mental view.
According to such a definition – we can categorically state that machines do not posses intuition; and henceforth they can only follow instructions one-step-at-a-time (and without any deviation from these steps); whereby in a human sense they do not think in anyway whatsoever.
The conclusion must be that Machines do not possess freedom-of-thought and they have no free-will. Ergo, we are forced to disbelieve in machine-thought (at least for the machines of the present day). Despite the fact that computers can (in a sense) perceive and process certain pre-programmed facts and situations, they do not—and cannot—think, form an opinion, or relate data and events to a private world-view; and they cannot have empathy—or care about what happens to other living beings.
Computers do not ‘see’ the world – or know that they are embedded inside the world. They are, patently, blind and stupid; and devoid of any reflective capability. Today’s computers do not ‘wish’ to remain existent—in fact they do not have wishes of any kind; or even realise that they exist in any sense whatsoever.
Can arguments over computer intuition be so easily cast aside?
Perhaps not, and so it is worth delving a little more deeply into issues surrounding the nature of ‘thinking’ machines; because these topics relate to computer self-determination and even questions of the nature—and possibility—of machine life. And so we shall explore related arguments, opinions and evidence for, and against, machine thoughts throughout this site.