Saturday, June 01, 2013

The next incarnation–Machines

Programming can be a real high. Programmers get so involved in their programs that they forget what is going on outside. In fact, some of them swear by their programs. So, why is programming so addictive? Well, the answer lies in the nature of programming. It’s a very dedicated task and requires enormous power of concentration. Otherwise you are bound  to make mistakes. Bugs, as they call it, are the errors that creep into a program due to lack of concentration. To troubleshoot bugs requires skill of a different kind. And finally when the program works, the ‘a-ha’ factor associated with it is incredible. Programmers final destination is a complete program and that gives them an enormous amount of satisfaction.

At its best, programming can be an exercise in meditation. Because both of them require you to concentrate. While one is focused on the inside, the other looks at the outside. Writing a program is like going on a pilgrimage. The journey is interesting and the final result is satisfaction. A program is invisible. It’s stored as ‘1’’s and ‘0’’s, but you can just see the output. The program itself is not having a material form. In this way, it’s like the mind and the brain. You require a place to store the program like a hard drive. Similarly all your thoughts (programs) require to be stored in the brain. But this gives rise to the mind (the output of the program) which is elusive.

This leads us to the concept of machine thinking. Can a machine really think? If you look at the thoughts that happen in or brain, they are nothing but spurts of electricity (neuro chemicals) happening at random in an uncontrolled mind. All these happen in parallel. Programming is also a bunch of electrical signals flowing inside a machine. These programs if connected on parallel machines can behave like human brains. So what are we saying here? Well, the mind has a concept of cognition or self awareness, which is difficult in a machine to come by. It can be simulated but as all simulations are, it is artificial. So, will a machine ever be able to think? At least not as we humans do.

A lot of research is going into what is termed as ‘AI’ or Artificial Intelligence. Have you come across programs like ‘Siri’ (Appe iPhone) which sometimes seem to display intelligent behavior? There are many of these around. And according to ‘Turing Test’ (A test which says if a computer behaves like a human and we are unable to make out the difference, the machine has become intelligent) some of these gadgets can be on the list of being called intelligence. But mind you, above intelligence is Wisdom and that is the power of discrimination. Can a programmed gadget ever have that? I doubt. And even if it does, it will be limited. God save the world. The convergence of man and machine is unstoppable. I say this specifically because in the Hindu scriptures mention is made of ‘Kalki’ (the next savior) who is part machine and part human.

This is getting interesting. Wait till it pans out.

Till then …



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