Sunday, June 22, 2014

Brothers in arms–Machines and Us

Machines bear a striking resemblance to humans. Both have a body which obfuscates what is lying beneath it. The human brain is like the CPU of the machine. The heart is the power supply. The support functions like lungs, liver. kidney etc are the peripheral devices all connected to support the brain (CPU) and the heart (Power Supply). The five senses of the body viz. seeing, tasting, hearing, touching and smelling are replaced in a machine by I/O devices. By this I mean disk drives connected, the USB ports, the Ethernet/Wi-Fi, the microphone and the keyboard/mouse.There is an output also of speech which in a machine is the speaker.

We cannot see the thoughts within the brain. Akin to this, is software within the machines. These are nothing but electrical pulses or chemical reactions. The software that is stored within the CPU is referred to as microcode. These are tiny little instructions that tell the CPU what to do. There is a finite amount of microcode that a CPU possesses. These are the only instructions that a CPU can execute. Similarly our brain is wired to experience various emotions like love, envy, hate etc. The number of emotions also can be counted and thus is finite. If you look at all of these from a macro view, you will see a sea of data. But there is more to it.

When data is given a meaning it becomes information. In the same way, neurons within our brain bunch together for certain information sets. For eg: This is how a person feels when he/she hears a particular song. Thus within a machine, the instructions for say the BIOS may be clubbed in a particular location. Further to this, the information when grouped to make action possible, is also found in our brains. For example, when we touch fire, we immediately retract. In a similar way, inside machines, the action may be displaying an image on the screen, related to the input. Now, this is knowledge. A machine has lots of data, information and knowledge. Likewise, the brain too.

Now knowledge by itself is of no use. It has to be internalised or accepted. This is how a person learns. In machines too, this is called machine learning. For eg: Every time a person starts a machine, these are the programs that he opens. After a while, the machine learns this information and any change to it is also recorded. When knowledge becomes internalised, what comes out is wisdom. Sometimes our actions are through knowledge and at other times through wisdom. In the same way, in machines this wisdom comes through analytics. You must surely have come across this term. A more fancy term now in use is Big Data Analytics, This is nothing but spotting co-relations within a swarm of data. It deals with co-relation not causation.

Such wisdom can be internalised and can give birth to lots of ‘Eureka-s’. By that I mean clever insights, Well this is what the world is moving towards. Machines helping us to generate insights. Patterns and co-relations. There are programs which can generate the profile of a person by looking at all of his/her social media interactions. This is scaring-ly close to the actual profile. Note that all analytics are probabilistic. There is no such thing as 100%. Similarly if you look at the way we operate, we do so through the insights of the limited amount of knowledge we have, A thought which in turn triggers some action, is based on the inputs that we get. The more the knowledge the better the action. In Big Data this is called n = all (which means it’s operating on the full set of data).

Sometimes  we apply filters in analytics to narrow down the search, We do so in our lives too. These filters are nothing but our attitudes and perceptions. And very often, our beliefs too. We see the world through this coloured glass. However hard it may be, we can change these value systems. There are many ways like NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and Meditation. These help us to become better people. A wise person is an asset to everybody. To him/herself , to the society and to the nation. The ultimate goal of life is to have enough wisdom to realize that we are all spiritual souls and our goal in life should be such. Machines are coming to our aid – in replacement and augmentation,. I see this as a positive change and we share similarities with these silicon cousins. With this synergy, the world will definitely become a better place to live and yes die for.

To your emancipation ,


1 comment:

Jay said...


Yes, cpu of a computer is built after human mind and the same human mind which sees the flaws in the cpu fails to see the flaws in itself unless it develops the meditative awareness which is like a thread which can observe everything including itself - where the observer becomes observed ... meditation is the key but unfortunately it is difficult to even understand what meditative awareness is ... It is that which Zen calls No Mind ... No Mind is not mind without thoughts but a mind where no thought stays any longer than it is necessary ... same as no program that will stay in RAM any longer than needed after its execution is complete ... As the garbage collector thread collects all the objects that have no references, our mind should also collect the garbage of thoughts lingering behind making the mind empty and fresh every moment ... this can happen only if man develops meditative awareness ... analogous mechanism to the garbage collector thread for the human mind ...

Go with the flow!