Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blood-powered technology

Talking about blood, I just visited a lecture by Anthony Dunne (website) who mentioned a project for the Science Museum about future energy sources. Already, robots are developed that run on meat. This)is a link to an article about such a robot. Next to hydrogen and feces, blood might be an interesting alternative to power technological devices. This comes already closer to merging the organic with the mechanic.

The organic-mechanic dichotomy of our world always fascinated me, with only the extremes of the spectrum covered. Since this is the era of uniting dualisms, let's unite this one too. This is false logic, but still the idea seems good to me if we are to recreate the world as one well-integrated system. If machines are to fit to us, and we to them, even on a molecular level, we can become so intimate to them that we can physically become them, i.e. perceive no difference between what we conceive as 'ourselves' and as 'other'.

An obvious ethical counterargument is that it is dangerous. Such an argument stems mainly from fear. One day, robots might notice that humans carry blood, and no supreme intelligence is needed what their intention might then become.

I would say that empathy is crucial for robots. They need a mechanism such as the mirror-neuron mechanism that humans have, which makes their brains trigger the same circuits as the ones they perceive others to be having. So that when they try to kill somebody, they really feel what the victim is feeling. This would simply be a natural solution to keep everything in balance, I think.

I am talking about balance, or harmony, and you might have noticed that I think the argument that stems from fear is not very advantageous to humankind, only to the individual who has not become selfless yet. But inherently our technologies change us, i.e. destroy things we once had. What we gain is much more beautiful however. Sure, some intelligent devices will develop 'abnormal' personalities and kill people. We can never control how they develop. We can not even control ourselves. But the robots that display this kind of behavior will always be a small percentage, if we are careful enough. The empiricist in me believes that humans only learn by experience, and so humankind can also only do so. People always will do what they can do, out of simple curiosity. Then, it is time to clean up the mess, reflect, and take a next step. I can understand the fear, because the first steps will likely be very messy (think about the development of the pc as an early step - how has that changed humans, and how messy is that?), but I am optimistic about the long term.

This is, I believe a beautiful system will arise, and I am not talking from a sentimental point of view that is biased towards humans over other sentient beings. Actually, I believe that digital technology allows us to merge with it, so we can become liquid. That is, take any form we like. We should not value the human form that much any longer, and I think that we, in our current form, will only turn out to be useful in certain niches of the global system. Maybe this form will be remembered as the blueprint, the archetype, like the black Ford model-T.

We really need to lose our narcistic feeling for the human form. We are filling up the world with it much more than it needs it to stay in harmony. It is crazy that we follow our instincts to recreate ourselves, from a myopic viewpoint for example of the cuteness inherent in the proportions of a baby. We need to develop an intrinsic global consciousness underlying all our actions. If we internalize this we can become holistically happy. This is my deepest belief and I hope I will trigger at least some meditations.

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