Symbiosis and a fine line


There's a project in progress at MIT called '10x'

It's a project which specifically looks to design symbiotic systems between human and machines, which enhance the strengths of both parties. This idea appears to be directly derived from Linklider's vision and it feels positive.

In our last class we talked about arguments regarding whether or not computers can think. That discussion and this project have been whirling about in my mind to create this post.

In the manufacturing process it's arguable that the machine does a better job than a person, with smaller room for error. However, the one skill that humans possess that machines do not is boundless creativity in design and finding solutions.
Given a strong enough design, it is possible now for humans to stop maintaining machines and for them to continue to work on their own. For how long they could go on anyone's guess, but most would say a fairly long time. Does this imply the potential possibility of autonomy for machines?

The way the human brain processes information has often been compared to the way a computer works. Are humans becoming more like machines, by working with and relying on them so much? At the same time, there is a perpetual push to create machines that are more like humans, that can do a lot of the things that people can.

Will there come a point where the symbiosis is so complete that we will not be able to tell where humans end and machines begin? Is that a good thing?

I bet I can figure out what you are thinking by asking you no more than 21 questions.

We have all heard of that game, well most of us at least, and the new online version can do it better than any of us could possibly imagine. It actually "learns" how to better predict future answers by past guesses.

Computers are gaining on us...

Although I might change my tune in a few years when our knowledge of cognitive neuroscience improves, I'd bring up something I've talked with friends about before. Computers, while being able to simulate certain types of information processing, probably will not be able to integrate totally with our cognitive processes because they are of a different nature. Your brain is a device in which information storage and processing happen simulatenously, and because of its structure, it deals with information in an entirely different way, one that is holistic and non-linear. I would assert as an exampe that when you do things that computers are good at doing, like math, you have to simulate the linear nature of many of the things that are done naturally in computing machines just as computers must simulate thought structures they don't have for more non-linear types of processing. For this reason we have things like emotion, which as everyone knows is the classic example pointed to by humanists when they feel human nature to be too constricted by empirical and naturalist impulses in society. So all in all, I would say that there probably will be a very, very close synthesis between the two but you'll probably always feel the difference, maybe as between the two 'sides' of you.