The Digital Horizon

Hopeful Or Hopeless

Author: Alex N. Beavers, Jr.

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

ISBN: 9781544725451

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Page: 246

View: 4743

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Technology is the stuff of delightful dreams and scary nightmares. Steam power brought the industrial revolution, simultaneously raising living standards but also upending societies. Powered flight gave us both the joy of traveling the world and the terror of London's Blitz. More recently, the internet has freed communication more than ever while leaving us vulnerable to all manner of new threats prefixed with "cyber-." Our conundrum today is simple stated: Is humanity's microprocessor-based, big data driven, automation actuated, robot mechanized, and artificial intelligence intensive future -- the "digital horizon" -- full of hope or devoid of it? Is it the science fiction nightmare of humanity on bent knee bowing before the almighty AI machine, or is it the rosy dream of robots serving all our whispered needs? This book examines several critical factors that indicate that the dream is more likely than the nightmare. Our digital horizon is more likely to be hopeful rather than despairingly hopeless for three reasons. The first reason is economics. History has shown that for a new technology to enter society and be sustainable, it must have a beneficial economic impact. If a new technology improves productivity, then new wealth is created and quality of life improves. In other words, if there is no return on investment, then there is no new technology. The second reason is human intelligence. The human version of intelligence is building the artificial version in its own image using tools that make mathematical approximations of what we think makes the universe tick. We are building machines that execute these tools many times faster than the human brain. However, the artificial version of intelligence is faced with the same challenges as the human version: having to make decisions with imperfect data collected from an uncertain world. If we are successful, they will help us find answers faster and implement solutions more efficiently. We are designing these brilliant machines to be our clever collaborators. In other words, we are technology's master by design. The third reason is demographic necessity. To offset and diminish the chances of a severely diminished quality of life due to an aging population, there is a need for more, not less, technology to sustain and accelerate productivity growth. In other words, if there is not a continuing stream of new technology to continuously improve our economic productivity, then our standard of living will decline. These three reasons should prevent humanity from being overmastered by its own creation. History has shown us that there is a symbiotic relationship between technology and society. Technology is changing how we behave, learn, and adapt biologically while we make technology work to further our needs and desires. All indications are that mankind and technology will evolve simultaneously and synergistically as we sail toward the digital horizon.
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