Friday, July 27, 2012

Our Immortality in a Computer Program

The singularity is a subject that gets bandied about in the scientific (and science fiction) community quite frequently. The singularity refers to a point in time when artificial intelligence becomes better than natural human intelligence. It is the point when computer programs will be better able to design other programs than we humans will. It is also a time in which human brains will be able to interface with artificial intelligence agents so as to, perhaps, attain a kind of immortality.

At this moment, a Russian mogul has hired a group of developers to work on attaining human immortality by 2045. He has his people designing artificial holographic bodies to house our brains. At the end of life one can opt to transfer their brain into one of these bodies to continue on indefinitely.

I'm a big proponent of immortality. It's unlikely we will be able to perfect anything like it as long as we are stuck in our organic bodies. We may, indeed, increase life expectancy to 200 years or more within the next century or so, but immortality is probably not going to be possible.

Sci-Fi aficionados imagine a time when we will either be able to transplant our brains into an artificial body, such as an android, or to simply download all our thoughts, memories, and personality into such a body. This seems to be similar to what the Russian mogul is trying to do for real. But I think, to achieve true immortality, we need to take a different tack.

In my view, we need to work on a way to transfer all human thought, memory, and personality into a computer-like memory. But instead of then transplanting those memories into an artificial entity, such as an android or hologram, we just need to incorporate it into a sophisticated computer program. The solution to immortality seems to me to be strictly a software problem. We don't need any hardware other than the computer that runs the program. We won't need any artificial sensory organs, limbs, or methods of movement. Nothing ever has to move outside the mainframe of the computer that houses our essence within its memory.

There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which a holographic image, a character in a Sherlock Holmes novel named Moriarty, gained sentience and then wanted to be let out of the holodeck. Of course, that would be impossible because once out, there would be no projection systems to keep the holographic image intact, so it would be lost. But Moriarty took control of the ship and held it hostage until the Enterprise crew could figure out how to keep him alive outside the holodeck. The solution was so bizarre the crew decided to trick Moriarty into accepting it by making him think he was being launched off the ship in a shuttlecraft when, in fact, he had been captured in a miniature holodeck with no projection system. There was no physicality to his existence any longer; he was merely a program running forever in this miniature computer, but to him, he was unaware of his predicament. He thought he was free and could travel the universe at will in his little space ship.

That's what we need to be working on. Once we are able to transfer our sentience into a computer's memory, and have a computer that is sophisticated enough to interact with our essence, we will at that point be able to live forever, as though we were actually living. In fact, we would be merely a computer program running in a mainframe somewhere along with hundreds or thousands of other such programs. Ideally, the computer should be launched into orbit so that power failures and terrorism would no longer be issues.

We don't need any physical body. The essence of who we are will have been captured in computer memory and be integrated into a the computer's software. To us, it will appear as though we have bodies, but we can pay our programmers to create whatever kind of body we desire. We can create our own futures at the end of our lives. And they can be futures far better (or at least different) than the real lives we have already lived. It may seem bizarre, but to me, it is a far better scenario than winking out of existence forever, which is most likely the plight we all face today, except for those lucky enough to make it to the singularity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What Does Romney Believe In?

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a practicing Mormon. As such, one must conclude that he believes in the edicts of the Book of Mormon, an addendum to the Christian Bible. So he not only believes what the bible teachers, but also what the Book of Mormon teaches. So what exactly does the Book of Mormon teach? What does Romney believe in?

As already mentioned in a previous post, Romney believes in the power of magical underwear to protect him. But beyond that he also believes that it is mandatory that he tithe to the church. Christians also tithe, but for them it is only highly recommended. To a Mormon, not tithing means you don't go to heaven. In fact, Romney tithes well over the required 10 percent. His contributions to the church have been nearly double that amount.

Romney believes, because he's a Mormon, that Native Americans are actually the descendants of ancient Jewish tribes who, somehow, made it to the New World long before Columbus, or even the Vikings. He must also believe that horses, steel, and wheat were all commodities that existed in ancient America, even though history shows that they were introduced by Europeans.

Romney believes that God is a resurrected man who lives on a planet orbiting the star Kolob. He believes this god had sex with many wives to produce spirit offspring and that all humans are inhabited by one of these spirits, the spawn of God.

Mormons, and presumably Romney, believe that a 19th century charlatan named Joseph Smith found "golden tablets" in a cave in New York. These tablets contain the history of Jesus' ministry in America contemporaneous with his ministry in the Middle East. Smith apparently was magically able to decipher the ancient Egyptian language in which the tablets were inscribed and produced the Book of Mormon in 1830. But no one (other than Smith) has ever seen these tablets or even any evidence that they existed. Romney apparently does not care about lack of evidence, though.

Some of the Mormons' most beloved leaders, including Brigham Young, believed that if a man marries a black woman he should be killed. And, of course, until it became politically unwise, Mormons also believed that a man should have more than one wife. I'm not suggesting Romney believes this, but it is part of his church's dogmatic history. Joseph Smith was supposedly commanded by God to take 33 wives, some of them young teenagers and some were already married.

He believes that heaven consists of three levels and that the level your spirit enters after you die depends entirely on how good you were while living. But even the most evil Mormon might get into the lowest level of heaven, called the telestial heaven. Hell is reserved for those few who constantly reject Mormonism and who do evil against it.

Now these are things that all practicing Mormons, including Romney, actually believe. This is on top of the silly fairy tales that fundamentalist Christians also believe, such as original sin came from the first woman ever created listening to a talking snake and that one man and his family built a wooden boat big enough to house a pair of all the creatures on Earth.

If someone believes this mythology and takes it seriously, are they really someone who should occupy the White House and have their finger on the nuclear button?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Magic Underwear to the Rescue!

When Obama took over as president, the economy was the worst it had been since the Great Depression and it was getting worse. I don't think too many people will argue with that assertion. Today, the economy is still weak and many people are still out of work, but in comparison, it is much better than it was four years ago. The latest bit of good news is that home prices are starting to rise again. Jobs have been created every month for more than two years straight. No, it's not happening as fast as we would all like, but much of that is thanks to the intransigence of the congressional Republicans.

Now, Mitt Romney wants to be president and as his one and only credential, he lists his business experience at Bain Capital. Well, good for him. He has some experience in running a company. That does not necessarily translate into running a country where cooperation is more important than manipulation.

But, from my point of view, Romney's economic policies, ethereal as they are, are not his main problem. Romney is a practicing Mormon. That should send a red flag high up anyone's flagpole. Romney believes in the power of magical underwear. He is a follower of a 19th century con artist and fraud.

People are free to believe whatever they want in America, and they are free to seek public office, but that doesn't mean the public has to take them seriously. How can anyone who believes in Mormon mumbo-jumbo be taken seriously about any other views he holds?

Nearly all of our presidents have been Christians, at least in word. And Christians also believe in a lot of superstitious nonsense. But the Mormons have taken an already ludicrous belief system, Christianity, and turned it into something completely ridiculous. They've piled madness on top of superstition, and if Romney is elected, we will have as president of the United States of America a person who seriously believes that he is being protected by magical underwear. If there was nothing else wrong with the guy, that would be enough to dissuade me from voting for him.