Transcendence

I watched this movie, Transcendence, for the 2nd time, from Wally Pfister in his directorial debut in 2014. Whether it is good movie or not is probably as difficult a question as dealing with religious matters, if I screen the reviews on the Internet. Nevertheless, I found this movie very interesting, as it is dealing with the very topic that I read last year in the book “How to create a mind” by Ray Kurzweil. Will the Singularity Point of Transcendence be the nemesis of humanity, or the saviour of all humankind ? At the beginning of the movie, Dr Will Caster was asked if he wanted to create a new God. “But isn’t it what humans have ever been trying to do ?” was the very smart reply of the researcher. Indeed, mythology and religion are full of examples where humans were trying to compete with God and eventually failed ! Failure is the necessary component of learning and progress. So far, it worked to some extent. Maybe that imperfect humans trying to engineer ever more powerful and so-called perfect machines might only achieve to give rise to a flawed technology, of which they might lose control and unintentionally lead to self-destruction and civilisation collapse ? The most essential and most precious thing that all humans should never lose is actually their Humanity. That is, I believe, the nice conclusion conveyed in this movie, and the real meaning of Transcendence.

How to create a mind ?

Kurzweil's book, written in 2012

Kurzweil’s book, written in 2012

Our Universe exists because of its informational content. From pure physics to chemistry and biology, evolution started from simple structures (atoms, carbon molecules…) to create more complex ones (DNA, proteins…), and life eventually ! This evolution yielded nervous systems and finally the human brain, which is able of hierarchical thinking. The neocortex is the central piece, it can work with patterns, associate symbols and link them together to give rise to the knowledge that we know. Technology is nothing else but applied knowledge being made possible by humans ability to manipulate objects and make tools. Reverse-engineering the brain to make thinking machines is probably the greatest project ever, one that can transcend humankind.

Even though this book is certainly not the expression of a real scientific work, it is full of optimistic insights and bewildering intuition on future. It is amazing to see how technological progress transformed our societies these last few decades, and we are possibly the witnesses of a major transition never seen before which is going to change humankind forever. Thinking machines able to compete with humans should appear by the 2030s. A natural consequence of LOAR (Law Of Accelerating Return, a postulate stating that evolution accelerates as it grows in complexity and capability) is that humans and machines will meld together, and the computing limits will probably be reached at the end of the century, giving rise to a deeply transformed society potentially able to colonise space and conquer new solar systems.