Thursday, April 30, 2015

Technophilia and Technophobia

Alicia Vikander as Ava
Ex Machina
Film Directed by Alex Garland

In an article by Alex Garland, Mr. Garland (or maybe an editor) self-reflexively titles its title as "Alex Garland of 'Ex Machina' Talks About Artificial Intelligence" (NYT, April 22, 2015). I'm sometimes told that self-reflexivity is the basis for consciousness, but I can't quite see how that works. Somewhere between a thermostat and a robot, feedback mechanisms give rise to consciousness? Hmmm . . . But let's see what Mr. Garland has to say:
In the last few years, I've become increasingly fascinated by artificial intelligence, and in particular our escalating fear of it. It seemed to me that our increasingly holistic relationship with technology and abstract clouds of information was compounding this fear and perhaps edging it into paranoia.
Maybe so, but Mr. Garland's first example seems to suggest the opposite of technophobia:
These thoughts were crystallized while writing and directing the new film "Ex Machina." It tells the story of a young male coder in a tech company who is given the job of assessing the level of consciousness in a female-presenting robot called Ava. He's bewitched, gives up the day job and starts making plans to elope.
The young coder experiences not just technophilia, but even techno-erotica! But Mr. Garland finds a different man to cite, a man hugely dependent on technology who worries about smart machines:
The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking told us that "the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, told us that A.I. was "potentially more dangerous than nukes." Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple, told us that "computers are going to take over from humans" and that "the future is scary and very bad for people."
So . . . not only Hawking - dependent as he is on high-tech machines - fears artificial intelligence, so do two others whose names are closely associated with the development of smart technology.

Maybe there is something to worry about . . . but Mr. Garland thinks not, as you'll see if you read on in his article.



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