Could Artificial Intelligence Ever Become Conscious?

Could Artificial Intelligence Ever Become ConsciousWhen we look around at the world today, we are seeing several modest advances in artificial intelligence, such as being on the doorstep to seeing cars drive themselves. And now we could be on the verge of yet another amazing development: machines that are aware of their own existence and their surroundings. Now only that, such machines could have the ability to absorb massive quantities of real time data. They could go out dangerous missions, into either combat or space. Besides perhaps driving folks around, they could be able to cook for us, clean our homes, and even do our laundry.  They could also us company when there are no other people around.

Replacing Humans Altogether?

An advanced group of these machines could totally replace us at most all jobs. That could save mankind from drudgery of daily work, but it will probably disturb several societal foundations. Lives with all play and no work could become a dystopia.

Conscious machines will most likely bring up some disturbing ethical and legal problems as well. How about the liability behind a conscious AI machine if it were to hurt someone? Or to go a step further, perhaps these machines would come together and rebel against human society – just like in the science fiction movies. Many experts consider these machines to be a bit of an societal evolution.

Many scientists and engineers are somewhat divided as to whether these conscious machines will ever exist. In addition to that, they are also debating as to whether these machines would ever be called “conscious” in the same way that we think of a human being conscious – or even the way that some animals are conscious. Some of these great questions pertain to technology; while other questions ask about the definition of consciousness itself.

Is awareness enough?

Many computer scientists believe that consciousness is will the result as technology advances. Some of these experts feel that consciousness means being able to accept new information, retrieving and storing old information and then applying some cognitive processing of this data which results into actions and perceptions.

If this is true, then perhaps there will be a day when these machines become conscious. They will be able to collect much more data than a human ever could, and store enough of it to fill countless libraries, have access to massive databases within only milliseconds, and then compute all of this into decisions that are more complex than any human could ever dream of.

However, there are philosophers and physicists who claim there are more to humans than could ever be computed by a computer. Creativity, for instance, and the feeling of freedom are states of mind that humans have which are not derived from calculations or logic.

But these aren’t the only viewpoints of what consciousness is all about, or even if machines could ever get there.

Quantum viewpoints

Yet another view of consciousness comes from the popular quantum theory, which comes from the field of physics. The orthodox Copenhagen Interpretation claims that the physical world and consciousness are complementary factors of the very same reality we see. Whenever someone observes, or conducts an experiment on, a certain part of our physical world, their individual conscious interaction will cause changes in what they are testing.

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Are we Entering the Age of Teacherbots?

Are we Entering the Age of TeacherbotsCould this be true? Will we start seeing teacherbots who are applying artificial intelligence to do the jobs of teachers one day? Would they do a better job than humans? It might be a good idea to pay attention to some of the thoughts circulating about education’s future.

Occupations are Being Upgraded

The world of employment work is rapidly changing because of new and emerging technologies. And there are lots of examples to prove this point. A lawyer in Chatbot saved some 160,000 parking fines in New York and London. A hotel in China that has 30 stories was constructed in only 360 hours because of all the advances in technological prefabrication. Nike can construct and fine-tune prototypes for shoes in just in hours because of 3D printing. McDonald’s uses cognitive technology to collect drive-through orders and convert them to text that is directly fed directly into a point-of-sale process.

Is Your Teaching Job in Trouble?

However, these efficiencies bring up the natural question as to what will eventually happen to the jobs of working people? What about those folks who are taking order and making shoes?

The Futurist Thomas Frey claims that the teaching profession is most likely under those threats. Frey is predicting that about two billion jobs are going to disappear by the year 2030. And among those vanishing occupations are those of teachers, and also people who worked in the transportation and power industries.

Frey claims there are almost 25% of all kids today who are not even attending school at all and he believes we are short about 18 million teachers worldwide.

“There simply aren’t enough teachers at the right time and place to satisfy our growing thirst for knowledge.

“Over the coming decades, if we continue to insert a teacher between us and everything we need to learn, we cannot possibly learn fast enough to meet the demands of the future.”

Frey points out that we are already moving away from teacher-centric brand of schooling to a model that is more learning based, where ‘location’ is not as important.

He affirms that teaching needs experts in the field. And the new teacherless education model will use these experts to develop and create the materials, but will not require that expert to be present every time it is presented.

Frey feels like we are standing on the edge of a new artificial intelligence (AI) revolution.

He envisions a world where we will see teacherbots who are using AI that will be able to learn and understand every single student’s interests, their preferred tools and their unique methods of learning. This AI will alert the bot whenever a skill has become deficient, and what exactly is required to address the deficiency and when it has been addressed.

Brad McBean has argued on Aurecon’s Just Imagine blog that there may be jobs at risk of becoming automated, humans will still be that critical ingredient in all future workplaces. The function of human innovation and ingenuity will always be in demand.

“McKinsey’s latest report on automation displacement reminds us that, although almost every occupation has partial automation potential, humans will remain an essential ingredient in the future workplace equation. Even those jobs that can be easily automated, such as nursing or teaching, rely heavily on interactions between people and expertise that stretches beyond the knowledge of facts.”

Even though teaching was on Frey’s list of disappearing future jobs, coaching was on his list of occupations that would be in demand for the future. This seems to indicates a shifting role, instead of a replacement.

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What Global Challenges Will We Solve With Exascale Supercomputers?

What Global Challenges Will We Solve With Exascale SupercomputersEven though almost 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, only about 3% is considered drinkable—and the majority of that water is frozen in polar ice caps or glaciers. When we consider that almost a billion people on our planet do not have access to clean water, and the oceans of the world seem to be much smaller. As being one of the most abundant molecules on Earth, water has become a big problem for several civilizations.

Quest of the World

One of the most ambitious goals for our society is that of making ocean water drinkable. However, to accomplish this, we are going to need lots of innovation and a ton of processing power. Let us examine exactly how future supercomputers could help resolve our water problems and more. Researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory feel the answer resides in carbon nanotubes.

These little microscopic cylinders could serve as a great desalination filter. Their overall radius is certainly wide enough to allow water molecules pass through, yet narrow enough to filter out the bigger salt particles. And the scale involved here is truly incredible, as the width of one nanotube is over 10,000 times smaller than the hair of a human.

Drinkable Seawater?

After that, just fasten a couple of billion of these carbon nanotubes together, and then we would have a very effective apparatus for developing drinkable seawater. As with many things, accomplishing this configuration is easier said than actually done, and this is how scientists are hoping to use supercomputers to develop the optimal method for this task.

If scientists can efficiently test several variations of carbon nanotube filters, with the options to select parameters such as filter times, width, water salinity, and so forth, then the field’s progress would grow in a big way. We could only imagine the task of manually running experiments through the manipulation of materials which requires the use of a electron microscope to determine the next move. This task would just be way too complex, inefficient, and tedious.

This is where we turn to exascale computers, which is the very next step in scalable data processing.

Supercomputers have become a lot more powerful in recent years. The last benchmark level, which was the petascale, was reached in the year 2008 after the world’s fastest supercomputer reached a speed of more than quadrillion calculations every second. The next step would equivalent to chaining together 50 million desktop workstations. This machine will be able to conduct some quintillion calculations per second. As a reference point, it will outperform the fastest supercomputer of today by a factor of 8 to 10.

Seeing how this exascale computer could have a massive impact have on projects such as desalination is extremely exciting, and as a result, engineers are tirelessly working to create the first computer of its kind. As a matter of fact, the United States Dept of Energy has commissioned an exascale computer project of its own and has awarded grants to six different companies, such as IBM, HP, Intell, AMD, and even NVIDIA, to support the development and research of exascale.

Scientists have actually placed overwhelming faith in this technology. Progress in different fields such as wind energy, quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, and global seawater distillation reach a standstill because of the lack of computing power. The fastest processors on the planet only choke  when trying to work their way through huge petabytes of information and data.

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Top 7 Inventions from the Twentieth Century

As we look across the span of history, it is easy to see that twentieth century saw a multitude of creations and in developments in every area of society. In fact, there were hundreds, if not thousands of brand new entire fields of study that were created in the last century.

There were more advances and creations that occurred during the twentieth century that all other centuries combined. Let us examine to top 7 inventions that came from the past century.

Top 7 Inventions from the 1900s

nuclear-power-plant1) Nuclear Power – Nuclear power became to the twentieth century exactly steam power was to the nineteenth – which was a game changer. All of a sudden, society had the means to create power that came from a source that was efficient, did not pollute, and was virtually endless. This creation represented an overnight change to the world.

However, on the dark side, this new energy source was also used to build the most destructive war weapons that have ever been seen in the history of the world. In fact, they threaten the survival of all life on the entire planet. In addition, nuclear power plants do not pollute the air, but unless they are properly operated by trained personnel, they have the ability to contaminate an entire region – such as the Chernobyl incident in 1986.

personal home computers2) Personal Home Computers – Today, it is hard to imagine life without our personal computers. Believe it or not, they have actually in existence since World War Two. But those early models were too huge and too expensive to ever be used for a personal computer. And they actually had very little computing power.

This all changed whenever Stephen Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the Apple in year 1976. This eventually changed everything in our society. Because of this invention, we see computers everywhere and we’ve gotten very dependent on them. And our computing power only grows and grows every year. In fact, we are at the dawn of quantum computing – which will take us to exciting new levels.

airplanes3) Airplanes – Our ancestors would roll over in their graves at the thought of travelling from New York to London in a matter of mere hours. This is what airplanes have done for our society. The airplane has made the same kind of impact on the world as the locomotive did during the nineteenth century. Not only do airplanes make our travel safe and quick, airplanes provide other services such as fighting forest fires, crop dusting, and even the overnight delivery of packages. Aircraft have also made a huge mark on the ways we fight wars too.

motor vehicles4) Motor Vehicles – When trying to determine which invention had the biggest impact on our daily lives, it is hard not to consider the creation of automobiles. When automobiles were refined and perfected to the point they were available to everyday people, the entire world changed. All of a sudden, everyone was closer to one another. People could seek employment in places that they couldn’t before, they could visit families more often, and so forth.

antibiotics5) Antibiotics – One creation that could be easily overlooked is that development of antibiotics. No doubt that this invention has saved millions and millions of lives worldwide – all living creatures have benefited from antibiotics. Before penicillin came along during the year 1928, virtually any bug that a person got was possibly fatal. Penicillin immediately reduced mortality rates and increased life spans.

television6) Television – One of the biggest challenges for anyone today would be trying to find a household in the United States that doesn’t have at least one television set. In fact, most homes have multiple television sets. TVs have often been called America’s newest drug as it is where the majority of Americans spend their idle time. When it was created, it quickly became the means of entertainment and big dollar advertising. And it still is today.

the internet7) The Internet – While the personal computer displaced the typewriter and changed the way we write, the internet took computers to the next level. We saw the airplane shrink our planet so that people could travel across the globe within only hours; the internet lets us travel there in only a few seconds. It also allows messages to move in and out of countries that are repressive, it can foment revolutions, and these messages travel literally at the speed of light.

The internet also allows us purchase and sell virtually any product or service imaginable, watch videos from anywhere in the world, and even allows people to find their soulmates. What would we do without the internet?

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6 Big Challenges Facing Robots

6 Big Challenges Facing RobotsHave you been impressed with today’s robotics yet? No doubt this exciting field is growing at warp speed. But there are a few problems associated with robotics that will need to be resolved within the next 5 to 10 years.

The publication Science Robotics has officially identified grand challenges that the field will have to face in order to maintain its growth and development. This list is a result of the journal’s editors input from an online survey that was conducts. Here are six of those great challenges:

6 Robotic Challenges

1) Bio-Hybrid Robots – One of the big expectations of robotics has been its integration into living systems. However, there have long been huge logjams in trying to reproduce the mechanics and the performance of living muscle and have them be a part of a living system.

There has actually been good progress in the making of artificial muscles. However, there are question about their efficiency, robustness, and their power density needs improving. Having the ability to embed living cells into robots will overcome the obstacles of energizing small robots, as well as utilize biological factors such as self-healing and sensing. Trying to figure out how to integrate these systems is still a mystery.

2) Robot Swarms – Today we are seeing literally swarms of simplistic robots that conduct smaller various tasks, rather than having bigger robots do a number of tasks. This is becoming more challenging to manage these swarms more efficiently.

There is a great need conduct our work more efficiently on different scales. While smaller swarms can be managed from a central location, the large swarms must be decentralized. But they must be more robust and more adaptable to changes that are occurring in real world.

3) Navigation and Exploration – One of the great uses for robots has been the exploration of those places where human being are not able to go, like in extreme depths in the sea, outer space, or even in disaster zones. What this means is they must become skilled at navigating and exploring unmapped, and often disordered and even environments that could be hostile.

The biggest challenges lie with being able to create systems that will learn, adapt, and even recover from failures in navigation and will be able to make new discoveries. This requires a high level of autonomy that allows robots to reconfigure and monitor themselves as they build an image of the world from several data sources of varying accuracy and reliability.

4) Social Interaction – For robots to begin entering human environments, they are going to have to learn how to deal with human beings. This will be very challenging because there are not many solid models that represent typical human behavior. In addition, we tend to underestimate the level of complexity to the things we do naturally.

Social robots must have the ability to recognize social cues such as facial expressions or intonations. They must also understand the social and cultural context of the location they are working with. And they need to model the mental states of those individuals they are interacting with in order to tailor their dealings with them. The objective is to have them be able to build both short term and long term relationships with real humans.

5) Medical Robotics – Medicine is a field where hopes and expectations are very for robots. Many believe that medical robotics could the most impact in the very near future. There are already devices that are helping surgeons, but the big challenge here is to boost the autonomy of these systems in these high-stakes environments.

And autonomous robot assistant must be able to completely understand the human anatomy in a huge assortment of contexts. They must also have the ability to employ situational awareness and even spoken commands. During surgery, autonomous robots could actually perform routine steps in a given procedure, leaving the surgeon to perform the most complex tasks.

6) Robot Ethics – As more and more robots become integrated into our society, there will be brand new ethical problems. This is particularly true as we become more dependent on robots.

As robots begin conducting more human tasks, some of these will be for the good of society, and some could be for the bad of society. Obviously, new laws will be needed for them and as always, not everyone will agree on these.

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Scientists Create a Brain Implant that Improves Memory

Scientists Create a Brain Implant that Improves MemoryDo you struggle with your memory on occasion? You may be in luck as scientists have created a brain implant that boosts memory – at least that was the case in its very first test run. Experts are encouraged by this because of the promise it offers in possibly treating dementia, brain injuries and other ailments that could damage memory.

Brain Implant Inner Workings

This implant works a lot a pacemaker as it sends electrical pulses to help the brain whenever it struggles in storing new data, but stays quiet if it senses the brain is performing as it should.

During this test, as recently reported in the publication Nature Communications, the device appeared to improve word recall by 15% — which is about the amount that is stolen by Alzheimer’s disease over a span of two and half years.

We must stress that this implant is still in its experimental stages. However, Researchers are already discussing options in commercializing this technology. But the girth of its applicability is still unknown, having only been used so far only on people that have epilepsy.

Experts are cautioning that the risk for misuse of a “memory booster” could be enormous — A.D.H.D. drugs are currently being used as study aids. They also emphasized that a 15% improvement is pretty modest at this point.

New Type of Device

However, this research is actually ushering in brand new type of device. This is a device that serves as an automatic aid which will enhance normal cognitive functionality. Physicians have already used implants that are similar for years in order to block certain abnormal brain activity bursts. One of the most common uses for them has been in people who are afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and also epilepsy.

“The exciting thing about this is that, if it can be replicated and extended, then we can use the same method to figure out what features of brain activity predict good performance,” stated Bradley Voytek, who is an assistant professor for cognitive and data science, from the University of California, located in San Diego.

This implant is actually based on years of decoding various brain signals, and has received support from the Department of Defense with over $70 million in funding. They are seeking more effective treatments for traumatic brain injuries, which are the signature injuries for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

This research team, who were led by researchers from both the University of Pennsylvania and also Thomas Jefferson University, previously stated that electrical pulses from various implanted electrodes will aid recall reliably.

“It’s one thing to go back through your data, and find that the stimulation works. It’s another to have the program run on its own and watch it work in real time,” stated Michael Kahana, who is a professor of psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and also the senior author for this brand new study.

“Now that the technology is out of the box, all sorts of neuro-modulation algorithms could be used in this way,” he further stated.

Dr. Edward Chang, who is a professor of neurosurgery from the University of California, located in San Francisco, added, “Very similar approaches might be relevant for other applications, such as treating symptoms of depression or anxiety,” even though brain targets would probably be different.

The research group tested this memory aid on 25 different people with epilepsy who had been evaluated for operations.

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Artificial Intelligence will Fight the Next Cold War

Artificial Intelligence will Fight the Next Cold WarMany people confuse today’s current geopolitics with those that existed during the 1980s. It seems that Russia and the United States are forever accusing one another of intruding in the domestic affairs of the other. Russia has taken it upon themselves to annex territories over the objections of the United States, which raises concern about potential military conflict.

Potential New Cold War Targets

And just like the first Cold War that started right after World War II, these nations have been building and developing advanced technological weapons. During that Cold War, the choice weapon was mainly nuclear missiles.  However today, it is primarily software. And we are talking about the variety that attacks computer systems and other cyber targets throughout the world.

Russian rhetoric regarding the significance of artificial intelligence is gaining ground – with very good reason. As we see artificial intelligence software become more developed, it will become more capable of making decisions from much more data, and it will make such decisions faster than any human ever could. This actually lays the groundwork for the next cold war to be a battle of artificial intelligence.

Modern Cold War

Just like with the first Cold War that occurred during the 1940-50s, both sides have good reasons to worry about their opponent getting an edge technologically. At meeting recently that took place at the Strategic Missile Academy which is located near Moscow, Russian President Putin indicated that artificial intelligence could be the best way for Russia to rebalance power with the United States. This is because the United States has been outspending Russia by a factor of almost 10-to-1 on military defense every year. And this was followed up by a prominent media source in Russia claiming that artificial intelligence was the “key to Russia beating the U.S. in defense.”

All of this is starting to sound a lot like the rhetoric we always heard during the first Cold War, when the Soviets and the United States created a combined nuclear weapons arsenal to annihilate virtually every person on the planet several times over. This was the mother of all arms races which promoted the notion of mutually assured destruction. Neither of these two sides would even risk getting into an open war with the other without guaranteeing its own demise. Instead, weapon after weapon was stockpiled by both sides and they indirectly dueled through smaller proxy conflicts and various political disputes.

Today, it has been about 30 years since that first Cold War ended. And as a result, Russia and the United States decommissioned thousands and thousands of these stockpiled nuclear weapons. However, we are now seeing these old tensions start to grow again. And most experts agree that a modern-day version of this cold war would most likely include lots of cyberattacks with both parties getting involved in one another’s conflicts. And this is actually happening already.

Currently, each country has expelled each other’s diplomats. And Russia annexed part of Crimea against the United States objections. Many people are calling the Turkish-Syrian border war is being called a “proxy war” between Russia and the U.S.

Both of these countries – along with others as well – still have several nuclear weapons, but using them is still hard to fathom by most people. However, several recent reports are showing an increase in public concern that these weapons might be used.

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