The Virtual Thomas Edison

Within the past two years computers have become a new way of doing business, enjoying various forms of entertainment, and interacting with others for the majority of our nation. Almost every aspect of technical work in industry today involves the computer in some way. It is hard to find something in the world at this present time that wasnt either made by a computer program, or houses a computer of its own.

Keeping this in mind while reading Ray Kurzweils article The Virtual Thomas Edison makes one realize just how much humans depend on computers, and Kurzweils hypothesizes that Within three decades machines will be as intelligent as human beings(Kurzweil, pars 16). Kurweil continues, by stating, Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has written about a wide range of dangers that could arise when we no longer have our metaphorical hands on the plug(Kurzweil, pars 2). Its an unsettling thought, assuming Kurzweils prediction is correct, that computers may surpass mans intelligence in 30 years and progress beyond our control.

Kurweils quoting Bill Joy sums up the feeling of uneasiness towards the quick progress of computer technologies very well. It produces a slight tinge of fright as it is read because it could indeed be true. Kurzweil offsets his feelings of apprehension by going into great detail about how these advanced computers will help us in the future. He goes as far to state that computers will be able to create nanobots to help rid of humans of several diseases and possibly prolong mans collective life span.

By 2030 there will be ubiquitous use of surgery-free neural implants introduced into our brains by billions of nanobots (i. e. , microscopic yet intelligent robots) traveling through our capillaries. These noninvasive neural implants will routinely expand our mind through direct connection with nonbiological intelligence(Kurzweil, pars 9). If this prediction in fact does manifest itself it could mean an expansion of human brainpower and dramatic decrease in disease among the population. There even exists the possibility that these medical robots could eliminate the need for most modern day medicines.

The entire idea of using computerized implants was initially based upon current research and therapy being done using cochlear implants for the deaf and neural implants, which are used to help treat Parkinsons patients. Despite some of his positive statements about nanobots, Kurzweil does not end his discussion on the topic with such optimism. He delves in the potential evils that may arise with the use of nanobots. He believes that nanobots could also be used against people without anyone knowing because of their germ-like size.

New concerns will include such questions as Who is controlling the nanobots? d Whom are the nanobots talking to? For example, organizations (e. g. , governments, extremist groups) could distribute trillions of undetectable nanobots that could then monitor, influence, or even control our thoughts and actions(Kurzweil, pars 10). He also states that the nanobots could be used to create diseases that only the computers have a cure for. The nanobots could use their extensive knowledge of the human anatomy to create virulent diseases far worse than nature could ever concoct. Computer technology has been evolving and growing at an alarming rate in recent years.

In the past year alone computer capabilities have increased over 200%. During World War II, scientists and engineers designed computers using intelligence and current technologies of the day. Today, however, computer programs are used for such design purposes. Brandeis University professors Jordan Pollack and Hod Lipson recently used genetic algorithms to design simple robots, which were then assembled by other robots (Kurzweil, pars. 4). Kurzweil uses the idea of robots building each other as a way of saying that men arent the only ones that can produce the machines.

He clearly states that as of right now the computers are being controlled by human hand, but leaves a hint of uncertainty, leaving the reader in suspense. Kurzweil finishes his article by expressing his belief that computers will always be controlled by humans, and will always work for mankinds betterment. Herein lies the problem with his article; he produces two conflicting arguments without taking a firm stance with either view. If the computer becomes as aware and smart as Kurzweil predicts than it will realize that humans damage the environment in which they live, why would it help us?

He dwells on the inherent dangers of advanced computer intelligence, but then reverses his notions by reassuring the reader that humans will be able to keep a firm grip on the reigns of this technology. I am optimistic that we will ameliorate these dangers while we overcome age-old problems of human distress(Kurzweil. Pars 15). Kurzweils optimistic view of the humans prospering greatly from the machines is a happy ending, but it is not a completely reassuring one based on some of his conjectures.

If the computers are smart enough to assimilate all of human knowledge, then how is man to predict the capability of holding them on leashes as they grow to gain artificial intelligence and awareness. Technology has always been a double-edged sword, and we dont have to look further than today to see both profound promise and peril. (Kurzweil, pars 15). If Kurzweil had used this statement for his conclusion instead of his optimistic final view, his article would have produced a more convincing argument.

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