A little harmless theory

Finally, the guest lecturers in our department have started to arrive and all our subjects are finally ‘happening’. So here I was, in our first Artificial Intelligence lecture, being taught by a guest lecturer of course, who was pretty much an under-graduate fresher with an year of teaching experience. Sigh. Being an area that I’d already worked on for a while, I really wasn’t interested in her talk on what AI was all about, especially the part where she was trying to tell us about ‘The Matrix’ and ‘The Terminator’. So I came up with a little theory which I’ll share with you. Note that I’m not sure if this has already been discussed before, but anyways, here you go. But first a, little introduction.

So just like almost every other class I was in (note the stress on almost), I was bored and I was lost in my own chain of thought. And well, it had something to do with artificial intelligence itself (surprise, surprise!). The thought that particularly intrigued me was one of the biggest differences between a human (or any other entity considered ‘intelligent’) versus a machine (which could possibly be artificially intelligent), which I’d once read about, and that is the presence of the mind. According to the article, the brain is just a complicated computer which, by theory, can be replicated in the form of a machine (neural networks were inspired by neurons themselves). But one of the things that make us different from a machine is merely the mind, in the form of thoughts, dreams, common sense and much much more. To all those of you who’ve played Starsiege, Prometheus was a machine who had a mind, and that made him turn against his creator (by creating the Cybrids, or rather, his army of machines). But he was unique, and when you actually beat him in the human campaign, he says, “Three times have we fought, and three times have I lost, only because of your will to survive. The will I could not program into my children.”

Now that I’ve told you about the mind-brain separation, I’ll get to my theory. There will be seven assumptions I’m making. Here are the first six:

  • Assume, we are able to create a species (which I’ll arbitrarily name Ems) which by size, is very negligible to that of a human. The order of the difference in size I’m talking about is that between maybe the combined size of a billion T-Rexes and that of a billionth of the AIDS virus perhaps. Maybe more. But anyways, get your imagination going.

  • Assume, that we’re able to develop a container, which is unimaginably large in comparison to the said species (Ems), but smaller than a human, possibly the size of your everyday aquarium.

  • Assume, that we are able to monitor anything inside this container, but nothing inside it will know of the world beyond.

  • Assume, that the conditions inside the container are favourable for life to grow, and is fully self sustainable.

  • Assume, that we’ve laid the seeds for life in this said container, and as a result of which, the Ems (you can throw in others too if you want), are born.

  • And lastly, assume that the Ems are intelligent.

I’m quite sure some of you might have guessed where I’m heading, but here comes the main part. The Ems would begin their life and would survive in a complete world. They would go about whatever they do to get food, to find fellow Ems, to form communities and so on. They would discover other species, hunt them, be hunted themselves, but they’d have the will to survive. They would protect their enclaves from others and they would discover ways to defend themselves. Thoughts and ideas will emerge, and will give birth to cultures in their universe. They’d probably discover the equivalent of fire, and would take the baby steps into invention, like humans did with the wheel. They’ll move on to build shelters, villages, towns and empires and they’d fight amongst themselves. But their curiosity thrusts them slowly into the wonders of the sciences that govern their universe, and as time progresses, they discover more and more of the wonders around them, but all the while, they have no clue of just how tiny a dot they are in their universe. Now assume that enough time has passed such that they are in an era equivalent to the 21st century for us, humans. Note that I’m talking about equivalence of knowledge here. Now here comes the last assumption:

  • Assume, that they’ve developed machines that are artificially intelligent.

The Ems, have begun to make machines that they hope, would someday be equivalent to them, that is, would have a mind and a brain. While they’re intrigued by their own complexity and intelligence, they are totally unaware of the fact that we are out there watching them, and that it is we, who created them, that it is possible to achieve natural intelligence, and they are the fruits of that achievement.

Now here’s my question. If that is the case with the Ems, is it possible that we, ourselves, could be in one big such shoe box? That we were the result of an achievement to design an entity that could be naturally intelligent? That we’re some sort of alien experiment? Creepy little thought eh? I guess I’ll stop here and leave this question untouched. And please do note, I’m not hinting at the existence of any God here. I’m not hinting at anything as a matter of fact.

Damn, I do get carried away with my thoughts at times. 🙂

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