Intelligence and Learning

Some Topics


Wise woman

Wired and Alienated

All human affairs proceed in a dialectical fashion with progression and regression in constant play. Good and bad results emerge from every innovation. As the media world becomes more complex and more demanding, a high tech citizen runs the risk of becoming unhappy and confused. We know that better access to procedures and information is a decisive advantage for people who can use the information. In the early days of the www, there was discussion of the "emergence of a global brain paradigm for modeling the world."

However, humans have a limited ability to embrace other humans and are quickly over-loaded by information that is not immediately relevant. Some smart people are happy to leave the cell phones in a drawer and leave the hectic lives for a nature retreat. They value the natural world and celebrate opportunities to reconnect with their “inner self” and nature. Carl Jung suggested: “Too much man makes a sick animal. Too much animal makes a sick man.”

Humans have long lived in small groups and travelled to join assemblies of other groups. These gatherings have become highly organized affairs with formal presentations and social interactions. Real meetings have important features that virtual interactions such as email, text messages, chat rooms and social networks lack. Humans rely on seeing facial expressions, body language and observing the coordination of speech with gestures. Without access to a real person, the information is always incomplete.  The frequency of rude and angry emails and comments posted are problems with virtual communications. Internet etiquette has emerged to reduce angry responses. A smart communicator will delay a response to an irritating message and will consider how to reply in a diplomatic manner. Internet users worry about loss of privacy, but the real danger is that a sicker animal may emerge who is comfortable in virtual reality but disoriented and destructive in the real world.

The business leaders of the information age are highly competitive and believe that they are in a race. The race has only to do with business competition and profits. The world would be a better place if everyone slowed down and made more gradual transitions from one state to another. There is no race. There is nowhere to go. We are already here.

Who is fooling whom?

There are potential benefits. There are some hazards. Most internet users will have limited ability to understand how to find the best information and will default to slogans and seek free entertainment. Social networking sites are popular because they are free and entertaining. The Face Book idea is that you can advertise yourself, acquire friends and become a friend of many others. The real effect is that the meaning of friend is deflated. Real friends are rare and need to be cherished. Virtual friend are not friends at all. There is a possibility that meaningful relationships can develop after online contact, but this is not probable. There is a risk that your personal information may be used against you. People worry about loss of privacy but another danger is that a sicker human animal may emerge who is comfortable in virtual reality but disoriented and destructive in the real world. Nice people watching TV in their living room are already more comfortable in the virtual world of television programming and are often confused about what is really going on.

Dependence on Machines

In the unrealistic fantasies about computers becoming intelligent, willful and taking over the world, there is an imbedded and legitimate concern about human dependence on machines. There is an associated concern about human limitations. As computer networks expand, humans become dependent on them and have more difficulty understanding how the whole system works. Another concern is that humans are selfish and chaotic in their pursuit of wealth.  The proliferation of perverse machines makes some people wealthy but with little benefit to the individual user and to society a whole. You could argue that cars and airplanes are perverse machines because they encourage humans to be restless wanders in pursuit of ephemeral pleasures.

Electronic games are perverse machines since they occupy time and attention in a virtual reality that might be better spent enjoying and cultivating the real world.  Television has been declared a perverse machine for the same reason – a virtual reality replaces the real world and sedentary viewers become fat, sick and confused.

The real question is what humans really want? A better real world is a good answer. A better real world would be more natural, cleaner, safer, and more stable. A better world might be achieved, but not by the people watching TV text messaging and playing videogames.

The realworld infrastructure that depends on computer networks to operate is based on human intelligence and demands the dedicated work of people who are tuned into the real world. The maintenance of enlarging complex systems is difficult and requires advanced education attached to dedication and constant learning. An enlarging population now depends on a small elite group to maintain banking, communication, energy, transportation, government and military networks. An increasing dependence on expanding, whole-planet electronic systems is a new development and the possibility(aka probability) of catastrophic failure concerns many observers.

Human experience is typically paradoxical. Human information and intelligence is being distributed more widely than ever before and this distribution depends on a technologically elite group. If you tend to be paranoid, you are afraid of the technology and fear that a sinister elite group will take over and control the world. Science fiction paranoia tends to emphasis machine autonomy and fears machine dominance. If you are paranoid, all sinister plots are plausible and you cannot differentiate a realistic fear from an imaginary and unrealistic fear.

If you are pronoid, you are grateful for the benefits of the technological society and even if you are not part of the technology elite, you assume (quite correctly) that the scientific and technical elites consist mostly of reasonable and nice people who have interests and goals similar to your own. If you are realistic and pronoid, you know that computers are dumb and that robots are machines that weld and paint cars.

You are mostly interested in training enough smart people to keep our complex infrastructures operating. The need is for better solutions to basic problems such distributing medical information, controlling traffic in cities, distributing food and other goods and protecting airplanes from crashing.

The curious aspect of future technology fears and fantasies is that all the problems in the real world are discussed and then ignored. Even the most advanced countries have aging infrastructures, ready to collapse at any moment. Electricity, telephone, cable communications and the internet are carried by wires on poles that fall down easily, pushed by a little wind or shaken by earth tremors. Even if TV networks keep broadcasting, viewers may not have clean water to drink or food to eat. We can hope that communication of good ideas might reduce the extravagant devastation that humans inflict on their planet. What do humans really want? Do they want more distraction and entertainment in virtual reality or do they want a real life in a real, healthy world?