New laws of physics

Another article that made me think. It was written by Michael Shermer, whose works are always interesting and unexpected. This time it was about “secret agents” and people’s belief in them. These are various theories and tales about souls, UFOs, ghosts, government conspirators and so on.

The author considered why do people believe in such things or say to have seen them and provided a very strong and beautiful (at least, to me) explanation. According to him, there are two types of errors in our thinking: the first, that an observed pattern is false when it is real, and the second, that the pattern is real when it is false.For example, you stand more chance in surviving when you assume that a moving grass is a predator lurking there when it is the wind (and making the second error) than taking for granted that it is wind that causes the movement (making the first error) when it is the predator. In respect to evolution and natural selection, animal that believed every time that it was a threat were favoured in surviving and spreading their genes. Our difference from animals and well developed theory of mind gives us another feature, the tendency to believe that the world is controlled from above.As a result, the combination of these two elements leads to the widely spread religion, mystical activity and conspirational recognition. I liked and agreed with the opinion that this belief in superiorities is natural and inherited to all of human beings.

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It also gave some food for thought about our reason, its abilities and limits. Artificial intelligence I have been considering how artificial intelligence could ultimately replace humans in simple, non-creative works. The technological advance has momentum certainly and it should not take long before machinery’s overwhelming domination against human workers in most spheres takes place.It is often discussed by contemporary scientists that the unique features of humans, such as creativity, ingenious thinking or collaborate activity, should be used to the limit, leaving the ordinary tasks for robots. And I am almost sure this will happen sooner or later but what about the creativity of robots? Can they acquire such features, currently endemic exclusively to the man? Are we able to create an artificial form of life, at least a computer-based being, that would be superior to humans and would leave no activity uniquely to us? I had read about a research which uses a computer to discover new laws of physics.

They succeeded in extracting laws of Newtonian mechanics from merely importing data of a simple pendulum and leaving the program to compute for a few weeks. The experiment also made some good promise of more complex simulations, that could lead to the creation of software able to explain incomprehensible natural phenomena using scientific knowledge. Maybe we are not far away from a system that collects data and discovers the unknown automatically? However miraculous and intense humanity’s leap during the last centuries is, I do not believe we will ever wake up being conquered by robotic, a kind of “Matrix”.There is something fundamental in the structure of our brain, maybe a secret we will never understand, that distinguishes us from electronics. It could well be our ability to make mistakes that gives us such superiority, as paradoxical as it may sound. These mistakes enrich us with all-around experience as well as ability to learn pushing us to mental and social advance. Our learning may give us advice both how to develop technology and how to refrain.

We are still similar to animals by our fully-throttled dive into a new stream at first and later learning the down sides of our decisions.As keen to put our effort to science before, we are now taking more careful steps, not restricted by fierce shouts that “science would kill us” but by growing awareness of unconsidered risks, such as global warming. It is amazing if we can use the technology to our good, not use our good to create technology. The ability to pause and think about what you are doing, to behave unexpectedly, to make nonsense and laugh of it is something a computer would not understand or try to do.

Thus I have no doubt we will not be able to create such a thing, or at least consciously prevent ourselves from doing it.