Is Your Personal Tech Device Alive? How Long Until You Change Your Mind On That Answer?

There is a big debate as to when a computer actually becomes alive. When does it develop its own consciousness? How do you know when that will be? Is it like the definition of artificial intelligence and the Turing Test – being able to fool a human into thinking they are talking to a real person? Because if that is the test, I would say that an Apple iPhone with Siri or even some of these advanced chat bots are already there.

Now then, if you interact with your personal tech device as if it is alive, and treating it as if it is alive or your own personal friend, then in a way you’ve made it alive in doing so. Yes, this is an intriguing line of philosophy and thinking, and there are two very good books I think you might like to read;

“Simulation and Its Discontents,” Sherry Turkle, MIT Press, Boston, MA, 2009, 217 pages, ISBN: 978-0-262-01270-6.

“Evocative Objects – Things We Think With” edited by Sherry Turkle, MIT Press, Boston, MA, 2007, 385 pages, ISBN: 978-0-262-20168-1.

Sherry seems to have been working on these philosophical conundrums for quite a while using her understanding of psychology to interview a multitude of different people on this topic as they use their own personal tech devices, computers, and electronic toys. She’s worked with robots that are programmed with human personality traits to really dig into where that threshold lies. That is to say when does your personal tech device, robot, or computer become alive?

Many have said that the answer is; never. But of course, there we go again as you should never say never, therefore I dare to ask you a personal question; how long until you change your mind? And, what would it take for you change your mind on this topic? If you are already talking to your iPhone as if it is a person, asking questions, and getting replies, and the more and more you have a regular conversation with it the more likely you will see it and relate with it as if it was an actual entity.

Surely, you would agree that at that particular point in time judging from our current technological advances in this space, it shouldn’t be more than a few more generations of Apple’s iPhone series. At the rate they’ve been coming out with new products that could be as close as just a few years away. Right? Thus, maybe it will be as much as five years away, but it won’t be forever, and your first answer just doesn’t jive with reality; never say never.

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Humans Outsourcing Cognition to Their Personal Tech – What Does It Mean for the Future?

One of the fastest-growing self-help genres on Amazon happens to be books on how to improve your memory. Perhaps, people are getting older and they are noticing their memories aren’t working as well as they once did, and we do have folks reaching ages well above 90 in very large percentages. Then we have younger folks who notice their memories aren’t quite as good as they feel they should be. It’s not as if they are losing their minds, they just realize that often they can’t remember something, it’s much like that sensation of having the information on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t remember it. Okay so let’s talk about this for second shall we?

Over the years I’ve written a good number of articles on this topic, and surmised that one of the biggest challenges, and I think you’ll agree, is that our personal tech devices allow us to store information, and therefore we no longer have to memorize it. You see, while we are in school we spend a lot of time doing rote memorization, it is part of our education process, and it helps us increase our ability to remember things. However, out in the real world our personal tech devices store all of our important phone numbers, so we no longer have to memorize them. Some folks don’t even remember their own phone number, and if it wasn’t on business cards, their website, and other places which are quite handy, they would forget it altogether.

For instance, how many phone numbers can you remember of your closest personal friends and family? Think about that for a second. Now then, the very famous futurist, Ray Kurzweil, noted at the Singularity Institute Summit in 2012 that “we’ve outsourced some of our thinking abilities to technology,” and “technology has expanded our minds” and offered us new ways to think about things.

In other words, because we don’t have to remember these things, our minds are able to use that memory capacity for other things. In the future, it was also predicted by those that the Singularity Institute that you would not have to query a search engine, because it would always be on in and running in the background, thus, it would automatically search things and put up the information perhaps in your augmented reality glasses onto a micro computer screen very close to your eye so you could see it.

This begs the question; are we also going to outsource our brain capacity, reasoning, and even our ability to ask questions in the future, just as we have done with our personal tech devices memorizing phone numbers? I believe this is a distinct possibility, and it would also have me asking another question; will we use distributive human brain power to solve large problems by utilizing all the brains on the Internet, or perhaps in an interlocked system where everyone is communicating by thought, through their implanted or embedded devices in the brain for communication?

That scenario is actually likely, and it might not be far off. In fact, Google and other companies are already using crowd sourcing to solve large problems in this way. In the future if we are all connected and perpetually online as our brains are hooked up to the overall society and civilization system, then we can expect this to occur too. Indeed, I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

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