Aug 26, 2022

We are building a “species-level brain” with big data and ubiquitous sensors

Posted by in categories: information science, robotics/AI

We need the computers and sensors to better our lives, to allow everyone access to the wisdom of the ages. We can’t collect all the data ourselves and try to make sense of it without machines because our brains aren’t up to the task. Imagine if every little decision everyone has made over the past thousand years along with its outcome had been recorded on index cards and stored in a gargantuan facility somewhere. Remember that giant warehouse at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they ended up storing the Ark of the Covenant? That’s where index cards AA through AC are housed. Imagine five thousand more of those to store all that data. What could we do with it? Nothing useful.

Computers can do only one thing: manipulate ones and zeros in memory. But they can do that at breathtaking speeds with perfect accuracy. Our challenge is getting all that data into the digital mirror, to copy our analog lives in their digital brains. Cheap sensors and computers will do this for us, with prices that fall every year and capabilities that increase.

Coupling massive processing power with sensors will create a species-level brain and memory. Instead of being billions of separate people with siloed knowledge, we will become billions of people who share a single vast intellect. Comparisons to The Matrix are easy to make but are not really apropos. We aren’t talking about a world without human agency but with enhanced agency, information-based agency. Making decisions informed by data is immeasurably better. Even if someone ignores the suggestion of the digital mirror, they are richer for knowing it. Imagine having an AI that could not only tell you what you should do but would allow you to insert your own values into the decision process. In fact, the system would learn your values from your actions, and the suggestions it gives you would be different from those it would give everyone else, as they should be. If knowledge is power, such a system is by definition the ultimate in empowerment. Every person on the planet could effectively be smarter and wiser than anyone who has ever lived.

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