Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Biological and Nonbiological Evolution

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Kurzweil lays out his arguments for the convergence of biological and nonbiological elements in his essay of The Law of Accelerating Returns.

Technological Growth[edit]

Before humans and computers become entwined as hybrids, Kurzweil discusses exponential growth. He asserts that while humans see growth linearly, change has be growing exponentially quicker since the emergence of technology. For example Kurzweil states, "In the nineteenth century, we saw more technological change than in the nine centuries preceding it" (Kurzweil , 2001). As we moved into the twentieth century, humans saw technical advancement quicker. Now in the twenty-first century “paradigm shifts occur in only a few years time” (Kurzweil, 2001).

On of the ways Kurzweil explains exponential growth is by defining Singularity. As humans, change is linear and unnoticeable until the change is doubling or tripling in size. Singularity is an infinite principle that allows innovations to grow and spider out to influence other innovations.

Cell phone usage in the 90’s had a fairly small adoption rate. As technology improved, costs became affordable and social groups started using mobile phones the usage started growing exponentially. Another, recent example is the growth of the Internet. The evolution of internet technology changed very quickly to include all sort of devices and screen sizes over wireless channels. Though separate innovations, both have incorporated elements into each of the technologies spawning further growth. Both the emergence of mobile phones and the internet reminds me of Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation. The socioeconomic patterns are similar to promote technology adoption and growth.

Convergence[edit]

Moore’s Law was one of the first to calculate the growth of technology. However, looking back in history, Kurzweil explains that Moore’s Law explains the fifth paradigm of exponential growth. Since the beginning of the twentieth century humans have been experiencing technological growth with each cycle shortening the time to another growth curve.

Plotting on the graph of biological evolution and technological evolution the two will intersect. Kurzweil maintains that as computers get faster and can compute quicker than the human brain, humans will have to contend with the achievements of nonbiological counterparts.

While it seems reasonable that computers will be able to outthink humans to a certain degree, he goes onto explain how to take the vital elements of the human experience such as personality, memories and speech and apply that to replicas of ourselves.

Kurzweil feels that mapping the human brain, downloading that information and using nanobot technology to create people will inevitably happen. While there are limits to what we can do now, this could become reality if, as Kurzweil has pointed out, exponential growth of technology justifies and drives down cost.

Kurzweil talks about learning. If a computer brain read War and Peace that experience could be transferred to a human so they don’t have to go through the process of traditional learning. Clearly this is an example of exponential growth of the human mind. Downloading education to jump the knowledge of people to move them forward and participate in the current environment which could provide more minds working on current issues. He discussed this point at Google I/O when he said that our brains will connect to the cloud by nanobots made of DNA strands.

Closing[edit]

Biological and non-biological exponential growth can be measured and needs to be further understood as we get closer to computers outpacing the human brain. Kurzweil doesn’t approach ethics. While ethics will be a topic, he chooses to not to discuss it because his belief is that exponential growth of technology is in control more that our ethical decision making. There is already ethical discussions surrounding the Uncanny Valley but that hasn’t stopped the technology from improving and being released into the world.

However, human experience is important and humans can decide ethical boundaries of hybrid people. In the book Your are not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier concedes that in the future robots will be performing a lot of the jobs. Lanier feels that creativity will separate humans and form a new economy. Thus, allowing humans to be hybrids alters the human experience and possibly creativity is forever lost because of the injected cloud which removes humans from heuristic learning.


References Kurzweil, R. (2001, March 7). KurzweilAI | Accelerating Intelligence. Retrieved from http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns

Lanier, J. (2010). You are not a gadget: A manifesto. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.