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Sculpting the Mind of a Synthetic Human in the Cloud

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When I saw a piece of technology called Kinect — it was called Natal — I was inspired, and I thought for a moment, maybe it’s possible to address that one problem of storytelling, to create a character which seemed alive, which noticed me, that could look me in the eyes and feel real, and sculpt a story about our relationship. And so a year ago, I showed this off at a computer show called E3. And this was a piece of technology with someone called Claire interacting with this boy. And there was a huge row online about, “Hey, this can’t be real.” And so I waited till now to have an actual demo of the real tech.  — Peter Molyneux

Back in 1950, Alan Tuning, a computer scientist, cryptanalyst, logician, mathematician, and many other things was exploring “machine intelligence”.  Turing came up with the idea of the “Turing Test“.  It’s really a question and a test.  The question is, “Can computers think?”  The test is, “Can a machine be built that can “imitate” a human interaction to the point that the human being can not distinguish between a computer and another human being”.  If so, this passes the Turing Test.

In 2005 Raymond Kurzweil published a book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.  According to Kurzweil

  1. A technological-evolutionary point known as “the singularity” exists as an achievable goal for humanity.
  2. Through a law of accelerating returns, technology is progressing toward the singularity at an exponential rate.
  3. The functionality of the human brain is quantifiable in terms of technology that we can build in the near future.
  4. Medical advancements make it possible for a significant number of his generation (Baby Boomers) to live long enough for the exponential growth of technology to intersect and surpass the processing of the human brain.

Now think about the advancement in video game technology , the appeal of virtual worlds, voice recognition, and new 3-Dimensional input devices that can sense a humans movements and positions in space.

What is possible?

Suppose we have reached the singularity where it is possible to simulate or emulate (there is a difference) the human brain in a grid of computers.  Suppose that the photorealistic rendering of human bodies along with the manipulation of human facial features is so good that you could(almost)  not tell the difference between a video of a real human from one that is constructed.   Speech recognition is getting better and better.  Body-kinetic controls that are on the market now are capable of sensing 3-D movements and position in 3-D space.  Let’s start putting all this together.

Suppose you could immerse yourself into a virtual world and interact with synthetic humans and not be able to really tell the difference between a real human and synthetic human (Turing Test).  (Or at least during the interaction use the same “suspension of disbelief” we use when watching a movie to immerse ourselves into the story, having emotional attachment with the characters in the movie knowing full well, these folks are actors and the scenes – everything we see – is constructed for our benefit.  But we “believe it” and are emotionally attached and emotionally engaged nonetheless.)

Suppose that, at the singularity and beyond, synthetic humans can learn about new objects, new words, and perhaps assemble words and objects into concepts just like a human child.  Suppose you injected these Synthetic Humans into the cloud of network computers available on the Internet and let society interact with them.

Essentially, what would happen if you allowed the world of humans to sculpt the minds of Synthetic Humans?  Synthetic humans that would both be fragile (delete them) or immortal (digitally never die); that could learn “forever” and never forget;  who may, at some point, and why not, become “conscious” in the same way that the 3 pounds of physical matter is our human heads have accomplished long ago. (read more)

Meet Milo – A Synthetic Human with whom you can have a relationship

… to create a character which seemed alive, which noticed me, that could look me in the eyes and feel real, and sculpt a story about our relationship…

Check out this TED video by Peter Molyneux.  What is demonstrated is primitive at this point.  But you can see clearly the trajectory of the desire and the technology toward human interaction with Synthetic Humans. 

Perhaps we are close to seeing a successful demonstration of the Turing Test.  Ever wonder what the “next big thing” will be?  What the “game changer” in society might be?  The emergence/injection of Synthetic Humans into human society may just be a societal and cultural discontinuity that will alter the World forever.  Forget the aliens from another planet.  We may be creating them right now, “in our image”.


Written by frrl

September 4, 2010 at 2:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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