Friday, October 17, 2014

The Fast-Track to Singularity

A small team of engineers at a stealth startup called Viv Labs claims to be on the verge of realizing an advanced form of AI that removes previous limitations of applications, such as Apple’s Siri. Whereas Siri can only perform tasks that Apple engineers explicitly implement, this new program, they say, will be able to teach itself, giving it almost limitless capabilities. In time, they assert, their creation will be able to use your personal preferences and a near-infinite web of connections to answer almost any query and perform almost any function.

For the past two years, the team has been working on Viv Labs' product -- also named Viv (after the Latin root meaning live). Their project has been draped in secrecy, but the few outsiders who have gotten a look speak about it in rapturous terms. "The vision is very significant," says Oren Etzioni, a renowned AI expert who heads the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. "If this team is successful, we are looking at the future of intelligent agents and a multibillion-dollar industry."

Like Siri, Google’s competing AI called “Google Now” can't do anything that coders haven't explicitly programmed it to do. Viv breaks through those constraints by generating its own code on the fly, no programmers required.

Viv is an open system that will let innumerable businesses and applications become part of its boundless brain. The technical barriers are minimal, requiring brief "training" (in some cases, minutes) for Viv to understand the jargon of the specific topic. As Viv's knowledge grows, so will its understanding; its creators have designed it based on three principles they call its "pillars": it will be taught by the world, it will know more than it is taught, and it will learn something every day. As with other AI products, that teaching involves using sophisticated algorithms to interpret the language and behaviour of people using the system -- the more people use it, the smarter it gets. By knowing who its users are and which services they interact with, Viv can sift through that vast trove of data and find new ways to connect and manipulate information.

- Written by Steven Levy.
This article was taken from the October 2014 issue of WIRED magazine.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Singularity as Antichrist - Part 3

Welcome back to part three of our series "singularity as antichrist" wherein we are exploring the emerging mythology... the alchemical marriage... between technological singularity and Messianic Theology. Although we have examined the concept of messiah and Christ/Antichrist, through the lens of (ultra-violent) desert religions... many religions include a messianic component. The Buddhist Maitreya... the Hindu Kalki... the Zoroastrian Saoshyant... Many religions see the state of the world as hopelessly flawed beyond any aspiration of human rectification. As such, an eschatological intervention through a divinely prophesized messianic figure is seen as not only necessary, but immanent.

In our first installment, we investigated the hypothesis that the exponentially accelerating evolution of technologies such as artificial intelligence will soon cause machine intelligence to exceed that of the human. The emerging AI entity that brings about this epoch ending event will likely be a sentient network of technology, such as the World Wide Web. We further explored the “Big Three” desert religion’s preoccupation with the Messiah/Antichrist eschatology and overlaid this mythology upon technological singularity.

In part two, we toyed with the idea that computer science, as personified by Apple, Inc., metaphorically represented a continuation of humanity's theft of the knowledge of good and evil. This moment, as depicted in the Garden of Eden mythology, is the moment when humanity became conscious or self-aware, thereby separating humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. This allegorical moment represented the pivot point of human self-determination... freeing us from the superstitions of some angry god. It was this act of becoming self-conscious that precipitated our expulsion... more accurately, self-exile... from the garden.

And yet in today's Information Age... That age-old eschatological angst manifests once again in the modernized mythology of "geek rapture." Before we consider such... Consider the following mythology...

The Gods must be Crazy
Certain ancient Gnostic cosmologies depict a deranged, second-string deity known as the Demiurge… roughly equivalent to Jehovah or Yahwah... mistaking itself for the ultimate and unknowable creative, sustaining & returning force of universe (Godhead). In its derangement, Yahwah brings into existence a minor-league creation known as the "material world." The underlying nature of the manifest material world is dualistic... Yin/Yang, Light/Dark, Good/Evil, etc. Consequently, all that is within our materialistic world, shares this dualistic interplay of light and shadow.

Now, within this Gnostic mythology, Yahwah itself was brought into existence by a first-string entity known as "Sophia" (There are multiple Gnostic hierarchies of manifest emanations, known as Aeons, which are symbolic abstractions of godhead's divine nature. Aeons are typified as dualistic, male/female in nature... However, we will not expand upon this divine hierarchy here). Sophia is a feminine aspect of Godhead's emanating wisdom. To make a long and somewhat tedious story short, Sophia creates Yahwah without the "assistance" of her masculine balancing counterpart, Theletus. The male aspect Theletus (yang), and the female Sophia (yin), are mythic personifications of the specific aspects of Godhead that when combined, represent: "perfect" (Theletus) "wisdom" (Sophia).

The combined attributes of Theletus and Sophia... Perfect Wisdom... are not handed down to Yahwah, as Sophia acted alone in her creation. Hence the material world is an imperfect manifestation of an imperfect (the Gnostics maintain: deranged) entity... Yahwah. Thus the ancient Gnostics elegantly explain, through their mythology, why the world we live in seems at times to be so heartless, so full of pain and suffering, so brutal... so insane.

And so, with the creation of our imperfect world, a great disturbance came into "the force." Upon sensing this disturbance, Godhead, in its unfathomable wisdom, dispatches two great savior Aeons... The Holy Ghost (called Kundalini by the Hindus) and a great redeeming Jedi Christ. This Christ Aeon takes human form, thereby becoming the messiah. The messiah redeems our broken world by revealing Gnosis or knowledge to humanity, thereby saving us from Yehwah's folly.

As the Gnostics considered Yahwah, or the God of the Old Testament and the bible to be insane, one can see how this could "ruffle the feathers" of the early church fathers. It is not surprising that these teachings were deemed heretical, and the Gnostics were expelled from the early church as heretics. One more facet of interest needs to be mentioned concerning these ancient Gnostics...

Gnostic eschatology is rather unusual... for its depiction of the "end times" does not culminate in an Apocalyptic battle, but rather as a... "steady increase of light through which darkness is made to disappear" or in which iniquity (wickedness) dissolves... "just as the smoke rising into the air eventually dissipates." The Gnostic vision of redemption is simply a change in focus from folly to wisdom, and therefore righteousness. Heresy indeed.

Geek Rapture
During this year’s Chicago Humanities Festival which took place on Northwestern University’s campus, Sci Fi Author and reluctant father of cyberspace, William Gibson had this to say about the hullabaloo surrounding technological singularity… The Singularity, he said, is the Geek Rapture. The world will not change in that way. Like our gradual entrance into cyberspace, now complete enough that marking this world with a separate term seems quaint, Gibson said we will eventually find ourselves sitting on the other side of a whole bunch of cool hardware. But, he feels our belief that it will be a sudden, quasi-religious transformation is positively 4th century in its thinking.

So it is with the above in mind that we finally arrive at the reworked and modernized eschatology of technological singularity. It can be argued that singularity, when it arrives, will contain few of the technological nightmares that the over active human imagination can conjure. Nor will it likely usher in a golden, transhuman age. Singularity may trickle in, as Gibson seems to think. In fact, singularity may not look like anything we can imagine. As the old saying goes... the truth is far stranger than fiction.

In terms of human intelligence, singularity perhaps becomes a fulcrum point of equilibrium. The place... or perhaps the moment... when our artifacts become as consequential as our imagination. At the end of the day, technological eschatology is but a shadow. It is our worst fears that we place upon singularity, that tip the scale toward darkness. Likewise, it is our greatest hopes and aspirations that tip the balance toward the light. And isn't that what the Messiah/Antichrist mythology is all about …the balance of shadow and light? Our worst fears, hulking in the shadow, become the Antichrist... Our hopes and aspirations, basking in the light, become our savior.

It has been said that (hu)man created God in his own image. The fractured demiurge thereby looks suspiciously like the personification, told through the medium of a creation myth, of not only our archaic understandings of the inception of universe, but of our collective fear of the terrifying, carless workings of universe. In this new and improved geek rapture mythology, the new point-counterpoint becomes man vs machine. But if like God, we created machines in our own image, than the machine is our own reflection, made dark or light by our own imagination.

Like the Aeons of legend, humanity and technology increasingly become a counter-balancing expression of the inner and outer human condition. As to the eschatology of the geek rapture... the technological reckoning... we could take a page from the ancient Gnostic’s view of the apocalypse… Let us all pull together to create a technological singularity that facilitates that steady increase of light through which darkness is made to disappear. Let us co-create a future when iniquity dissolves... just as the smoke rising into the air eventually dissipates. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Open Internet Is Essential to a Free Internet: Why Net Neutrality Should Matter To Everyone!

Right now the FCC is considering a set of rules that would allow Internet providers to offer faster access to some websites that can afford to pay.  We need to stop them.

Let’s start with the obvious: The Internet is how we communicate and how we work, learn new things, and find out where to go and how to get there. It keeps us connected to those we love and informed of political events that affect our everyday lives.

At EFF, we have fought for almost 25 years to protect a free and open Internet.  We depend on the Internet for everything we do, from our efforts to reform broken copyright laws, to our ongoing battles to end the NSA’s illegal mass surveillance.  More fundamentally, we know that the open Internet makes possible not just our activism, but the work of many others around the world.

That’s why we’re fighting tooth and nail to defend a concept known as net neutrality. Net neutrality means that Internet providers should treat all data that travels over their networks equally, rather than slowing down or even blocking access to sites of their choosing.

Good net neutrality rules would forbid Internet providers from discriminating against sites that cannot afford to pay a toll for preferential treatment, or sites that are critical of Internet providers or undermine their business models.

Join us as we call on the FCC to do the right thing: treat all traffic that travels over the Internet equally. The Internet is our future. It’s how we communicate, innovate, and organize to better our world. Take action now, before it’s too late!

Note: This article originally appeared on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website. Complete article here.

The FCC has asked for public comment on new rules about net neutrality. Use the EFF's handy on-line form, found here, to contact the FCC & give them the direction they so desperately need! Do it today!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Singularity as Antichrist - Part 2

"Tudásszomj" by Sipos Ferenc.

Is technological singularity the long-anticipated, AI driven, yet zealously prophesized end of the world as we know it? Are we about to enter into a “rise of the machines” version of the apocalypse? Can an eschatological spin be put upon the human/machine dichotomy to suggest some messiah/antichrist geek rapture? …or is this just more of the same apocalyptic fever?

In our first installment, we investigated the hypothesis that the exponentially accelerating evolution of technologies such as artificial intelligence will soon cause non-human intelligence to exceed human intelligence. The singularity camp contends that when we reach this omega point… this timewave zero… circa: 2045ce… the human era ends. The emerging AI entity that brings about this epoch ending event will likely be a sentient network of technology, such as the World Wide Web.

We further explored the “Big Three” desert religion’s preoccupation with the Messiah/Antichrist eschatology and overlaid this mythology upon technological singularity. If singularity is indeed the event prophesized in the Old Testament and elsewhere, who or what would be the personification of this event? For entertainment’s sake, let us propose a symbolically potent candidate.

The Fruit of Knowledge
The Apple 1 computer went on sale in July, 1976. The initial units were hand-built by Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak. Approx. 200 units were assembled in the first 10 months and were sold with a price tag of… $666.66 each. The original Apple Logo featured Sir Isaac Newton, the last great magician, sitting under the proverbial apple tree. Interestingly, in a manuscript he wrote in 1704, Newton describes his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible, wherein he estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060.

Newton’s eschatology aside, the broader connotation of the apple tree, is its association with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This is, of course, the tree situated in the Garden of Eden, which, it turns out, is co-inhabited by that rascally old trickster, the serpent. After some spirited discourse, the serpent convinces Eve and Adam to eat the fruit of knowledge. This enrages the local Deity, Yahweh who sends down an Angel with a flaming sword to evict the impertinent first human couple.

And so out our mythical progenitors go… into the cold, hard world… to find their own way.

Almost immediately after introducing the Apple 1, Steve Jobs replaced the “Newton” logo with the rainbow apple. Those of you who know ancient Hebrew mythology will remember that the rainbow was sent to Adam’s direct descendant, Noah, as a sign that “never again” would his angry God destroy the Earth… but I digress.

As you know, the now-famous apple logo has a bite taken out of it. The bite out of apple’s logo signifies knowledge stolen from an angry and deranged God, as offered to humanity by the snake, or the old wisdom, which was entwined around the tree of life.

John Sculley, the executive of the Apple Company from 1983-93, was asked about his thoughts on the logo. He answered: "One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge bitten into… all crossed with the colors of rainbow in the wrong order. And you couldn't dream of more appropriate logo pointing (toward) lust, knowledge, hope and anarchy.”

Culture historian,Theodore Roszak made the point that the Apple Computers emerged, from within the west-coast counter culture. It is widely held that Steve Jobs was an “Acid Head” …in that he not only used LSD-25, he advocated it’s use for deep, personal processing and introspection.

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important… creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”

- Steve Jobs

The Anthropologist, Jeremy Narby said in his book “The Cosmic Serpent” states that select plants, carefully prepared, communicate directly with humanity through imagery, feelings and language, during Ayahuasca ritual sessions. The hallucinogenic thorn apples, the fruit of the Datura Plant, might be the real fruit from the 'Tree of Knowledge', from the Garden of Eden mythology. He further stated that the hallucinogenic drug has a long history of getting the user in contact with the Cosmic Serpent.

Eight Circuits
But more interestingly, let us the look at the stolen bite… or more significantly, the byte… in the Apple's Logo…

The byte is a unit of digital information in computing and telecommunications that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer.

8 (Eight) bits… equates to one binary digit, which can be used to represent… two states of information...


The more bytes, more intelligence, the more information you can store or process faster.

Thus does the Byte of intelligence align with the ancient “law of eights” as illustrated in everything from the musical octave, the i-ching’s eight bagua, to Dr. Leary’s Leary’s Eight Circuits of Consciousness. In this way, computer science, through its smallest symbol of communication, aligns with humanity’s most ancient eight-fold quest for knowledge. Computers become the most recent artifacts of intelligence.

The binary nature of ignorance/knowledge… on/off… yin/yang… good vs evil… brings us back to the topic at hand… Singularity as Antichrist. Humanity’s original sin has progressed, as told through the medium of myth, from the Garden to technology run-amok. It is the same fear of the snake that invokes dread in “the coming” of technological singularity.

No single tech company can better represent the current state of humanity’s technological advances, than Apple, Inc. Apple is the epitome, the apex of human’s quest for knowledge… technologically, culturally and symbolically. Nobody does it better than Apple… the “Prometheus” of the tech world.

What does all of this have to do with the Antichrist? I don’t know… yet. I’ll have to ponder these questions for a... bit. In our next installment, we will more fully examine how computers, as an artifact of humanity, could be equated with ancient prophecy. Stay (i) tuned.

Note: Much of the material herein was inspired by and taken from materials presented by  vishanth V Panakkal

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Singularity as Antichrist - Part 1

So our old friend Technological Singularity continues to be of eschatological interest here at tek-gnostics. It was the Godfather’s Michael Corleone who said… “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Like a bad penny, singularity rears its cybernetic head once again. We have examined singularity from the perspective of pop culture, as well as from more esoteric points of view. From an earlier post

Like religion, singularity inspires a sense of foreboding among the partially informed. People read an excerpt from Vernor Vinge discussing the end of the human era and think… oh my god… apocalypse now!!! The concept of apocalypse has been with us as far back as human history goes… and will continue to be part of our collective psyche as evidenced by the singularity concept itself. The end will always be near. Once we find our way past the singularity event horizon, we will be anticipating the next post-singularity event, and so on, ad infinitum.

As we had further pointed out in that post, “Riding along-side apocalypse is the companion horseman known as Armageddon. Many religious sects believe in a last battle between good and evil, at… or as a result… of apocalypse. The final conflict is known as Armageddon or the end-time.”  The big three desert religions (Judaism, Christianity & Islam) all contain very colorful depictions of "end-times prophecy" including a final, global, redemptive war.

In those mythologies, the personification of good is often described as the Messiah or savior, who, it was prophesized, would liberate the chosen few in those end-times. The Messiah’s figurative twin, the accompanying personification of evil, is likewise depicted as the false messiah or Antichrist.

In an exceedingly interesting exchange of ideas, over at one of our favorite blogs: Groupname for Grapejuice, a comment was posted by (that rascally persona) anonymous, stating that:

“I just wanted to bring up something I've been thinking about and I thought if anyone would be able to find a deeper revelation to it, it would be you.” (here “anonymous is speaking to Znore, the blog’s author and moderator – Ed) “You've mentioned before about the giant baby face that was displayed at the London Olympics, and the idea that it was representing the Antichrist, or preferably, the son of perdition being born in 2012. The common belief is that Yeshua was 33 years old when He was crucified (which is not stated in the Bible and is obviously an esoteric number). Also according to popular belief, the Antichrist is supposed to be similar to Yeshua, as represented by the White Horse in Revelation (again something I don't believe, but is strongly held by a large majority of "Christians"). Anyways, 33 years after 2012 is 2045, Ray Kurzweil's sacred year of the singularity. And of course 2+4+5=11, another esoteric number. Revelation 13:15 says "And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." That sounds a lot like some sort of artificial intelligence to me.”

Wicked, right? So… The technological singularity camp declares that when we reach that moment… (approx. 2045, CE) the human era ends. The emerging AI entity will likely be a sentient network of technology, such as the World Wide Web 2.0

 …So putting an eschatological spin on technological singularity… the Messiah is considered as the archetypical man, the redeemer or Christ figure. A sentient AI or computer network would be about as opposite as you can get from the redeemer. This non-human intelligence thus becomes the false messiah or Antichrist. This tech-driven prophecy certainly puts a new face on fundamentalist Eschatology. The rise of artificial sentience as antichrist, conjures vivid man vs machine imagery, ala the Terminator franchise.

Some contend that messiah and antichrist are two aspects of the same phenomenon. Light vs darkness… yin vs yang. In this regard, AI or non-human intelligence counter-balances human or biological intelligence.

Or is this just more of the same apocalyptic fever?

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this most fascinating of topics. Please add your opinion using the comments feature at the bottom of this post…

You can review our exploits concerning singularity HERE