Sunday, July 13, 2008

Freedom From Memory & How Google Makes Us Stupid
"Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”

I can feel it, too.

I’m haunted by that scene in 2001. What makes it so poignant, and so weird, is the computer’s emotional response to the disassembly of its mind: its despair as one circuit after another goes dark, its childlike pleading with the astronaut—“I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid”—and its final reversion to what can only be called a state of innocence. HAL’s outpouring of feeling contrasts with the emotionlessness that characterizes the human figures in the film, who go about their business with an almost robotic efficiency. Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they’re following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.
(I've been thinking the same as more and more of my interactions are conducted with multi-tasking pancake people. The above is excerpted from a recommended article by Nicholas Carr in The Atlantic. Read the rest.)


Vincent said...

interesting article. I was planning to order a DVD of 2001 to watch it again, but this changes my mind! Through Damasio and my own introspection I realize that a thinking machine makes no sense, even less an emotional thinking machine. Because it is our sense of body, and the playing out of emotions in the viscera & elsewhere through chemical & neural messages, that enable us to think humanly.

MarcLord said...


various technical philosophers have argued that machines will become emotional, that the states of emotion are no less real for the lack of viscera. Ray Kurzweil ("The Singularity is Near") argues that machine and man are melding. I see machines more as a projection of human viscera and intentions, and that it is us who will impart our emotions to machines.