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What’s the size of an artificial mind?

November 25, 2012

Our mind is not just the brain — it’s also our body with all our senses and ways of communicating.

Now this is one question that has intrigued me for some time, and I think I have a good and quite simple answer.

I’ve already made it quite clear that I believe that we will be able to create human like artificial intelligence — strong AI — within a couple of decades, and that there will be artificial intelligence far greater than that of humans after that, in every sense — intellectual, emotional, intuitive…

In an earlier post I also tried to draw a picture of what super intelligence would be like — with a human like pattern recognition and associative capacity but at a much larger scale, with tons of information from crowds of sensors, and huge amounts of stored data in all forms — big data.

But what I’ve found difficult to understand is how large such an artificial mind could be. Or what would actually delineate it.

Some expect a human like mind to arise from internet’s complexity, and you could get that feeling reading about the fascinating photo journalism project The Human Face of Big Data.

During research for the project, photojournalist Rick Smolan was told byMarissa Mayer, now Yahoo’s CEO, that big data is ‘like watching the planet develop a nervous system.’

Smolan himself later said ‘It’s like watching the planet wake up.’

Even though I doubt that an artificial mind will arise without us actively creating it, the question is whether it could really become that big. One global mind extending itself everywhere on earth.

Or whether it would be conceivable with lots of small minds in a computer system, interacting within the system, maybe merging and separating, flowing from one point to another? The Ghost in the Machine.

In a few words — where’s the border of a mind? What’s it’s size? And how do you delineate it?

Well, I believe the answer is quite simple. It all comes down to one thing — which sensors and means of communication it is in control of.

In the end that is what defines a human mind. We’re not just a brain. We’re a body, with all its senses and ways of communicating with the world around us. And a lot of the brain’s activity is about caring for the whole body, listening to it, making sure it feels good. And there’s also the aspect of systems in the body substantially influencing the human mind.

Obviously an artificial mind will also need sensors and ways to communicate. Most probably these sensors and means of communication will interact with the mind and be a part of it. And just like in humans they will be the natural delineation of the mind, defining where it reaches.

Sounds clear? Well, I don’t think it really is.

Because what we might think of is a mind with a fixed number of sensors and communication tools — a mind which grows and develops gradually with its experiences, like humans. But you could also imagine a highly flexible system capable of adapting very quickly to a varying number of sensors and communication tools while keeping a stable conscious core handling all these fluctuations.

What I’m trying to say is that we should not be surprised at anything. It’s just our fantasy that puts limits on how far artificial intelligence will go.

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