The Dawn of Industry

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Dawn of Industry is generally a description between Computationalism and Embodied Cognition.

The story takes place in remote Greenland. A group of scientists are trying to create Strong AI. There is a flashback on a disagreement between the scientists on which cognitive paradigm they should follow. This all takes place under a critique of man's current technological endeavors with respect to our environment as a whole.

Submitted: June 26, 2011

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Submitted: June 26, 2011

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It is so cold.

It is that strange kind of cold that seems to have momentum from being sub-freezing all year long. The wind pierces the skin of your face with such force that a more primitive culture may anthropomorphize it as a kind of spirit.

It is cold. Cold and beautiful. Greenland is one of the few places left for human industry to clumsily cover and choke. From standing on this landing the one visible road is the only sign of human industry. It sneaks through the hills and mountains as if it were afraid of this land and climate.

In so many parts of the world our industry and technology simply informs our world what great feats we will be performing, and sometimes we do not even inform. We simply do it. Here the road seems to be asking this land if it can exist. It seems timid amidst landscape that scarcely recognizes its presence. What concern is a road that is just a few decades old to such a titan as a mountain?

“Kristof, where are you? ... Can you hear me?” My walkie-talkie squeaks as if it were emanating from an invisible veil separating me from this landscape.

It was Julia. So young. So ambitious. Maybe it is blind ambition. She almost seemed to enjoy the game of corporate politics more than the research.

Her vast experimental experience notwithstanding, Julia's professional anecdotes were filled more with names of those in managerial positions than those in the field. Others noticed and mentioned it of course. However, never in her presence. Instead, the conversations became awkward with hypocrisy as most would express fervor in her kind of connections. I fully believe she was aware of this situation, and manipulated it to her professional advantage.

“It can't be the pattern and algorithms of growth.” was what she said when the experimental results became extremely divergent approximately two years ago.

“They were guaranteed to work. We just need more substrate. The synthesis needs more room. Then it will have the power it is lacking.”

“It will not solve our issue. The flaw is fundamental.” I would say

“I know you are worried about asking for greater resources from back home. That is why I have already requisitioned for them. I have been promised it would be approved as long as you sign.”

I perceived intrigue in her face when I expected contempt. There was never any doubt of her intelligence.

“Julia. The problem is not in the size of the networks. We both know the structure is within range of matching the structure of all our test subjects. Many are now beginning to exceed them. The problem is in our interfacing of the peripheral systems.”

I never found it appealing that I had to explain these flaws to my colleagues. I can excuse the cultural attachment to an antiquated paradigm. Cultures change slowly, and almost only when the new paradigm is shown to be vastly more useful in industry or politics. What is difficult to excuse is the attachment on an individual level. I know it comes from lack of exposure, but lack of exposure, in this case, comes from lack of curiosity. I have in the past been able to steer programs away from the old paradigm using my expertise. However, here I seemed to be the minority. Now that we have problems people will be more open to a shift in perspective.

“We can not just attach the peripherals in a non-trivial fashion. They are not tools as they have been described as being. Tools exist underneath our mode of environmental interaction. They need to be responsible for the modalities not subjugated to them. It is too dichotomous. Computationalism does not work. We need to develop embodiment.”

“Kristof, this is not research into your philosophy. It is research in cognitive science in general.”

I noticed the subtle use of into versus in, assuming no one else did, as a personal jousting invitation the likes of which I was unsure of wether or not to involve myself.

“Every philosophy is a kind of proto cognitive science.”

Edward chimed in: “Kristof, you have accomplished some amazing feats within this field. Perhaps more than any of us. However, yours will not be the only expertise we will rely on. It can't be. There is too much time and money at stake here.”

“Yes!” I said “Time and money that we have been wasting! I do not need you to trust me. Just look at the research I have been involved with. Embodied Cognition works, and that is why I was hired to this facility. You know that.”

The neural colony had been growing quite easily and rapidly. This was the easy part for it used proven technology. The problem arose when we would try to connect it to external neural and artificial circuitry. For, what good is a brain without a body; without intimate interaction with the environment.

We would attach artificial eyes that were fully functioning. They were of the same type currently being used in prosthetic cases. In fact, all of the non-organic peripherals were bought from medical prosthetic manufacturers. This promised a much easier integration with our grown central nervous system which was modeled after a human's CNS.

Once portions of our CNS, say the one responsible for the eye, were fully developed we would align our artificial eye with the appropriate neurons and stimulate new growth. The result was always the same although some would claim to recognize improvement. There would be the initial chaotic thunderstorm of activity which happens in the first few hundred milliseconds of any neural resonance pattern. However, it would dissipate immediately like a cheap firework. No long term resonance whatsoever had ever been achieved.

It was almost as if it didn't even know the peripherals were there from then on. Not as if it were rejecting the prosthetics, which sometimes happens during physical therapy of human prosthetic patients. It was worse. Almost as if they had not even been unwrapped from their initial packaging.

Anyway, that was ancient history. Two years is a long long time with the research budget we have behind us.

My new design had worked. It was no longer a matter of worrying if the prosthetics would work after attachment. The CVS and peripherals were grown at the same time, and in a stimulus rich environment.

It was not easy convincing everyone of how much had to be re-designed and redone. Not, because of how much it would cost, but because of how much was already spent. For if I were right, it meant years of wasted resources.

I was right. Eric and I had to even go to a board meeting and pander to the stockholders on how mistakes in research were not only inevitable but necessary.

I am always reminded of this period in our research when contemplating the juxtaposition of the two worlds of industry and nature being alien to each other. I am surprised I had not recognized the metaphor before.

We will realize much more potential when we realize how to foster the interactions which exista prior instead of trying to invent new cognitive modalities.

That is where the apologetics of the road come from. Instead of coming out of the ground as did the rest of this land, it was laid on top of it. This road appears to be an infantile ambition when surrounded by such environmental intimacy.

I seem to be making more and more excuses to come outside here and just stare. It is curious that now I live in such an inhospitable place I spend more time outside and looking at the landscape than I ever did when I lived in America. Is it the natural beauty or the hostility I enjoy most?

“Anybody, where is Kristof?”

I would be disappointed to have to turn away from such ancient majesty if I weren't turning toward an even more majestic and inviting environment.

“Kristof, there you are. Get in here. Everyone is waiting on you and they are getting impatient.”

Everyone was in Lab Omega. 'Lab Omega'. My colleagues pretensions were so prevalent they showed up in room names and were written on the walls to remind of whom I was working with.

“There he is.”

“We wanted you to have first exposure since it is your design.”

“Your baby.”

“Only the technicians have been in there, but not around the eyes.”

The entire assembly was housed in a dull room with a few obtuse objects scattered around the floor. They were not very complex and no one was yet allowed in as movement was considered to be overstimulating at first.

Its growth was exponential. Slow at first. It took five months for 50% of the structure to develop. 80% was achieved after another month. We had reached 80% four days ago. That is when the lights were turned down somewhat, and movement within eyesight of the subject was not allowed. It was decided to inverse the environmental exposure with the sophistication of the network.

It was not my idea.

I opened the door and entered the room with my colleagues standing in the doorway. The eyes were already browsing in my direction as I walked toward its gaze.

It must have heard the door.

The light level and light sources which output the full spectrum of visible light made it feel like dawn.

As I entered its gaze it locked onto my location and followed until I stood in the middle of the room. Its limbs were still moving around. Not dissimilar to the way a baby moves when placed on their back.

“You can not understand me, yet.”

Its limbs immediately stopped moving.

“My name is Kristof. In the future, some may call me one of your fathers because I allowed my neural structure to be mapped and used in your synthesis.”

“I have been given the honor of welcoming you into existence.”

“Now, allow me to introduce you to the rest of your family.”

...

It seems industry and technology will no longer have need to ask or tell nature anything. For, from now on it will simply be nature.


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