Friday, July 31, 2009

Thinking about thinking...

Humanity, if we give it a half of a thought, is such a loosely-coupled system. The evolution of human thought goes forward in leaps and bounds because every single "thinking unit", in order to produce _anything_ more or less valuable, should first spend some amount of time picking up the existing knowledge (and nevertheless, there are still endless rows of reinvented bicycles in any chosen area). No guarantee that the knowledge you or I pick up is exactly the very knowledge we need. Thanks to Internet and searching engines, what used to be an art (remember the stories involving a scientist or writer looking for a key, spending nights in libraries and then accidentally glimpsing upon the very reference he or she needed to break through?..) becomes more and more a technology, a routine.

Is it good or bad? Every time a certain activity becomes more predictable, it looses some of its charms. Learning how to produce the fire at dawn of human history might have been a thrashing experience, an adventure in itself, a part of a rite passage into the realm of the adults. No adventure in lighting a match or a lighter nowadays (unless it's a child who accidentally puts the house on fire, of course - but safety devices evolve as well!) So, is it already written upon the invisible walls that there will be no adventure in scientific research, either? So much that we will be able to give it away to the machines, let them chew information and milk them for the useful results? What about us, the self-proclaimed kings of nature? Lots of confusion arises as soon as more and more people begin to realize that more possibilities will bring not only quantitative, but also qualitative changes in the way we live.

Will it mean that the way humans are evaluated will change? Why do we have a high estimation for philosophers, writers et cetera? Because of their possibility to evaluate information and make links between pieces which have not been obvious to the rest of us, until those enlightened have pointed it out? Because of them creating works of art which create a strong resonance in the recipients? How much of this will get "outsourced" to the artificially created information processing units?..

Of course, there is one thing which is never unnecessary to point out. The machines ,both hardware and software, are not a manifestation of an alien mind. They are nothing more than a summary and a quintessence of our own mind, - we are those who created them all. Nothing more than a codified experience of humankind, the very experience which until lately have been transferred only via painful learning process for every single human being.

Still, it concerns me that the young people of today learn how to use Google for their schoolwork bypassing the own thinking about the results. It can bring a scary situation, with the young generation becoming like monkeys using the machines where the experience of an older generation is stored, without actually understanding it. How real is this threat, is difficult to tell. There is no similar experience in human history; we can try to produce mental models of the possible outcomes in the novels and movies, but in the reality the only thing we can do is to observe, to think, and, may be, to act if we will feel like it...

Will all people become eventually united into a sort of huge network, therefore making sure that not a single experience gets lost? But how to ensure that this experience is passed on? To read about something will not produce an adequate responce unless you had a similar experience yourself - the words are often used as reminders rather than descriptors. Is it a reason why history tends to repeat itself from time to time? Would there be a chance to eliminate it (with virtual reality experiences, for example? What are our dreams -especially the "scary" ones - as not a sort of virtual reality experience either? And yet the dreams can influence the way we live...)

Still, it feels so interesting to see where the things are going...

1 comment:

Ron C. de Weijze said...

Youth should never be forced to think about thinking like we felt we were. Although everything can be caught in pragmatics, semantics and syntax, thinking itself will always be the hardest to capture as-is. On the other hand, nobody eager to unravel the mystery in her or his own way, no matter at what age (of mankind), should be kept from it, for it helps in the advancement of at least those philosophers, yours truly at least.