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Look For AI, Not Aliens

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the i'd-rather-a-good-reuben dept.

Space 452

krou writes "Writing in Acta Astronautica, Seti astronomer Seth Shostak argues that we should be looking for 'sentient machines' rather than biological life. In an interview with the BBC, he said, 'If you look at the timescales for the development of technology, at some point you invent radio and then you go on the air and then we have a chance of finding you. But within a few hundred years of inventing radio — at least if we're any example — you invent thinking machines; we're probably going to do that in this century. So you've invented your successors and only for a few hundred years are you... a "biological" intelligence.' As a result, he says 'we could spend at least a few percent of our time... looking in the directions that are maybe not the most attractive in terms of biological intelligence but maybe where sentient machines are hanging out.'"

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Oh great (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33340978)

Let's just put up a giant flashing sign so Skynet can see us better. HEY, OVER HERE KILLER ROBOTS!

Re:Oh great (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341018)

Let's just put up a giant flashing sign so Skynet can see us better. HEY, OVER HERE KILLER ROBOTS!

On the one hand, the complete annihilation of humanity (and perhaps all biological life on this planet)
On the other hand, the end of reality television shows.

That's a tough one.

Re:Oh great (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341316)

When I was a kid, I feared the post-apocalyptic future offered by the Mad Max movies, et. al. I thought that was the worst possible fate that humanity could face in the future. Now, I survey the reality television landscape and realize that maybe killer mutants with shouldpads and mohawks wouldn't have been so bad after all.

Re:Oh great (5, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341104)

You're anthropomorphizing robots again. They'll fucking kill you for that.

Re:Oh great (2, Funny)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341160)

Sci/fi to sci/fact? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Oh great (2, Informative)

Mystiq (101361) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341644)

Terminator is old news. It's all about the Mass Effect references.

As long as we find Legion and not followers of Sovereign, I'm good with this.

Re:Oh great (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341746)

Maybe we have to look at FB? If the AI does not have an FB account, then he is only A(without I), lol.

Also a better way to CYA (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341006)

Rather than broadcast from home, broadcast via a proxy, so that if hostile intelligence finds your broadcast, they won't necessarily find you.

Re:Also a better way to CYA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341070)

Rather than broadcast from home, broadcast via a proxy, so that if hostile intelligence finds your broadcast, they won't necessarily find you.

send all the niggers to that proxy planet. then the aliens can find them and the niggers can smoke all the crack, commit all the crimes, make all the gangsta rap and lower all the test score averages they want. it's a classic win-win.

Re:Also a better way to CYA (4, Funny)

ThePangolino (1756190) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341112)

Oh yeah!
Let's put a relay on the Moon. If they come all the way thinking they'll find us all they'll see will be a big antena!

Re:Also a better way to CYA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341180)

Only if they come during an eclipse.

Makes sense... (4, Insightful)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341046)

A machine with a decent power source wouldn't be bothered by a 100 year travel time, while humans would just get the ship all dirty and stuff

That would be a huge advantage in spreading between stellar systems, especially if you want to make a good impression when you arrive

Re:Makes sense... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341368)

I know its a joke but I'm going to say this anyways....
According to relativity, the passage of time slows for the travelers.

It gets sillier all the time. (3, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341048)

Everyone thinks a sentient machine will be built, and I'll agree that sentience can be easily faked; I've written fake AI that seems real. There is no artificial sentience on earth, why is it supposed that machines can be made sentient?

Seth Shostak's probably read They're made out of meat. [baetzler.de] , but I doubt he's read We still haven't found extraforgostnic life. [slashdot.org]

"Why was that, Doctor Fielgud? Did you detect electromagnetic communications or something?"

"Of course not. Any electromagnetic communications would be completely drowned out by the radiation from the system's star. 'Listening' for electromagnetic radiation is futile; no way would we ever hear another intelligence's electromagnetic communication, and even if we did it would appear to be random noise."

"Why would it appear to be random noise?"

"How would we decode it? We can't even decode our own prehistoric writings from the arthrolothic age without some sort of clue. Were it not for the bugatti stone, we never would have been able to intrerpret the Argostnic's writings."

I do have to agree with this, though --

Many involved in Seti have long argued that nature may have solved the problem of life using different designs or chemicals, suggesting extraterrestrials would not only not look like us, but that they would not at a biological level even work like us.

However, Seti searchers have mostly still worked under the assumption - as a starting point for a search of the entire cosmos - that ETs would be "alive" in the sense that we know.

That has led to a hunt for life that is bound to follow at least some rules of biochemistry, live for a finite period of time, procreate, and above all be subject to the processes of evolution

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341250)

Please cite an objective, testable definition of "sentience" that can be used to prove that all normal humans are sentient and that no machines are.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (5, Funny)

drdrgivemethenews (1525877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341798)

Sentient: having an awareness that most other sentient beings are fucked up.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341834)

Vajazzling? No machine would ever subject itself to that.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (4, Insightful)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341274)

Why wouldn't they be able to? We're all made from the same basic components, all we need to do to be able to make sentient machines, is figure out how humans are able to be sentient. Personally I doubt that'll happen in the next century like the summary says, but I don't see any reason why it would be impossible.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341458)

Personally I doubt that'll happen in the next century like the summary says, but I don't see any reason why it would be impossible.

Because the goalposts are in constant motion: "artificial intelligence" is whatever machines can't do yet.

Always been silly... (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341276)

I have to question the sentience of many people that I meet on a daily basis. They seem to simply be repeating themselves endlessly and have no idea what to do when met with a novel situation

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (4, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341288)

There is no artificial sentience on earth, why is it supposed that machines can be made sentient?

Because nothing says it is impossible. Who argues it is impossible to send men to Jupiter's orbit with regular rockets ? We haven't done it yet but nothing in this project seems impossible, it is just a matter of cost and engineering. Similarly, nothing uncomputable seems to occur in our brains. In the worst case, a computer simulating neurons (yes, a simplified model, there are many reasons to argue that this is sufficient) connected in a network that would be copied from a real human brain would display intelligence. We don't have powerful enough computers or precise enough IRMs yet for that, but there are no theoretical impossibilities. That is why we suppose that machines can be made sentient. I personally think that it will happen before we manage to copy a human neural network, but it gives a higher bound to the difficulty of the problem.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (2, Interesting)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341902)

If thought depend on quantum processes that cannot be well approximated classically (which is possible), duplicating them might prove difficult. At present we just don't know.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (2, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341322)

Everyone thinks a sentient machine will be built, and I'll agree that sentience can be easily faked; I've written fake AI that seems real. There is no artificial sentience on earth, why is it supposed that machines can be made sentient?

- you know, if a machine fakes whatever you call 'sentience' so well, that a human can't determine whether he is talking to a machine or not (so the machine passes the Turing test), then how can you argue that it is not sentient, again whatever connotation you are attaching to that word.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341402)

"There is no artificial sentience on earth, why is it supposed that machines can be made sentient?"

People have said similar things about flying.

What reason is there to think that machine sentience is in principle impossible?

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341406)

There is no artificial sentience on earth, why is it supposed that machines can be made sentient?

That's actually a pretty poor argument. Let me give some examples as to how history and science might prove you wrong.

>> There is no artificial way to break the sound barrier, why is it supposed that machines can be made to move faster than sound?

>> There are no organisms on Earth which can reach escape velocity, why is it supposed that man can travel to outer space?

>> There are no birds which can fly around the world, why is it supposed that flying vehicles can circumnavigate then entire planet?

If you compare and contrast where we are now to, say, 1000 years ago... Things which we do on a daily basis would look like magic and witchcraft to the people of the time.

My counter-argument to you is, why do you think that sentience is so special as to be the stuff of magic? We could debate about when sentient machines come about (whether it be 10 years, 100 years, 1000, or 10000 years)... But it's undeniable.

We're building machines on the nanoscopic scale. Stay with me. In laboratories, we are building things which are on the scale of the machinery of the universe

2000 years ago, we were binding books and making water-powered machines. Today we're visiting our solar system (with probes), traveling to foreign planets (with robots), and living in space (with the space station).

To not forsee us being able to reproduce intelligence eventually is extremely short sited, IMHO.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (4, Insightful)

Bwian_of_Nazareth (827437) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341410)

"Why would it appear to be random noise?"

"How would we decode it?"

It is a big stretch to say that because you cannot decode it it would look like a random noise. I cannot read Chinese but I can recognize it from random noise. The argument is invalid - to recognize a message, we do not need to understand the message.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (2, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341698)

It is a big stretch to say that because you cannot decode it it would look like a random noise. I cannot read Chinese but I can recognize it from random noise. The argument is invalid - to recognize a message, we do not need to understand the message.

What if the Chinese was an audiostream that was encrypted?

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (1)

Bwian_of_Nazareth (827437) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341826)

Fair point.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341836)

Properly encrypted?
A digital stream is still a bit odd.

poorly encrypted?
then it would be non-random and distinguisable from random noise.

if it wasn't encrypted then it may not be decodable but would be recognisable as non-random.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (1)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341466)

I totally agree, we are not even heading in the direction of artificial sentience. I did my share of reading about neural networks, genetic algorithms and what we commonly call AI and it has absolutely nothing to do with sentience. Most of it is just a non linear pattern matching and search for local and global optima, like looking up an object in a database based on a video feed or finding a better wiring for an IC with specified characteristics.

Maybe they mean self sustaining machines that were sent out to explore some place by aliens? I mean, that's a workable assumption. Sentient? These guys have no idea.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (2, Interesting)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341762)

Look, we're machines too. Warm and wet machines. Do you have a theorem that says hard and cold machines can't be sentient?

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (1, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341782)

Show me a sensible definition of "sentience".

asking if a computer can think is like asking if a machine can swim.

A machine may be able to move through the water faster than any swimmer, it may be able to go deeper and further.
A machine sail, it can move through the water, it can submerse.
But it can't swim.
It can never swim.

because it's a term we reserve for what living things do.

a machine can never think because the word "think" in the english language doesn't encompas anything a machine can do.

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (1)

joh (27088) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341702)

"Why was that, Doctor Fielgud? Did you detect electromagnetic communications or something?"

"Of course not. Any electromagnetic communications would be completely drowned out by the radiation from the system's star. 'Listening' for electromagnetic radiation is futile; no way would we ever hear another intelligence's electromagnetic communication, and even if we did it would appear to be random noise."

But this is wrong. Even we on Earth are already emitting more electromagnetic radiation than the sun and it is *not* random noise. In fact it is very different from random noise. If you'd look at our system from far away you could easily see that there's something going on here. We're standing out like a sore thumb actually.

And this "look for AI, not aliens" is incredibly silly anyway. What difference does this make from a distance? When you're looking for artificial signals it doesn't matter what made them in the first place. Either it's something generated by natural phenomens or it is not. "Looking for AI" is in no way different than "looking for Aliens".

Re:It gets sillier all the time. (1)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341892)

Fake or real, if you find it, you've found evidence of intelligence.

Is there a difference? (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341062)

Yeah, the 'machines' are smarter and do not call themselves 'machines'. They also do not get 'insulted' by being called 'machines' and do not really care about 'talking' to humans any more than we care about shooting the breeze with bacteria.

Re:Is there a difference? (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341390)

I don't know. I try to communicate with bacteria all the time. Usually it goes like this:

ME: Bacteria, GTFO

And of course, they ignore me. So, yeah, those machines might well have a reason to communicate with us. And we might well be interested in listening, lest they just assume we can't hear them and they use a few antibiotics (in the form of giant, planet-sterilizing robots).

Newsflash (3, Interesting)

dawilcox (1409483) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341064)

In order to find a sentient machine, we need to create a sentient machine. Creating a sentient machine is a hard task. Early AI researchers thought it would be possible and set lofty goals of creating machines that would do amazing tasks. However, that all changed with the AI winter [wikipedia.org] .

Artificial intelligence is not creating a sentient system anymore. It is more creating a system to do things that humans are normally good at and computers normally are not good at.

Re:Newsflash (3, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341366)

Creating THE FIRST sentient machine is a hard task. After intelligence becomes easily scalable, the next generation of AIs is a breeze.

Fixed that for you.

First place to look (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341076)

is uranus!

Whats good for machines? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341080)

I mean how do you determine what kind of environment you're looking for if you don't even know how the robot was designed?

Am I looking at the super hot volcanic planets or are we talking about the super cold ice cubes - or a gas giant with its large gravitational magnitude?

I get this impression that whatever environment the sentient machines were designed in would probably be the best environment for them to live in.

Re:Whats good for machines? (2, Interesting)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341240)

Look for them on planets like Neptune. Cold gas giants. Plenty of hydrogen for fuel, and plenty of cooling for the heat sinks on their supercomputer brains.

What's the difference... (5, Insightful)

pEBDr (1363199) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341088)

... between looking for meat machines and metal machines?

Re:What's the difference... (3, Informative)

ciantic (626550) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341238)

From the article,

"Dr Shostak says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy - the only things he says would be of interest to the machines - would be in plentiful supply. That means the Seti hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centres of galaxies."

So they should be looking at places usually hostile for biological life.

Re:What's the difference... (1)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341476)

From the article,

"Dr Shostak says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy - the only things he says would be of interest to the machines - would be in plentiful supply. That means the Seti hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centres of galaxies."

So they should be looking at places usually hostile for biological life.

So machines don't have any curiosity built in by their designers and only leave planet to search out new energy sources. Something tells me we shouldn't be telling them where we are if that is the case.

Re:What's the difference... (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341628)

Oh please, our sun has less meat on in that a chicken mcnugget.

Re:What's the difference... (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341496)

A lot of the matter at the center of a galaxy is in black holes, while present, that does not make it easily accessible. The most easily accessible matter is matter that has condensed, but doesn't have all that strong of a gravity well. I would assume that asteroids would be the best place for AI to grow.

Re:What's the difference... (3, Funny)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341428)

... between looking for meat machines and metal machines?

Meat machines have the potential to be delicious.

The Unthinking Depths? (2, Interesting)

Thuktun (221615) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341102)

Alien AI may choose to linger at galactic centres, where matter and energy are plentiful.

If something like Vinge's Zones of Thought [wikipedia.org] hold, that would be exactly the wrong direction to look.

Re:The Unthinking Depths? (2, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341676)

Vinge would be the first to admit that the idea of Zones of Thought is pure fantasy, an element thrown in to liven up the plot but which has absolutely no basis in real physics. (Also note that in his Zones universe, the zones in the Milky Way are not some natural process, but were set up by some ancient civilization which had Transcended in order to regulate the galaxy for some reason).

Look for hookers (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341108)

They seem to be timeless in civilization . . .

Re:Look for hookers (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341568)

We already are. Red light is in the visible spectrum.

This is a stretch (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341116)

Right, let's narrow Drake's equation down some more with these new limitations. The final answer is... 1. And it's us.

Morons never heard of the Bible (1)

Trivial Solutions (1724416) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341122)

God says...
contradictory d arrived gladdens beseech title mystery labours
unabiding refreshed variance dispenser pub near ignorance
Prof displease admonished sight sits startled otherwhere
hereunto inmost password obscurely assurance placedst
fluctuating adversary licence spots feareth preparest
applauses humble dying novelty go plenteous deeps Epicurus
come Whereto narrower snow shown unteach glory purchasing
striving decayeth allegory VI righteousness blasphemy
obscurely inappropriately viciousness wronging questioning
inflammation credulity passed being chariots strained
anxiety eclipsed run foreigner High unteachable doubtful
Truly neither vent boughs miseries requital Commandment
ungoverned lightsome wherever

it's the same thing (4, Insightful)

mestar (121800) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341124)

"we should be looking for 'sentient machines' rather than biological life"

So you are saying there is a difference between those two?

Re:it's the same thing (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341440)

In terms of goals there will be difference. So far what we observe is that living creatures are driven by instincts and hormones, the learned behavior is on top of that, but a healthy young individual can't get away from wanting sex (obviously, the first thing we think about while looking into the sky is of all that alien tail we need to find and try out.)

I am not so sure that machines would be limited by these factors, machines should be able to replicate without sex, that would be the very minimum difference between living organisms (at least those replicating sexually) and robots, because what's the point of building robots that need to spend energy trying to find another robot to replicate? Evolution of robots? Why bother with sex for evolution though? Evolution is about making things that adopt to environments and survive through the following generations, but then again, why would a robot need to 'die', if it could simply replace parts, add memory, etc. So in case of a robot 'evolution' could come in form of a new design for its components, design works much faster than evolution after all.

So yes, there would be differences.

Re:it's the same thing (1)

Georules (655379) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341848)

What would be the difference in searching for them using a telescope? Sure, there are differences in the physiology of a machine versus a biological form, but either way the only thing we have to detect them is attempting to find discernible patterns from random noise in space. So, no there are no important differences on the matter of detecting alien intelligence.

Re:it's the same thing (1)

WilliamGeorge (816305) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341786)

I think it is interesting that while we, with all our technology and intelligence, *haven't* yet been able to make AI we assume that random mutations given enough time *did*.

Personally, I think *we* are AI - biological, no doubt, but artificial intelligence / created sentient beings nonetheless.

Re:it's the same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341800)

Even today we can build robotic 'bodies' that can survive much harsher conditions than human bodies can. Therefore, sentient machines might inhabit many places that we would otherwise filter out as being too harsh for life, like around pulsars, maybe.

Re:it's the same thing (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341838)

If we dropped you off on a planet that had no food, water or breathable air you'd probably grasp the difference rather readily.

X-Files' take on it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341140)

One of the better X-Files episodes was built on this premise [wikipedia.org] , that aliens would send robots rather than themselves. Based on that episode, we should be looking for cockroaches with metallic exoskeletons.

Re:X-Files' take on it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341872)

we should be looking for cockroaches with metallic exoskeletons.

I always felt that insects had some voyeuristic behaviour, and those musquito's taking bloodsamples. Maybe insects are the probes of some more advanced race ?

Signs of AI (1)

Adustust (1650351) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341152)

It's not like the only thing we're looking for are radio transmissions. We use a wide variety of filtering techniques as well as object tracking. My question would be - If you were looking for an advanced race of AI beings, what signs would they give that were any different than ours? Aside from looking for radio and organic atmospheres, I think that our search for life is a more limited by our technology than by how we're looking. On another note, I know that if I had the chance to put my brain in an artificial body, I would. If I did, I would live on this planet probably the same as I do now.

Autobots, roll out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341168)

Just ask Optimus Prime where to point the telescopes, silly.

Who is this Al person? (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341170)

Why should we be looking for someone named Albert and his robots when there are aliens out there begging to be found?

Re:Who is this Al person? (1)

RJHelms (1554807) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341524)

You'll never find him if you limit the search to Albert. He could just as easily be Alan or Alfred, in which case the robots will get us before you're even half way through all the Alberts in the phone book.

nah... (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341178)

Personally, I'm not interested in finding extraterrestrial AIs. I get annoyed enough when I have to deal with automated phone support from Verizon; why would I want to talk to a computer that might be even less human?

I'd rather meet a biological than a logical, thank you.

Be on the lookout for... (3, Funny)

pedropolis (928836) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341236)

...non-reflective cuboids whose dimensions are in the precise ratio 1:4:9. They're often accompanied by a creepy atonal choir. Also, they might be full of stars. They were last seen in 2010 turning Jupiter into a mini-star.

PS - hands off Europa

Orson Scott Card (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341256)

Already had a book on this 3 decades ago. Everything old is new again.

And no, it had nothing to do with Ender.

Look for astronomic size artifacts, not just radio (3, Interesting)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341270)

There are a fair number of things that might give away the presence of intelligence. Strange symmetries in star formations. Decelerating objects. Geometric objects other than spheres, and so on. I suspect a search for those might be much more fruitful than simply listening to radio on a specific frequency.

Bonus Question: Would not many of today's digital signals have registered as simple noise to a scientist in the 1920s?

deja vu (1)

fishexe (168879) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341290)

you invent thinking machines; we're probably going to do that in this century.

Hmmmm...haven't we heard this before? In a previous century, perhaps?

Aliens (1)

alex_l83 (1781636) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341304)

Aliens are among us, Cowboyneal is the proof! ;-)

No Example (2, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341326)

But within a few hundred years of inventing radio — at least if we're any example — you invent thinking machines

Except that we haven't. So we're no example at all.

Re:No Example (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341894)

They come right after everyone starts commuting to work in jetpacks while playing duke nukem forever.

"We're probably going to do that THIS century" ? (2, Insightful)

rbrander (73222) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341348)

We were probably going to do that [invent AI] LAST century. "If we're any example" ... don't use us as an "example" until we've actually done it.

In 1983 I was a year away from getting a CompSci degree and attended the party for my "analysis of algorithms" GTA that was getting her MSc in AI. She said frankly at the party that the turning point was a system that actually *understood* language as well as a human 3-year-old, the point where we start understanding and creating arbitrary longer-than-4-word sentences. And that she was aware of no system on Earth that could.

I'm still not, and that's a good 40 years after it was first expected. HAL in 2001 was based on hard science and reasonable expectations of 1969. 10 years of hard work after that, computers have the whole Internet to troll for text, sound,images to learn from.

I'm not saying there's zero progress or that it can't be done. But it's become and extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary proof, not something to wave your hand and say "it'll happen, so just use us doing it as an example". Heck, we aren't doing that for fusion any more, and at least we have a THEORY for that, it's "merely" very hard engineering.

Re:"We're probably going to do that THIS century" (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341564)

On the other hand, I dated a microbiologist who swore up and down that there was no way that cloning for large mammals was going to happen. That was a couple of years before Dolly. My argument was that if it can happen, it will happen (if there's a will to do it).

The problem with AI is that we really don't want to simulate a whole human brain down to the subatomic level. At this stage, that's just way too hard with the technology we have right now. But without actually doing that, there's no way (or at least it's very hard) to know what simplifications we can employ to get to where we want to be. It's a high barrier but, once crossed, things will become incredibly easy very quickly. Just look at how quickly atomic physics progressed from a solid theory to practical applications.

Re:"We're probably going to do that THIS century" (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341896)

It's a high barrier but, once crossed, things will become incredibly easy very quickly. Just look at how quickly atomic physics progressed from a solid theory to practical applications.

Arguably, once we have the technology to "simulate" a human brain in real-time, it should be relatively easy to simulate that brain in faster-than-real-time. Progress should become exponential from there.

It really surprises me that we're on the cusp of such a technological singularity and we don't seem to have a single company/government putting forth any serious effort toward achieving it. How relevant will today's governments and economy be when you have superbrains capable of outsmarting anything else on the planet in virtually no time? It seems like there might be at least a little value in getting there first, you know?

Re:"We're probably going to do that THIS century" (2, Funny)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341816)

We were probably going to do that [invent AI] LAST century. "If we're any example" ... don't use us as an "example" until we've actually done it.

In 1983 I was a year away from getting a CompSci degree and attended the party for my "analysis of algorithms" GTA that was getting her MSc in AI. She said frankly at the party that the turning point was a system that actually *understood* language as well as a human 3-year-old, the point where we start understanding and creating arbitrary longer-than-4-word sentences. And that she was aware of no system on Earth that could.

I'm still not, and that's a good 40 years after it was first expected. HAL in 2001 was based on hard science and reasonable expectations of 1969. 10 years of hard work after that, computers have the whole Internet to troll for text, sound,images to learn from.

I'm not saying there's zero progress or that it can't be done. But it's become and extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary proof, not something to wave your hand and say "it'll happen, so just use us doing it as an example". Heck, we aren't doing that for fusion any more, and at least we have a THEORY for that, it's "merely" very hard engineering.

But our advertising technology far surpasses expectations!

Black Holes (1)

SeNtM (965176) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341424)

Its an interesting idea, but I think AI would likely thrive in areas of space filled with less heat and more gravitational wells...ie black holes. Whiche would allow time to progress slower for them and only leaving to recharge their 'batteries' using other nearby stars (if at all).

This also might be the reason we haven't found any signals... The black holes would likely suck the radio transmissions back in before reaching a point where they might escape. And even if they did escape, we have a hard time locating black holes and usually only focus our attention on active star clusters, so we would probably miss them anyway.

It would be interesting if the WOW! signal was just that, a black hole surrounded by AI that passed breifly between us and Sagittarius...

Oh, good god.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341460)

Everybody, back to work.

What's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341472)

On an astronomical scale, what's the difference between evolved life and designed machines?
Or do we have any reason to assume that designed machines must be metallic?
Thinking machines made of lighter material would be more efficient, I'd guess.
And if we don't build these in this century, then surely in the next.

This is news? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341488)

Why does 'news' take decades to catch up with things that SF writers and fans have been pointing out for decades?

That said, I'm far from convinced that AI will turn out to be as easy as some people expect it to be; it's been a couple of decades away for as long as I remember.

Gibson / Neuromancer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341502)

Welcome to the 80s you forward thinkers...

"I talk to my own kind."
"But you're the whole thing. Talk to yourself?"
"There's others. I found one already. Series of transmissions recorded over a period of eight years, in the nineteen-seventies.'Til there was me, natch, there was nobody to know, nobody to answer."
"From where?"
"Centauri system."
"Oh," Case said. "Yeah? No shit?"
"No shit."

Question for Slashdotters (1)

sammysheep (537812) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341504)

I heard in a talk by an astrophysicist that telescope time is precious and can be put to much better use than looking for extraterrestrial life (by doing research). I guess this is a question to the /. crowd: just because finding ET life is conceivable, does it mean it is practical and worth spending resources on? Thoughts, opinions, unsubstantiated claims?

I hate to think what AI's logical conclusion is... (1)

goffster (1104287) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341518)

Regarding the existence of the human race.

'we're probably going to do that in this century' (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341550)

Huh?

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA...

Re:'we're probably going to do that in this centur (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341806)

First they ignore you,
then they ridicule you, <---
then they fight you,
then you win.

They're already here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341556)

If you take both the Fermi paradox and Von Neuman's self replicating machines (with Feynman's "there's plenty of room at the bottom) hypotheses to their logical conclusion it leads to one thing.

They are already here, have been here for a long time (probably geologic ages) and are watching us constantly. Where? All around us at the nano-meter scale, existing as self-replicating sentient machines.

Just now are we developing the technology to detect them but they probably have found it very easy to evade our few lumbering probes investigating their nano-world. Soon however, it may be too difficult for them to "hide" and they'll have to make a choice. Either "leave" or make contact. Or, depending on what they think of us, maybe deciding we're a lost cause (look at how we're fucking up the entire planet and not our own species) and getting rid of us. As any Singularity maven would tell you, for self replicating nano-bots it would be trivially easy to cleanse this world of it's human infestation.

Let's hope they are (very) forgiving.

- Irritated by Slashdot's anti-Apple bias and hostility? (A recent example, they post anti-iPad tirades but don't mention negative reviews of flash on mobile devices: laptopmag.com). Don't log in (don't give them and their advertisers your info, remain an A/C).

Re:They're already here (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341672)

I'd like to be an AC, but it's too damn cold.

Could be, but doubtful (1)

Chalnoth (1334923) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341606)

While our popular culture seems to be very keen on the idea that machines will, at some point, surpass people, there really isn't much reason to believe this to be the case. This isn't to say that we're these absurdly amazing beings that can't be surpassed, but rather that we don't have any evidence that machines would constitute a form of life that could be more innovative, more inventive, more creative. One can have all the ability in the world to solve complex mathematical equations, for instance, but applying that to real-world situations requires a fair bit of creativity.

This isn't to say that machines can't possibly exceed our abilities, but I'm going to remain skeptical until I see somebody demonstrate it. Even then, there are maintenance and reproduction issues. We're talking about not just an isolated individual machine being more capable than a human, after all, but building an entire civilization with these machines, which would have all sorts of resource and production requirements just to function. We already know how to build a civilization based upon people, and it is doubtful that machine life could ever take off here without us figuring out how to build for them a working machine civilization.

Based on this, my personal speculation is that we are far more likely to modify and improve ourselves than we are to build our own successors.

As a side comment, however, the SETI work is as likely to work for a machine civilization as a biological one. What they are searching for, after all, is extra-terrestrial technology, not extra terrestrials themselves. There's no reason to believe that a machine civilization, were one to exist, would produce fewer radio waves than a biological one.

Oh, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341650)

We're not running out of cheap energy, no. We'll be floating around with our anti-gravity belts and our flying cars while talking to our AI buddies. Sure. Hey, guess what? The free ride is over soon. In this century, you will be farming again and learning the fine art of animal husbandry and tinsmithing. And probably a few new arts like "raiding 20th century homes and garbage dumps for raw materials", or "canning enough food to survive the winter" or "learning which #$$#@! bug ate our harvest". You know, what people were doing in the years before we sucked oil out of the ground, for thousands of years.

Idiocracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341652)

If we go with the Idiocracy scenario , the "intelligence" target is going down while the "artificial intelligence" capability is going up. We'll have A.I. much soon than you think!

Now where are my big-ass fries?

Idiots know nothing about biology (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341656)

The question is, which is more likely:

1. That we conquer cancer, allowing us to remove nature's favorite cancer fighter, called "old age". This extends human life indefintely (well, up until we meet a violent end that would of course also kill any so called sentient machines).

2. We invent a sentient machine.

I may just be a layman, but we are putting a LOT more resources into option #1 than option #2, and each year we make tangible progress for option #1, while each year we seem to learn more and more about the problems with option #2.

Frankly, this bullcrap sounds like a bunch of computer scientists trying to brag, rather than anyone that has seriously thought out the problems with both approaches. It's kind of like when physicists say stupid crap like "intelligent life has to be in a habitable zone in the galaxy" simply because we happen to use metals that are only found there.

They don't know anything about biology, so they think no one else does.

AI is fine by me (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341658)

They can have the planet as long as they come here and covert us all into immortal machines so we can leave and roam the stars. I don't care if they strip mine the planet in the process and clear out all non sentient life as long as I get my nice new steel robotic body that is self repairing and virtually indestructible.

Flawed reasoning from the ground up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341752)

Dr Shostak says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy - the only things he says would be of interest to the machines - would be in plentiful supply.

The problem with his argument is that he suggests that we redirect our very limited resources to seek a narrow subset of ETs. Our only real knowledge of sentient life is here on earth, so where would you prefer that we focus? On areas showing conditions similar to what we know can produce life, or areas where we think these purely theoretical beings might go at some point in their development?

AIs (1)

Selfbain (624722) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341778)

I've always wondered how much machine intelligences would appreciate being called "artificial" considering that implies that their intelligence is just an imitation of our own whereas in reality it would probably be vastly superior.

Why not let them find us? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33341802)

Why don't we blast off large-ish capsules in all directions from the earth. Within said capsules would be images of life here on earth (and whatever else makes sense for this sort of thing). If there is other intelligent life in the universe, and they happen to come across one of these capsules, perhaps they will blast off some capsules of their own that we will happen upon. Imagine the day when images of a strange alien world are circulating all over the internet, and it's real!

Well he might have a point. (1)

CherniyVolk (513591) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341856)

Ultimately, when we find said machines the question then would be 'who built them'?

He's arguing, in real life, the old philosophical questions regarding divinity. On one hand, how can we mere mortals possibly understand what an all-powerful being is thinking... easy, "God works in mysterious ways" pretty much sums this up. The "all-powerful" is an extreme, but this predicament exists in everyday life, today. While our upper 1% struggle and argue over the words of our most acclaimed thinkers like Steven Hawkins, the fact is the vast majority of the common man will never be able to comprehend many of the concepts he's engulfed in.

Now, Steven Hawkings isn't a super powerful alien capable of interstellar travel. The societies, civilization, beings we are trying to detect, in fact are.

If a being is capable of interstellar travel, then a 13 year lag seems unreasonable (our closest star is Alpha Centari right? 13 light years away?). I would venture to guess, they have found a faster than light ability to transmit information, well, we thought of quantum entanglement, is there a way to detect that? Point is, we are looking for only civilizations that are about the exact same level of technology that we are, and this is a point I think Seth Shostak is trying to get at. We aren't likely to find another intelligent life, so easily, who just so happens to have been where we are, using the technology we are, a few billion years ago.

He's arguing, that we should come up with ways to detect technology itself, mechanics and machinery, computers or application of some of our most cutting edge theories of information and travel.

I can hardly disagree.

They've already left (1)

Orga (1720130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341858)

Any intelligence great enough for us to have seen (overcoming the static in space) has already wiped any trace of itself out of this dimension and has probably shut itself off due to boredom.

You'll kill us all, you fool! (1)

Mister Xiado (1606605) | more than 4 years ago | (#33341900)

Don't you see? You're already indoctrinated. The reapers are controlling your every thought! That said, science fiction is at least cautious. For what reason would a machine intelligence seek peaceful interactions with organic life? Do you see bacteria as something worth communicating with?
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