Thursday, January 24, 2013
24 January 2013
David Gerrold b. 1944
Gerrold did write other things, including a novelette The Martian Child that won the Hugo and Nebula prizes, but his enduring contribution to popular culture is The Trouble With Tribbles, an episode from the original Star Trek series.
And no, I will not make a Shatner toupee joke. It's much too easy and cheap.
In the Year 2000!
Prediction: The smartest individuals will be computers. We shouldn’t feel bad about this. After all, we outdid the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal. It's a privilege to be a stepping stone. Evolution for humans as we know it is coming to an end.
Predictor: Arthur C. Clarke on the 1964 BBC-TV show Horizon.
Reality: Clarke goes to the trouble of calling the best computers of his day "morons", and it would be hard to say that in 2000. After all, Deep Blue beat the human chess champion of the world in tournament conditions in 1997. It's several years later, but IBM has created a computer that can play Jeopardy! at championship levels. As a programmer, someone who used to play chess seriously and a Jeopardy! champ, I have to say Jeopardy! is much harder to teach a computer than chess is.
It cannot be denied that computers can do difficult things that we often count as "intelligent" but I'm not sure that should count as "intelligence". A computer can decide on the next move in a chess game, but it can't decide on what it should do next when the game is over. The true seed of creativity, the ability to have a useful thought different from the things you already know, is not something computers have and I'm not sure they ever will have it.
And then there's evolution. Some people think of evolution as "progress", but the true biological definition is about change in proportions in gene pools without any judgment as to whether that change is good or bad. Evolution is still ongoing in the human species today.
As for being good sports about being replaced at the top of the heap, this also smacks of a view of the world common among the educated British of Clarke's era. We don't have any Cro-Magnon or Neanderthal spokesfolks to ask how they felt going extinct and out-competed by those uppity Homo Sapiens, but I'll go out on a limb and guess that good sportsmanship would not be an accurate description of their feelings.
Looking one day ahead... INTO THE FUTURE! Another postcard from 1900 designed to sell German chocolates by letting people in on the secrets... in the Year 2000!
Join me then... IN THE FUTURE!