I’ve been digesting some heavy food of late, so for those few readers of these missives, I beg your patience as I make my way through some heavy courses still coming out from the kitchen of my mind. So, again, let’s prep this course with a small appetizer of actual food before getting to thought. Tonight, I share with you Carnitas.
Funny thing about carnitas is that if you cube the meat into two inch chunks before cooking, they are immeasurably easier to shred. If you employ the hands of a nine year old daughter, it is even easier.
What I love most about Carnitas is the smell permeates the house, and the slow cooking ensures that even the neighbors will come knocking. I love the patina that forms on the underside of the Dutch oven lid – another sign that you are making heaven with mere pork, onions and oranges (and a few more items along the way). Sadly I know we are cooking away more of the flavor than consuming – but it heightens the chase over the kill, which is never a bad tactic to living fully.
Secret Ingredient: well, not so secret, but I usually double down with both orange juice a sliced orange and a good dosing of lime juice in the cooking liquid.
Music Accompaniment: “Alexa, play songs by Pink Martini”
Now, some food for the mind:
People who know me know that I am fascinated by the work of Nick Bostrom, from existential risk to superintelligence and the singularity point. What is most fascinating is a) just how real and scary the threat is, and b) just how much different the threat is from the ridiculous and ignorant renditions of artificial intelligence that is coming out of pop culture, particularly the nonsense in Hollywood screenwriting.
It’s that nonsense that I think about today, trying to figure out why the disparity between the realistic Bostrom’s future, and the latent fear in pop culture’s view of robots taking over the world. In particular, it is the realization that we have an underlying assumption that intelligence implies consciousness and intent. People equate the three concepts as different facings of the same object – that while they have different manifestations and vectors into daily life, they are all inherently emanating from the same source. That may be so for humanity, but we are incredibly naïve to think that what applies for our higher level thinking must exist for other manifestations.
In particular, we know that intelligence is independent from consciousness. People began that jump the first time a machine calculated numbers faster than humans. Unfortunately, in our hubris, we downgraded the computational intelligence rather than segregate intelligence from consciousness. We all say, well it’s just math, of course computers can do that, it’s not smarter then humans, just faster at doing math – and therefore math really must not require intelligence to master. Quite the fall from grace, when you think of the Mayan mathematicians that were one step from godhood.
The problem with downgrading math and not instead divorcing intelligence from consciousness is that we will continue to downgrade intelligence piece by piece in tiny landslides, oblivious to the mountain that is crumbling in the process. Sure computers can search documents faster than us… sure computers can recognize faces faster than us… sure computers can generate poetry indistinguishable from Shakespeare…. Meanwhile, we downgrade each new faster ability as not really intelligence. Soon mankind and its hubris will be on a tiny island of identity and self-awareness, with no boats to go anywhere.
In the end, computers will own that mountain of intelligence. There is no intelligence that a computer cannot perform better with than humans. It is inevitable, and inevitable in a short time frame.
But there are other mountains out there that build the structure of human identity, and consciousness and intent are one of them. (Yes, I can easily be convinced that these are two facets of the same object, but having made the mistake with intelligence being in there, I’m a bit more cautious to not prematurely lump consciousness and intent together). We can have intelligence with consciousness/intent – the very thing that Nick Bostrom discusses and that Hollywood gets so wrong. We can also have consciousness/intent without intelligence – something that arguably exists all around us in other life forms.
The paper clip machine thought exercise is the classic way to explore how unbridled intelligence devoid of consciousness, ethics, and intent can still be an existential threat. By doing this mental exercise your mind leaps over the many landslides of intelligence downgrading and realizes that the whole mountain is a wash.
So that is my thought today – the eschewing of any link between intelligence and intent.
One addendum for dessert – This separation makes me think of my life long dream to recreate intelligence of either myself or of structured philosophy (e.g. Spinoza) and force an automated conversation to occur visually between these two intelligences (both lacking in consciousness) – all with the expressed purpose to have this conversation spark an original thought inside the mind of a conscious observer (me). The experiment makes far more sense now that I have made the leap to separate intelligence from consciousness