Oh, wait a minute--I thought you said "programmers," not "people who work at MS and program dumb things into their software." I know exactly what you mean--about both MS-created software and thinking outside the lines--but the programmers I was singing the praises of sure as heck don't work for the Evil Empire.
I suppose that you can be correct on that, but they certainly seem to think differently than the way that I think. Particularly with microsoft products, the response that I seem to get when attempting to instruct the software as to what I want to do is "why would you ever want to do that?", which leads to a new level of frustration about those who can only think, not only just "within the box", but also can only imagine "coloring within the lines", as it were. I am seldom chosen for projects because of thinking just like everybody else, but rather because of being able to visualize alternative ways of doing things. Anybody can do stuff "by the book" , if they are able to read the book.
Having worked with, interviewed, socialized with, and even dated programmers, I agree that they're "not normal." But that can be a good thing: it often means way-above-average intelligence and a wicked sense of humor.
William, I think you are describing Michael Crichton's "Prey." Sure sounds like it. And I think this time your tongue is firmly planted in your cheek, although self-assembling nano-robots is definitely an area of research and has been for a decade or so.
Ann, I read a quite scary science fiction book about that very thing a few years back, and the "swarm" was a collection of very small robotic things, smaller than mosquitoes, but when they started working togather they were very deadly. Plus they learned how to reproduce without human assistance.
So perhaps the solution is to avoid giving robots long-lasting power sources, to assure that any uprisings would be short lived.
I seem to recall that Dan Simmons' proposition for how robots become separate, self-aware entities in the Endymion series is that--they don't. Instead, a sort of collective AI emerges from the internet of the future, i.e., many, many interconnected machines, and it/they spans multiple hardware. So I think a swarm makes a lot of sense as a model for that interconnected hardware, and for the AI "mind". Theoretically speaking, of course. I still think the whole thing is, and will remain, in the realm of sci-fi.
Hi William. Well, Google's official long term goal IS the creation of concious, self aware, minds like ours. We all hope the servers don't get any more feisty than they already are. We need to have a set of rules like Asimov's already established when it "wakes up". But, how does one do that before we know exactly how it works? And, if the machine claims self awareness, how do we know whether to believe it? My favorite line of all time from a writer in this regard was written for Serge Graystone, a 100% CG character on the short-lived (sigh) TV show Caprica. Serge was a household robot butler/security guard, and like the other characters of the show, in real life "Serge" had a Twitter account. It's probably still there. On Twitter, "Serge" answered fan's questions from his unique point of view. "Serge" claimed repeatedly that he was not self aware. Of course, the fans just stepped up the pressure to get Serge to admit that he was self aware. The writers ended the battle with this wonderful Godel sentence: "If I were self aware, don't you think I would know it?". In essence, how do we detect a mind that has become aware, but is hiding from us? Wandering back toward the topic ... If Kurzweil is correct that conciousness emerges from large amounts of simultaneous triggering with many levels of feedback, (my gross oversimplification) then perhaps the first conscious machine will be a large building made entirely of a huge swarm of tiny communicating meta-material robots whose collective purpose was to become and maintain the building. Hmmm... I remember a sci fi movie where a "grown" organic house eats its residents. Bon Appetit!
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