Scientific Sense Podcast

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Beyond the horizon

The span of human life, with a stringent expiry date, has been short to attempt fundamental changes to society. The age gene they carry, apparently by sheer accident, has done more damage to the human psyche than diseases and lately, accidents and suicides. The human brain has been a slow learner, deploying empiricism and machine learning to create meaning for context. But by the time it recognizes pure abstractness, it is typically too late. As knowledge simply vanishes over the horizon and as the new batch starts over with a different technology, humanity may be reaching a plateau with little expected advancements.

Early civilizations recognized the value of knowledge in a tactical sense. They could actually see better decision-making by the village elder, who had gained experience. But this simply does not work in the modern context. As technology and knowledge increase exponentially, humans will likely struggle to find a happy medium to encapsulate relevant information from the past. The technology behemoths, competing with each other to create a "bigger cloud," simply do not understand the needs of society. As they attempt to siphon all available electrons to power their data centers, eminently capable of accelerating entropy, there are larger questions facing society they could potentially help with.

Information is a dying asset and having an infinite capacity to store it simply does not help. Heuristics generated from information is in a spectrum, some robust enough to stand the test of time and others superseded by emerging ones. So, knowledge is about differentiating the utility of heuristics and reducing noise to the absolute minimum. The generation who thrived on noise and triviality is about to check out and they will be replaced by another who seem to be better positioned. However, they will simply lose the few heuristics from the past generated at tremendous cost. It is this connection that may have made other civilizations to move further. This is not about technology but an abstract understanding of how knowledge could be transferred.

The problem to solve is not robotics or AI, but how relevant knowledge could be transferred across generations. This idea will not increase shareholder value, reelect incompetent politicians or allow academics to publish papers to capture "tenure," and therein lies the conundrum. The "think tanks," across the world are incapable of "thinking," and we have arrived at the doorstep of self-destruction. The biggest "accomplishments," of contemporary humans such as landing a mechanical toy on a nearby planet, increasing the life span of humans marginally, building vehicles that can move marginally faster and  designing computers that are marginally more efficient are not accomplishments at all.

It appears that there are no positive slope to the human psyche. Perhaps, they are programmed this way. But beyond the horizon, there is a rainbow that we could continue to seek.

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