3/5/20: 21ST CENTURY BRAINIAC

MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS

In 1955, Ed Wood Jr., along with a mechanical Octopus, an ex-wrestler named Tor Johnson and Bela Lugosi, set out to make a corny b-movie about a scientist named Doctor Eric Vornoff who wanted to create a race of supermen that would allow him to rule the world. The movie was originally called ‘Bride of the Atom’ and then it was changed to ‘Bride of the Monster‘.

It would be Lugosi’s last speaking role before his death. While the movie was another one of Ed Wood’s stinkers, it did manage to have some remarkable acting moments from Lugosi and the corny, philosophical endings that Wood was famous for.

As Lugosi’s Vornoff is fighting an obviously fake, atomically charged octopus, lightning strikes causing the entire area to go up in a nuclear conflagration. This doesn’t make any sense. As the mushroom cloud rises above the horizon and the remaining characters watch in awe without being vaporized, a man ends the movie by saying:

“He tampered in God’s domain.” 

The Jewish Talmud speaks of a group of rabbis who crafted the golem which was an anthropomorphic being made out mud and clay using sacred incantations set forth in the Kabbalistic book of incantations known in Jewish mysticism as the Sefer Yetzirah.

It was man’s ability to mimic God by creating an automaton made of clay.

There was only one problem with trying to imitate the holy act of creation, and that was the being that was created, the Golem, had no soul. It was constructed of earthly materials to resemble a human being, except it, wasn’t a vessel for housing a soul.

Archetypes and motifs of the Golem can be found throughout literature. Frankenstein is one derivation of the myth. In fact, the name Frankenstein actually means “man of stone” a creation that some see as a mockery of what God had created in Genesis which was a Golem of clay that is until he was able to place a soul into the avatar – and making him a living and thinking man.

Our story of creation is one story that when read thoroughly, talks in the simplest terms about the scientific process of forming man with simple materials from the earth and then powering those materials with a special system that gives it life and the ability to feel and communicate.

One can find parallels between mythology and modern science everywhere, and I was thinking about the Golem and its relevance to what is happening now with the arrival of artificial intelligence, 5G, quantum computing and the ability to use all of these innovations for not only animating a synthetic anthropogenic form but using it for ways of controlling the oldest form of Golem and that is you and me.

We already know a lot about the stability and functionality of ‘natural’ DNA under a range of environmental conditions, and are slowly teasing apart possible scenarios describing its evolution from simpler organic materials to living chemistry.

But to really get a good sense of how a genetic system could evolve, we need to test the limits of its underlying chemistry.

It’s the first thing you learn in biology.  There are four nucleotides which are adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine and they make up the genetic material of every living organism.  Now, scientists have synthesized four additional, unique bases with the goal of ending the data storage gap, and finding alien life. DNA is a promising storage alternative because of its ability to compact billions of base pairs, or bits, in a microscopic cell.  DNA is so reliable in copying and transmitting messages that it averages only one mistake in every ten billion base pairs, and it can stay intact for hundreds of thousands of years. 

Exactly one year ago we reported that scientists have now engineered a form of alien life from stored data, making way for communication with possible alien life forms.

However, as time has passed scientist are well on their way of creating artificial life with a functioning brain.

Scientists working with NASA synthesized four nucleotides, ‘B,’ ‘P,’ ‘S,’ ‘Z,’ which can be incorporated in DNA, RNA, and ultimately proteins.  All four nucleotides behave in accordance with parameters that guide the function of natural nucleotides. Just like the natural nucleotides, the pairings are highly specific; P will only bind with Z, and B will only bind with S.  It is imperative that the biochemical properties of synthetic bases bind specifically, conserve the structure of the double helix, and do not restrict the order of the letters in the sequence. Conserving these three parameters of natural DNA allows synthetic DNA to function within the system.  Synthetic DNA could be used to store information, and build self-assembling nanostructures.

This is not the first attempt scientists have made to synthesize DNA for data storage.  In early 2017, scientists synthesized two viable nucleotides, called ‘X’ and ‘Y, ’ bringing the functional alphabet to six letters.  These synthetic nucleotides were incorporated into DNA sequences based on their hydrophobic properties, which caused limitations with sequence syntax and increased risk of slippage.

Synthetic DNA bases are synthesized chemically and can be used in a DNA sequence the same way as an ‘A,’ ‘C,’ ‘G,’ or ‘T.’  The sequence can be transcribed into RNA and translated into a functional protein.

I know this sounds like a bunch of biological mumbo jumbo  but to put it into basics NASA and other groups interested in creating their own forms of biological intelligence are simply creating or have the knowledge to create their own life form.

They are certainly attempting to create what alchemists call the homunculus.

 We have always been warned that throughout the ages there has always been a secret cabal who has attempted to carry out that which has been known as forbidden alchemy.

The alchemist, Paracelsus once proposed that he had engineered a small human being that he called the Homunculus. The creature was tiny, frail and childlike. Paracelsus claimed that the little man did the work usually associated with a golem, an animated being crafted from inanimate material.

Anton Lavey, the Black Pope of the Church of Satan, believed that there would be a time where alchemists could summon or create artificial companions for people. He stated that once these beings are revealed to the people that they would sell faster than computers or televisions. These creations would be used to do menial tasks for the owner. Basically, the idea was similar to technological golems equipped with artificial intelligence.

Lavey and others knew that these beings have existed for a long time. They have only been the subject of contemporary mythologies and yet there is a rich history of these beings being summoned and created by those who are seeking knowledge and the secrets of the universe.

Creating artificial or alien DNA in a lab is pretext for understanding artificial life. Anthropomorphizing it or making it more human like – or much like a homunculus is forbidden alchemy.  Giving it a functioning brain is Promethean anarchy.

The thought of giving a functioning brain to a synthesized bag of tissues sounds like madness.

In some cases, madness is permitted and if it is possible – then why not make the attempt at giving sentience to your creation?

While modern robots are so advanced that they appear to take on human qualities, they so far have not been actual living beings. That has changed with a major breakthrough by a group of scientists from three universities, who have repurposed biological cells to create so-called “living” robots that are an entirely new hybrid of machine and organism.

Scientists from the University of Vermont, Harvard University, and Tufts University scraped living cells from frog embryos to create the tiny “xenobots,” which are a millimeter wide. The bots can be controlled to make purposeful movements, such as transporting medicine to be carried to a specific place in a patient, and even can heal themselves after being damaged.

Simply put, these are functional organisms that can serve as mini brains that when taken to their highest potential can put us closer to a combined organic and mechanical singularity.

Xenobots are mini brainiacs.

They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.

The research marks the first time that biological machines have been designed completely from the ground up rather than researchers merely manipulating biological organisms for scientific purposes.

Researchers also discovered that the xenobots are self-healing by slicing one of them in half –It just stitches itself back up and keeps going.

Because they are made of living tissue, they also decay once they stop working. The researchers, from Tufts University, the University of Vermont, and the Wyss Institute at Harvard, hope such living robots could one day be used to clean up microplastics, digest toxic materials, or even deliver drugs inside our bodies 

The scientists acknowledged that their work may be controversial, as it marries human and machine in a new way and involves the manipulation of biological entities that could raise some of the same questions that a technique like cloning did when it made mainstream news in the 1990s. 

The xenobots were created using an evolutionary algorithm, which mimics natural selection by generating potential solutions and then repeatedly picking and mutating the most promising ones. The algorithm conjured thousands of random configurations of between 500 and 1,000 skin and heart cells and each one was tested in a virtual environment. Many were useless lumps. But those that showed potential such as being able to move, were tweaked and used to seed the next generation. After running this process 100 times, the researchers built the best designs out of living cells. 

This first crop of xenobots are very basic. But future versions could be made with nervous systems and sensory cells—even rudimentary cognitive abilities—which would allow them to react to their environment. It is far from clear whether we should treat such robots as machines or living creatures.

Science and technology today spearhead discussion of a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human? At a deep level, how we think about human nature itself appears in flux under the lens of “transhumanist” and “posthumanist” thought.

Science fiction illustrates the extremes of transhuman form. Even though the idea of transhumanism extends the promise of neutralized pain and suffering, we must understand that it is pain and suffering that makes the joy of the human experience more meaningful.

We are integrating so quickly into a technological hyper-reality that the simulation is far more real than the mediocrity of the real. Everything is so intensified that our stimulation sensors need upgrades in order to sustain the kind of stimulation we are seeing today. In order to do this, we may have to face voluntary human extinction with the promise that a better life waits through technological advancement.

However, the baby steps to full conversion to machine or genetic mutation is now focusing on what it means to be human. The argument is not only shaking the scientific paradigm but it also is influencing religion in a ubiquitous fashion.

Gradually, we are going to realize soon that human status and personhood have different meanings.

Speaking from the area of biology, the term “human being” refers to an animal that genetically belongs to the species, Homo sapiens.

Religion tells us that what makes us different from the animals is that we have been given by God what is called, “ensoulment.”

This is defined as the instant a human being attains a soul as a characteristic of human status. In general, personhood denotes a set of capacities that imply both the ability to engage in certain sophisticated behaviors and an elevated moral standing deserving of certain legal protections.

Humanism is defined by the secular ethicists is a classification that denotes a being that can think creatively, reason, and engage in self-motivating activities, having the capacity to communicate and having self-awareness.

Human is as human does and humans can be categorized as animals but of course we do have our differences.

The difficulty with both religious and secular definitions of human status or personhood is that we have no established scientific methods to accurately assess these criteria.

Let’s just say we have a bit of cognitive bias as what makes us superior to the animals or average insect.

One of the traits that differentiates us from the animals is our thoughts of exceptionalism and superiority. We also have a tendency to over-complicate things.

There have been many concerns by traditionalist that we are losing our humanity because of things like transgenics, transhumanism, gender theory and there always seems to be a tendency to vilify the notion.

Transhumanism and posthumanism have existed in secular intellectual circles for decades, and they have served as staples of science fiction, but lately they’ve been reaching out to a broader audience.

Synthesizing DNA and calling it alien is certainly jarring to the senses – and Xenobots are just one more way of creating a species of anthropomorphic Homunculi that thinks and reasons with humans- if ectogenesis is our way of playing God then our creation must be able to communicate and think with us.

We are witnessing the new generation of useful model cellular culture systems for laboratory investigations of brain function.

While the hype has referred to these aggregates of neurons as ‘brains-in-a dish’ or ‘mini-brains – we are still very far from being able to create systems that mimic brain function, but there is an objective to all of this that is hardly spoken of and that is the “organic singularity.”

Many of us have heard of the “Technological Singularity” predicted by Ray Kurzweil — the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human-intelligence based on computer systems. Kurzweil looked at the famous “Moore’s Law,” which predicts the ever-increasing power of computers based on ever-increasing chip density, and concluded such power inevitably would exceed that of the human brain.

Kurzweil, relied on a straightforward projection of improvements in computing and software technology and didn’t envision any radical transformation in computing techniques themselves.

While others have argued that Kurzweil understated the technical challenges, especially regarding the software needed to replicate human cognition—even today we see systems and networks of systems that far exceed the communications powers of any single human being. Google is one example, not to mention the Internet itself. Although these systems don’t fulfill Kurzweil’s prediction, they certainly do demonstrate that many human intellectual abilities can be exceeded through technical means.

We have discussed in the past that in order for us to preserve any type of cognitive spirit units able to activate a computer that exceeds our process of cognition we would have to replicate the 86 billion neurons that our nervous system sends to the brain, and each of these neurons contacts an average of 10,000 other neurons, representing a grand total of approximately 860 billion connections.

This is why Kurzweil has said that this may take another 30 years to accomplish the task of transference of intelligence within systems both organic and non-organic.

If you consider just the number of neurons, we would reach a figure in the zetta domain (for your information, the order is kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, exa and zetta, multiplying by 1,000 at each step.

The emergence of greater-than-human-intelligence computers is a foregone conclusion, notwithstanding the fact that at this point we don’t understand what intelligence really entails, how the brain actually performs many functions, or if a software analogue of neural processing is possible.

Alan Turing, a noted mathematical theorist, contended that an “intelligent” computer only needed to provide human-mimicking responses that didn’t actually have to be correct. Turing is the man who is well known for the famous Turing Test.

It is the test that was used in the movie “Blade Runner” to trip up the cyborg replicants that needed to be terminated.

We now assume that Kurzweil’s Technological Singularity is inevitable.

The conclusion that a greater-than-human silicon-based intelligence will occur, however, does not preclude other developments that may occur before that.

In the past, we’ve seen favored technologies outpaced by newer technologies. However, there needs to be a consideration of the possibility that an organic-based singularity can happen far sooner than any technological one.

The question is, are we ready to create organic beings that would mimic gods?

Xenobots put us in the driver’s seat for future beings with advanced organic brains.

It is now time for us to consider how quickly we might achieve an “Organic Singularity,” a synthetic biological structure or creature that is more intelligent than a human being.

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