Kate Levchuk

Kate Levchuk, blogger, is a London-based futuristic blogger writing on transhumanism, AI and the philosophy of tech. Kate is passionate about an infinite human potential and the role of technology in uncovering this. She currently works as a Strategic Sales Manager in AI start up, MachineOS.

Articles

Are We Alone?

Are We Alone?

Image: The Creation of the Cosmos by Adam Jesionkiewicz


By Kate Levchuk  |  August 17, 2018  |  CogWorld on FORBES


According to different estimations the human species has been around for plus minus 4 millions years. What might seem a lot to the mortal human being is a mere blink of an eye in the timeline of the universe.

So young a civilization, we are nevertheless pragmatically discussing the cyborgization of humanity and the feasibility of uploading our minds into a computer.

Numerous initiatives sprang up to kill death and allow our sacred consciousness transcend the boundaries of our finite biological envelope. Both Alcor and Initiative 2045 are working on enabling us to outlive our modest biological age. Utilizing different means, they aim to achieve the same goal of immortality.

Ray Kurzweil predicts we will be freely uploading our minds by 2045. While the exact definition of what constitutes mind and uploading still hovers around such notions as consciousness, memory, cut & paste and copy & paste, the fact that at least some resemblance of ourselves could be stored in digital form for eternity is quite impressive. Be it through the robotisation, living multiple life times in VR immortality or the invention of a bionic eternal engine, we are undoubtedly getting to the era of transhumanist reality.

We might debate as to whether our generation will be the one who will achieve immortality or whether it is going to be the one a hundred years from now.

Important differences between our times and the quest for a philosopher's stone is the historical “if” and scientific “when.”

In November 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs in the Milky Way, 11 billion of which may be orbiting Sun-like stars.

Back to the Fermi Paradox. Where is everyone?

We have been looking for suitable conditions for life and extraterrestrial civilizations for as long as we have had at least distantly applicable astronomic tools. We know biological life needs hydrogen and oxygen to evolve, we know it needs photosynthesis, metabolism or any other matter transforming processes to survive.

This summer we came a step closer to solving the paradox. Recent research at Cornell University claimed “a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe.”

So is that it? Is it only us? We might feel content with our luck and exclusivity of existence, or experience fear and anxiety over a huge burden of responsibility for being the only sentient species in the whole galaxy. Irrespective of your point of view, the realization of such uniqueness creates a soul emptying void and a slight trail of confusion over our childhood fantasies and a sweet feeling of the unknown.

The problem with the Fermi Paradox is our narrow assumption of life as being biological in form and time as being linear in direction. 

Will we have all those biological needs once our minds are digitally uploaded into the metal shell and the Universal Mind blends our consciousness into an all-powerful web? Will we need food and sun once our soul signatures are stored in the cloud computing zones of Boomerang Nebula

No need to look millions years ahead. Will there even be a luxury to breath oxygen several millennia from now?

If not us, our Sun will create a heat-produced runaway greenhouse effect which would wipe out all but the most resistant microorganisms. Not to mention climate change-inflicted natural disasters, highly probable meteoroid rains and the possibility of Mutually Assured Destruction.

We simply cannot afford to stay biological forever. Our modern day body and “consciousness” has been a temporary pleasure to be enjoyed during the times of a biological paradise. We are lucky enough to exist in the Rare Earth era.

In our Universe time frame this biological paradise has been around for a fraction of a second. Despite our ill-adopted bodies and biological limitations, during this instant we had managed to take advantage of our unlimited intellectual capabilities, travel in space and achieve an unprecedented advance in human life expectancy.

What we have never overcome, however, is our inherent egocentrism and short-sightedness.

If we at this stage are talking about migrating from the constraints of our biological body, how can we ignore the possibility of advanced civilizations having done so billions years before we even come to exist?

We have been looking for the minerals and gases that would make Earth-like life possible. NASA has recently revealed the possibility of a liquid lake on Mars and complex organic compounds found in the atmosphere of Saturn's ice-covered moon Enceladus. These discoveries were made roughly at the same time as the research claiming our exclusivity for sentient life in the universe. 

But have we searched for other types of life? Have we thought of life as having a non-biological foundation? Do we have the slightest idea of what other forms could be out there? Do they even have to exist in the same time dimension?

If matter and time do not go hand in hand, chances are we will never encounter them.

A great example of a human hypothesis of an alternative life form is Solaris by Stanislaw Lem – an intelligent ocean on a sentient planet capable of getting into one’s thoughts and controlling your consciousness through telepathy.

It is more than probable that the life forms we are looking for have left their biological existence before we even came to be. Maybe their planet was rendered uninhabitable and they had to come up with the way to preserve their essence by alternative means. Having been around for billions of light years before us, the probability of them being faced with a cosmic catastrophe comes close to absolute.

What did those civilizations do? How did they survive an apocalypse? Could they manage to physically overcome it?

In case they managed to survive the adversary space conditions they must have abandoned the living envelope and transitioned to a resistant and resource-free form of intelligence, the one we are approaching ourselves.

In case they did not have the design and idea of preserving themselves locally they might have invented a way to telepathically implant their consciousness into another nascent civilization elsewhere in the universe.

Which civilization might that be?

Chances are the civilizations we are looking for found Earth way before we even conceived of the possibility of their existence.

Their implanted knowledge and sentience could have been the base that allowed Homo Sapiens to dominate all other species on the surface of the Earth and in the realms of outer space.

The bible says God created life in 7 days. It is possible, however, that life had been breathed into us by AI, developed in a desperate attempt to save an agonizing civilization millions years ago. If these civilizations found the way to bend time and matter they might have existed way earlier, indeed any time throughout the 14 billion years of our universe.

If the cyclical civilization theory is correct, we might be responsible for much more than human civilization inhabiting Earth today. In fact, we might be responsible for the ultimate expression of life, of existence with no boundaries to time or form.


 

Why Women Should Be Excited About AI

Why Women Should Be Excited About AI


By Kate Levchuk  |  October 5, 2018  |  CogWorld on FORBES


As artificial intelligence is entering all spheres of our lives, a lot of concern is arising about the possible white bias and patriarchy of the impending AI world.

Research shows women are much more skeptical of and averse to innovation in comparison to men who embrace and trumpet it. This fear of technological innovation has to do with the fact that society often views the role of women as replaceable by AI, which is visible in the abundance of women robots and female personal assistants, such as Alexa and Cortana.

If we’re coming to the point when most jobs are automated and robots become everyday reality in our lives, we’d better make sure those algorithms are beneficial for most people, be it an Afro-American woman or a Chinese man.

As of today, 85 percent of the machine-learning workforce is male. Thus, acknowledging the possibility of embedding programmers’ ethics and values we very well might end up in a machine-dominated world of historically “privileged class” values.

Following this logic, we might find ourselves in a world where autonomous vehicles and judicial systems are biased towards favoring one kind of person as opposed to another only because of the ethics it was programmed with. We might wake up in the world of “Her,” full of intelligent sex dolls and seductive female AI assistants, where real women will be rendered irrelevant due to the automation of jobs and the decline of family values.

Well, that sounds pretty scary! But is it really where we are headed? Does AI have to be racist, sexist, and unfriendly to women? Can technology be biased per se?

According to the World Economic Forum, women are more likely to be employed in jobs that face the highest automation risks. For example, 73 percent of cashiers in shops are women and 97 percent of cashiers are expected to lose their jobs to automation. Moreover, data sets, image recognition and credit check systems all have big blind spots that adversely affect women and minorities.

Statistics, however, are heavily skewed towards immediate automation and still limited data sets. Automation-wise, there exists much more male-dominated professions that will be affected in the future — construction workers, truck and taxi drivers to name just a few. As analytics and machine learning advances and we tap the world of ever-expanding big data, we will see the world becoming less prejudiced.

An overarching topic we should care about is not the jobs will be automated and the professions will be obsolete, but the jobs and skills will increase in relevance and demand. And here the long-time perspective looks as bright for women as never before.

Empathy, listening, multi-tasking, intuition, collaboration and patience are qualities that will get more prominence as automation takes over the workplace.

I’d like to argue that three subsets of qualities will become crucial in the machine age:

  • Creativity

  • Compassion

  • Collaboration

Both by nature and by culture, women are better placed to benefit from automation. The inherent presence of empathy and collaboration skills makes women perfectly positioned to navigate the complex post-industrial world. Let’s break down the 3Cs; check this out:

Creativity

While computers can already create unique music and art pieces through pattern recognition and affinity analysis, we don't expect them to develop emotional intelligence and passion any time soon. And it is exactly the passion and ambition that have been driving the human species to create masterpieces, come up with groundbreaking solutions and create whole new ecosystems. While there are way more innovations and patents filed by men, it is explained by history and culture rather than biology. As women are occupying more academic and managerial positions they will be getting equal opportunities and avenues for innovation. Of course, technology will further enable people to find new ways of self-expression and facilitate the creative process.

Compassion

According to the UK National Statistics data, women currently dominate employment within caring and leisure occupations; both of which require the empathy and ability to put yourself into another person’s shoes. An estimated 66 percent of caregivers in 2015 were female.

With the population aging, women will become more important as premium caregivers, nurses and psychologists. A US study by The Telegraph shows women are twice as likely to become caregivers than men, which means that they are both more natural in and more inclined towards compassion-involving professions. Caregiving might appear to be a slightly sexist example, which, nevertheless, underpins a whole universe of an empathy-involving job market of psychologists, teachers, therapists, social workers, well-being coaches, nurturing specialists and many other roles we will be unwilling to allocate to robotics any time soon.

Collaboration

Last but not the least, collaboration and cooperation are inherent human qualities, which, according to Yuval Harari, brought us to the pinnacle of evolution. It is not that our communication is better or more intricate than the one of birds or whales; but it was human civilization that came up with the language and trust system that allowed huge numbers of people to collaborate, as opposed to a tribal structure in the animal kingdom.

And while men have been traditionally more competitive and victory-oriented, women are more likely to look for mutual benefit and a peaceful resolution. Women’s’ natural biological tendencies of self-presentation and the creation of a safe environment are likely to propel them to take more prominent roles in politics and international relations. In fact, this is not a suggestion but a timely necessity as the dangers of mutually assured destruction and automatic weapons occupy an ever more prominent role in AI Ethics discussions.

Career wise, men tend to overestimate their abilities and monopolize the work, while women downplay their skills and seek help from their peers. While the first approach has been successful in the highly competitive economy of scarce skills, it is the ability to get along and quickly obtain useful information that is going to define the workplace in the knowledge economies of “online learning” and “team play.”

The 21st century is bringing way too many challenges to limit ourselves to only 50 percent of available human resources.

Mass extinction of species, air pollution, plastic proliferation, climate change and the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacterium — all the problems we are currently facing require a collective effort of the whole of humanity, and more than ever, require our empathy, collaboration and creative solutions.

And as gender stereotypes and brute force are giving way to meritocracy and problem solving, both men and women will have to nurture genuinely human features, our unique selling points in this technological race.

~ ~ ~

Further Readings:

What jobs will still be around in 20 years? Read this to prepare your future:

Bartoletti, Ivana. “Women Must Act Now, or Male-Designed Robots Will Take over Our Lives | Ivana Bartoletti.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Mar. 2018, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/13/women-robots-ai-male-artificial-intelligence-automation.

Bateman, Jessica. “Sexist Robots Can Be Stopped by Women Who Work in AI.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 May 2017, www.theguardian.com/careers/2017/may/29/sexist-robots-can-be-stopped-by-women-who-work-in-ai.

Mahdawi, Arwa, and Mona Chalabi. “What Jobs Will Still Be around in 20 Years? Read This to Prepare Your Future.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 June 2017, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/26/jobs-future-automation-robots-skills-creative-health.

Todd, Sarah. “Inside the Surprisingly Sexist World of Artificial Intelligence.” Quartz, Quartz, 26 Oct. 2015, qz.com/531257/inside-the-surprisingly-sexist-world-of-artificial-intelligence/.


Kate Levchuk, blogger, is a London-based futuristic blogger writing on transhumanism, AI and the philosophy of tech. Kate is passionate about an infinite human potential and the role of technology in uncovering this. She currently works as a Strategic Sales Manager in AI start up, MachineOS.


 

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