According to an article published in The New York Times, Google scientists recently created one of the largest neural networks for machine learning. The scientists connected roughly 16,000 computer processors, which they turned loose on the Internet to learn on its own. Presented with more than 10 million digital images, the computer network did what millions of humans already do every day on YouTube and Google: looked for cats!
Google’s “Cat Experiment” marks a “fundamental breakthrough in artificial intelligence,” Dominic Basulto of The Washington Post wrote. “The computers were never told what a ‘cat’ was before the experiment started and were not given a series of human rules for recognizing cats,” Basulto wrote. The computers were able to arrive at an abstract conceptualization of a cat without knowing what the word actually means.
This experiment marks one of the most recent advancements in technology. However, with the accelerating pace of technological change, it will not be long before an improvement will be made and advanced machine learning as illustrated by the “Cat Experiment” will be a common feature. Yann LeCun from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University said, “Soon these ‘deep learning’ modules will also be applied to build computer systems for speech recognition.”
The advancements in technology that are currently being made could soon transform life in ways that were once unimaginable. Currently biologists are creating entirely new “synthetic” life forms, 3-D printing will be able to replace objects and body parts, and if Ray Kurzweil’s predictions in Transcendent Man are possible, humans may be able to live longer than ever thought possible. Thanks to the work of brilliant scientists, technology has been able to evolve over the centuries and the quality of life has simultaneously been improved. One could only imagine the reaction from people living 2,000 years ago if suddenly presented with a television or any other common technological device used today.
Although the advancements have many positive implications, there are still many lingering concerns and fears with the evolving technology. If Kurzweil’s predictions are to be taken seriously, the idea of a technologically advanced future society in which computers are conscious beings smarter than humans, the future could be disconcerting for many. Even more so now that the “Cat Experiment” illustrated those machines, for all intents and purposes, can come alive. Basulto said that these new technological opportunities give humans the ability to “play God.” Basulto writes, “What was once thought to be the exclusive realm of a higher power is now within the grasp of human beings.”
Advances in technology tend to re-open the common “eternal” questions. What does it mean to be alive? What is the purpose of life? Technology helps humans understand the world around them and the advances have helped clarify our philosophies and ideologies. With new evidence comes a newfound understanding of how we see ourselves. Oftentimes, many fear the growing influence technology has on society for it could challenge their worldview. Despite these concerns, technology will continue to evolve and our ideologies will be forced to adapt to any new evidence presented. One can only hope that as technology advances, deep learning neural networks will at least come to learn the superiority of dogs over cats through YouTube and Google.
Anyone interested in writing a column for the Opinions section at the Central Florida Future can contact the Opinions Editor, Kaley LaQuea, at email@example.com.