"But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself: If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy these others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; the earth shall be mine." - Walter Miller Jr.
Previously, this blog has discussed the possibility of an emergent hive mind of integrated human brains, as well as the first creation of a post-human AI. The subject of this post is not the validation of these propositions in logistical or societal terms, but instead to discuss the implications of these technologies.
Hugo de Garis, a researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, has proposed that an "Artilect War" is coming, in which two factions of human beings will fight over the subject of AI. This proposition is not unreasonable, given the current climate of science tolerance in the United States, and the emerging technological powers of Asia (namely, India and China).
"less than 2 per cent of [congress'] 535 members have professional backgrounds in science. In contrast, there are 222 lawyers... [who are] trained to win arguments, and as any trial lawyer will tell you, that means using facts selectively for the purposes of winning, not to establish the truth." - New Scientist, October 2011, "Science in America, Decline and Fall."
The United States is in an era of crisis. They are fundamentally confused about their goals and purpose on the global stage. Setting the most precedents of any body in human history for annexations, unilateral action, assassinations and governmental overthrows; the US has been policing this planet under the hubris of Manifest Destiny for over a century. We might be able to link these compulsions to the idea that America is a "city on a hilltop," or divinely ordained, as is notable in On Plymouth Plantation in the earliest moments of American History. This New Jerusalem attitude has not faded with the years. Bush quoted this passage several times during his tenure, while simultaneously deceiving the American public for the purpose of creating a new world order with the help of his neoconservative pals (para-military force (Blackwater), economic imperialism (Haliburton, the Military Industrial Complex).
Beyond these trends, it's fairly easy to see how America has failed to become an effective secular society. The Republican party has championed the evangelical banner (and its anti-science implications) with gusto:
Michelle Bachman said "The science indicates that human activity is not the cause of all this global warming," or, when Herman Cain was asked why he believes homosexuality is a personal choice, he said "Well, you show me the science that says that it's not and I'll be persuaded." -New Scientist October 2011
This is rather ironic, given that the history of the Republican party was that of eminent science-supporters like Lincoln, who created the National Academy of Sciences, and McKinley, who won a presidential election against the democratic anti-evolutionist William Jennings Bryan. What has happened? The truth of it is that the republican party has become a highly sophist entity (meaning using rhetoric rather than truth for gain). They are willing to forgo the history of their party, and the principles of democracy laid out in the constitution (Patriot Act) to accomplish their goals. They leverage power with the ignorance of evangelicals and something is now brewing that may be difficult to stop.
Unfortunately, democracy has an inherent flaw in that it accommodates delusion. Truth is being slowly democratized; as something that needs no verification other than the consensus of the writhing horde. In certain states, elected leaders "harass and intimidate scientists they disagree with, inaccurately claim that scientists say carbon dioxide is a carcinogen, pass resolutions stating that earth has been cooling and instruct teachers to teach their students that astrology controls the weather." - New Scientist, Oct 2011
Take note that the coercion of academics and political figures of note is a strategy that was used in totalitarian states such as Italy, Russia, and Germany.
But to the point, what the Republican party is doing is laying the groundwork for a dichotomy; the foundations of the Artilect war. The really terrifying thing is that a super-inelligent AI who perceives a threat from ignorant evangelicals would not hesitate, and certainly would not lose. In both self-preservation, and in an effort to protect the Earth (not to mention the pursuit of truth of which it was born); it would be reasonable to wipe these fundamentalists out. I'm not advocating this outcome. I believe in ideological and informational speciation (as in biology, it is important to have diversity in a system). However, if it comes down to a war between fundamentalists and scientists, there will be a genocide of biblical proportions, and it won't be dead scientists. Tolerance's extension is allowed insofar as it facilitates freedom and happiness for all human beings, not just ones of a particular ideology or denomination. Anything that threatens those values deserves nothing but eradication, a culling blade.
The second characteristic that may facilitate such a war is the emergence of the advanced civilizations in Asia. Currently, America still has more science funding than any other country on earth. Despite its failures to separate superstition and fact, it is still the most advanced scientific nation. However, science spending is on the rise in Asia. In 1996, science spending was roughly 130 billion versus 200 in the US. In 2007, however, the spread is thinner, with 350 billion dollars in Asia, and roughly 365-370 in the US. The gap is closing, and with a multi-trillion dollar deficit and zealots digging their heels in, it won't be long before it that gap closes, and reopens with a new champion.
China has no qualms with science. Unlike the US, with the second most evolution-doubters on earth, China doesn't even rank on the list. I imagine that many evangelicals and fanatics aren't the least bit aware of the scientific awakening that is on the horizon. I would imagine further, that those fundamentalists will be quite displeased at the idea of:
- engineering the human genome
- building human-level intelligence (and beyond human)
- extending the human lifespan indefinitely
- unifying quantum and Newtonian-Einsteinian physics into one theory
- finding the higgs boson, (the poorly labeled "God particle")
This is a fairly narrow list, considering how enraged this group of people has become at the mere prospect of stem cell research (which is completely harmless, and doesn't even require embryos at all).
If for some reason the religious in the US manage to stem the flow of scientific progress, it will cripple the US' position as a beacon for the world. Further, if they manage to fully gain control of the country, they may attempt to make war on a nation (such as China) who intends on building these artilects. A war between a fundamentalist United States (or some unified Middle Eastern Jihad) and China would certainly eradicate billions of lives if not destroy the planet.
I personally do not advocate so narrow a dichotomy as religion and science. Since Galileo over 300 years ago, the Church has been stunting its ability to spread its message by denying simple scientific truths. 1+1=2 is a good example. John Paul II understood this well, and expressed this in the Address of Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (October 22, 1996):
"We know, in fact, that truth cannot contradict truth...Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis."
My final comment on this subject is one of warning and one of hope. I warn that if we continue placating untruths as a matter of course, people will die. Whether they will die of stubborn old age, or of a tumor they refuse to have cured, or in a flame deluge, is uncertain. I hope that i will not come to this. I hope that religion and truth can be reconciled peacefully. I hope that the world can see the possibility of peace, abundance, and the appreciation of wonder that are fundamental tenets of science. Most of all though, I hope reason prevails; even if it must be through war.