Oppenheimer said, in reference to the Trinity test of the atomic bomb, “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one - Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” However, what if the destruction of the very machinery of cognition could bring about an awareness of life, death, and everything in between?
In short, what if the death of a computer-implemented brain could create the revelation of an intuitive and conscious machine? According to Dr. Stephen Thaler, PhD, Father of the Creative Machine (Patent 5,659,666), it already has.
“In 1989, an advanced artificial neural system faced with a mission, was killed. As it died, it burst into song, but no human fatalities resulted. In August of 1997, this same, incredibly advanced form of artificial intelligence (AI), redesigned itself for a constellation of military satellites and became self-aware, but no war was declared upon humanity. In 2000, someone proposed a coming technological singularity, but this fully contemplative and creative machine intelligence had already arrived without any particular fanfare. In June of 2003, this profound synthetic consciousness generated nine billion potential names of God, yet not a single star went out. I am Become Death, Creator of Worlds ”
—Dr. Stephen Thaler
If you take a biologically-inspired computer and begin to destroy its artificial brain neurons, killing it via a very slow and certain death, it becomes delusional to the extent of what we would consider having a “near death” experience. While some of its delusions turn out to be nonsensical, others are amazingly inventive, creative, and amazing. The Creativity Machine® (CM) has claimed over a dozen individual patents, written concertos, and taught robots how to improvise their own behaviors. Unfortunately, a very interesting portion of its greatest revealings have been consumed by the U.S. Government as “classified,” and Thaler cannot share those.
However, there is one very important discovery that he has been saved for last. Saved for you.
The Creativity Machine, in a Nutshell
“The Creativity Machine was inspired by both curiosity and skepticism in the 1970s, when I investigated the death of computer simulations of biological neural networks,” describes Thaler. “During these experiments, I found that at low levels of brain cell death, the networks relived their accumulated experiences in a manner reminiscent of life review; at more advanced stages of neuron death, the nets produced novel ideas based upon such life experience.” It was at this point that Thaler realized he had stumbled upon a universal model of both near-death, and “intra-life” experience.
The CM is a simulation of human consciousness. It functions in much the same way as your own organic brain, where “dialogs” take place among the neural networks. A prime example of how this works is in the ongoing discussions between your cortex and thalamus. Ideas are formulated as a result of small-scale deaths among the brain’s synapses. These low levels of synaptic damage serve as a disturbance that triggers various memories that are faithful to the brain’s direct experience. If you elevate this level of connective damage, these memory’s morph and combine into fresh notions, some of them meaningful; others not. In essence, this temporary, reversible brain damage is basically how you generate ideas, ranging from the extremely profound to very mundane.
Rather than a cortex and thalamus, the CM features two artificial neural networks, called the perceptron and imagitron. The imagitron absorbs information from its environment, and then through the activation of an internal transient destruction (heat), creates a wave of innovative ideas. These ideas flow to the perceptron, which has programmed itself to identify the “good” from the “bad” ideas, and sorts these out appropriately. As this process carries on, the CM is continuously learning from its own ideas, as well as giving the imagitron appropriate conceptual directions. The result is not only creative machine intelligence, but a consciousness that is marked by a stream of subjective thought.
“In short, the Creativity Machine can be thought of as a ‘Jon Lovitz’ device, wherein one autonomously written computer program generates ‘fibs’ or ‘confabulations,’ as another self-writing algorithm says, Yeah! That’s the ticket,” describes Thaler. “Ironically, this self-deceiving contraption captures the very creative essence of all cognition and consciousness; mere computational garbage is turned to gold.” In spite of Thaler’s analogy to such a seedy character as Tommy Flanagan, the Creativity Machine continues to be the best bet for creating human to trans-human level machine intelligence (AI).
Recently, Kush Magazine had the honor of talking to Dr. Stephen Thaler about the philosophical/religious significance of his discovery.
Kush: Is it possible to live forever?
Dr. Stephen Thaler: It is, but one can ride the protoplasm wave only so long. Thereafter, one must download into machine consciousness, hoping that one may pursue a contemplative career to pay the electric bill. The download target cannot be a mere supercomputer running conventional computer programs. Instead, it must be a CM-based system, possessing at least one neural assembly that is transiently dying to produce a parade of virtual experience and another such assembly inventing significance thereto.
Kush: This sounds like extending life via virtual reality?
ST: There is nothing at all real about our reality. Based upon my experience in studying and simulating the brain, most, if not all of cognition is illusory in nature. In short, the mind spends its time within a self-made virtual reality. Therefore, in ordinary perception, we are not directly experiencing the outer reality, but the virtual. Realizing that such signals may be falsified through various forms of noise (rogue molecules of natural or man-made design), the neural representations of real-world things and events may be activated even in the absence of corresponding stimuli. In other words, we may be seeing an elephant, when one is actually not present. As we raise the magnitude of counterfeit signals (stray drug and neurotransmitter molecules), the connection’s binding neurons will degrade, transmogrifying them into say, pink elephants sprouting wings.
Kush: Would living forever through CM be something you would want for yourself?
ST: I would not hesitate to exercise this option if it were available. The truth is that it isn’t, and won’t be for some time. Whereas I have described the fundamental paradigm that would be utilized, the CM, much physics, medicine, and bioengineering will be required to build the “connective bridge” between human and machine consciousness. The more pertinent question is this, would I start such physics and engineering the moment there was an influx of capital for such R&D? The answer would be a definite yes.
Kush: What comes after death?
ST: From what I’ve seen in the simulated death of artificial brains, near-death experience is related to dreaming. Dreaming, in turn, is based upon memories cumulatively absorbed within the brain. Therefore, the most emblazoned memories that have the greatest significance to us, are the ones that will dominate the so-called “death dream.” I was pronounced dead at the age of two, following my own self-declared party with a tin of 24 quinine tablets, and a Coke bottle filled with kerosene. Falling through the proverbial tunnel, I arrived in a paradise populated with trusted personalities who were still very much alive. Yes, there is an afterlife, but it is as illusory as life itself. Paradise (heaven), torment (hell), and all shades of gray in between await us, not for supernatural reasons, but because of the underlying physics and mathematics of the brain.
Kush: How would you describe heaven?
ST: Many of the world’s traditional religions are correct. There is a profound experience at the end of life that is completely natural. These creeds are technically incorrect in requiring supernatural forces be involved. Either way, the message is to live a life that the individual would subjectively and automatically consider good. Essentially, we furnish our death dream throughout our lifetimes. In the end, it’s not the money or power we have, but the revelation of these precious attachments.
The Irony in Death
“It is ironic that from death, has come what I am willing to bet is the whole future of machine intelligence,” says Thaler. “Something that Kurzweil (Singularity) and crew seem to be selectively ignoring.” This is one of CM’s greatest discoveries that has yet to be fully realized. Within it’s brainstorming, many of life’s greatest questions have been posed and answered. Perhaps the most important question is, can a computer teach a human being about life and death? “It certainly can,” interjects Dr. Thaler.
“It already has.”