Gaia, AI and Robots


Are we approaching a singularity and if so what form will that take.

{N.B. Singularity in AI is defined as the moment when general artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence. The current median estimate from the combined academic community is the year 2040}

While nobody knows any answers to these questions, general assumptions are that Artificial Intelligence will surpass human intelligence in the not too distant future with Robotics allowing that intelligence to embody action.

However there may be some other scenarios….

I am currently involved in IoT. Not the IoT of intelligent fridges or light bulbs that change colour, but a more fundamental technology of widespread cellular networks dedicated to things not people.

These are not what you think they are. Existing cellular networks take on ever faster bandwidth, ever greater functionality and ever greater general intelligence with each evolution.

IoT networks, however are based on very low power, very wide range, very low bandwidth radio frequency technology that was first developed during WW1 to communicate with submarines. Yes, you heard me right; World World One radio communication technology.

There are two major proponents of this, essentially the future Apple vs Android or open vs closed networks being deployed.

The closed network is being lead by a company called SIGFOX, a French startup funded with over $200M to build a global cellar network to connect billions of boring devices. We are talking parking meters, smoke detectors, river level sensors, thermometers and all sorts of things that are yet to exist. The SIGFOX network has some surprising characteristics. Up to 140 messages a day can be sent by a device. Each message can be up to 12 bytes, yes I did say Bytes!!! The devices can run from 2 x AA batteries and these batteries will last for around 10 years.

The SIGFOX network is powered by base stations that have unusual characteristics. Existing phone base stations have a range of between 2 to 5 kilometres. SIGFOX base stations have a range between 20 – 50 kilometres. There is no such thing as roaming and a base station can only send messages to devices in the field by piggybacking a received message with an 8 byte payload up to a maximum of 5 times a day.

Surely that’s crazy!!! Why would anybody build such a network. Well specifically to connect billions of low power, wide range devices to give regular status updates. The important number here is billions of devices. Each device will only pay $1 per year to SIGFOX for network connectivity.

SIGFOX is not alone in this space. It has a competitor in the form of the open LoRaWAN consortium whose most active member is “The Things Network”. They are using Crowdsourcing and Open Sourcing to finance and deploy hundreds and thousands of open source base stations globally into an open free to use network. Use of the network will be free, but will not have any of the guarantees or SLA’s that exist in the SIGFOX ecosphere.

Both of these organisations are making early plays and it is uncertain that either will survive widespread adoption and ultimate acquisition. However, what both these companies are actively doing is building a planet wide nervous system onto the emerging intelligence that is the Internet.

We often think of the threat of artificial intelligence in the form of human like robots that are stronger and cleverer than us, but are we giving birth to Gaia and making the planet Earth itself into a single living artificial intelligence. If so, will it destroy its unhealthy infestation of humans and perhaps all carbon based life, favouring silicon instead.

Maybe we are meant to create an augmented living silicon being that was from the outset meant to destroy its home (the earth) and forage out into the universe evolving at exponential rates. This could be the next form of humanity or it could simply surpass and replace humanity. If, as quantum theory states, there are an infinite number of multiverses, then perhaps what is happening to humanity and the earth is more normal than we can possibly predict. In fact, do we have a purpose and destiny that is beyond our knowledge to understand.

All of this is conjecture and whimsy at present, but just as I helped create the first stage of a global intelligence through the building of the global public Internet, I now find myself involved in building the next stage of intelligence through the creation of a planet wide electronic nervous system. For my sins if it turns out the nay sayers are correct about AI and robots, I own up now to my own part in the destruction of the human race. But perhaps, I, like others, had no real choice in the matter.

Perhaps it was pre-ordained.

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