By Robert Owens:
No one gets to live in the world they grew up in, it moves too fast.
It wasn’t always like this. My father grew up plowing with mules as had his father and his father and his father back and back into the mist of time. Things changed slowly until the machine age. Then with the development of the steam engine, the assembly line, and mechanization things started to speed up. Today we are in the first throws of the Second Machine Age, and things are beginning to travel faster than we can assimilate.
What it all comes down to is technology is moving at an exponential rate. It is accelerating faster than we can adapt to and therefore there are social and cultural dislocations on the horizon. One good way to visualize exponential growth is to remember the story of the man who invented chess.
Hundreds and hundreds of years ago there was a King in India who loved to play games. But he had gotten bored of the games that were present at the time and wanted a new game that was much more challenging. He commissioned a poor mathematician who lived in his kingdom to come up with a new game. After months of struggling with all kinds of ideas the mathematician came up with the game of Chaturanga (Chess).
The game had two armies each lead by a King who commanded the army to defeat the other by capturing the enemy King. It was played on a simple 8×8 square board. The King loved this game so much that he offered to give the poor mathematician anything he wished for. “I would like one grain of rice for the first square of the board, two grains for the second, four grains for the third and so on doubled for each of the 64 squares of the game board” said the mathematician. “Is that all?” asked the King, “Why don’t you ask for gold or silver coins instead of rice grains.” “The rice should be sufficient for me.” replied the mathematician. The King ordered his staff to lay down the grains of rice and soon learned that all the wealth in his kingdom would not be enough to buy the amount of rice needed on the 64th square. In fact the whole kingdom’s supply of rice was exhausted before the 30th square was reached. “You have provided me with such a great game and yet I cannot fulfill your simple wish. You are indeed a genius.” said the King and offered to make the mathematician his top advisor instead.
We can see what a great example this is as a lesson in exponential growth when we reflect on the fact that the chess board has 64 squares and if you put just one grain on the first and double up on the next and so on, you will reach an enormous amount of grain.
1 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 If you work this out you get an incredible amount of grain something like this: 18.446.744.073.709.551.615 around 18.446.744 Trillions of wheat grains.
This is where Moore’s Law begins to impact our lives. Moore’s Law is a computing term which originated around 1970 which states that processor speeds, or overall processing power for computers will double every two years. That is exponential growth. It began very slowly with computers the size of small buildings in climate controlled rooms clean manned by teams of scientist and mathematicians. Today five year-old children routinely play with games having more computing power that NASA had to get to the Moon. Our cell phones were invented by Martin Cooper who was trying to bring the Star Trek communicators to life. Today our smartphones are computers that have more power than supercomputers of just a few years ago. It helps to remember that the Star Trek communicators were audio only.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on the horizon and humanoid robots with the mental agility of Watson and memories the size of Google will soon be walking among us. Scientists are already using Cochlear implants to bring hearing to the deaf. Using them to increase memory, intelligence and control machines by thought is just around the corner as we race to what Ray Kurzweil calls The Singularity. This will be a time when as Kurzweil puts it, “the next step in this inexorable evolutionary process: the union of human and machine, in which the knowledge and skills embedded in our brains will be combined with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our creations.”
What does all this mean? Do we redefine life from something like, “the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.” to sentient to include AI?
Do we become cyborgs as our machines become alive? Are we close to becoming gods who create life and virtual worlds?
While all of this technology is amazing and wondering about it and its future impact is entertaining it all reminds me of the story of the scientist who told God, “You’re not so much. We have now mastered the techniques for creating life in the laboratory.”
God answered, “Isn’t that interesting.”
Feeling as if God had taken his brazen assertion lightly the scientist said, “I challenge you to a contest. Let’s just see who can create life the fastest.”
God answered “All right let’s go.” With that God reached down and picked up some mud and began fashioning it into a man. The scientist filled with pride took his test tubes and started pouring his potions back and forth when God looked at him and said, “Hey! Get your own mud!”
Man proposes and God disposes. We think we are on the verge of taking the place of God in our own evolution. Many live as if all of this here is all that there is anywhere.
Yet the unanswered questions outweigh the answers. There are two things: Dark Matter and Dark Energy that scientists tell us makes up the vast majority of everything yet is un-seeable and unknowable. The Big Bang is now accepted as fact by all scientists yet none can tell us what was before the Big bang or how the Big Bang could have banged.
Faith has the answers. Dark Energy and Dark Matter are the power of God and the spiritual world. One upholds us and one surrounds us. And as far as the Big bang goes, in the beginning God said, “Let there be.”
If the mad rush towards the future leaves you shocked, if the idea of machines that are smarter than humans or of humans that are as smart as machines leaves you turned off instead of turned on don’t worry be happy. There is joy unspeakable and a life filled with glory right at your fingertips. Accept Jesus as your Savior, turn from the world and embrace the all-encompassing reality of a spiritual life and find the peace you have always longed for.
Even the godless Communists turned to God when they were on the ropes. Don’t wait for the bell to ring before you surrender and win. Jesus is the Rock that doesn’t roll and the shelter in the face of the storm.
We are standing on the edge of the abyss and the bell will toll soon. When we wonder for whom the bell tolls let’s rejoice together as children of God united in the Holy Spirit through faith in our risen Savior Jesus Christ. For if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
© Copyright by Robert Owens, 2014. All rights reserved.