Singularity: Dumbing down the human race?

So I’m following this interesting story at slashdot because it concerns an apparent gaffe by the company I work for, IEEE. (For how this affects me personally read my blog post). In a nutshell: a computer-generated paper was accepted to an IEEE-sponsored conference and the fake writer of the paper was assigned to run a panel at the conference.

If you read through the comments at the slashdot post you get the idea that while this is not necessarily a common occurence, it is not totally surprising. I am not surprised considering the amount of spam that I receive involving fake phDs for sale. Obviously there’s money to be made selling false research, so somebody developed software to create it. Kind of reminds me of the story going around about the neurosurgeon that had never graduated college let alone doctor school.

What I take away from all this is a picture of our exhaulted scientific method as being something short of exhaulted. There’s so much pressure to graduate with a degree, to do research, to publish research, to hold conferences, to present new findings, to Become Somebody. If all of this is just creating gibberish, why are we doing it? Why bother? Do we really need more information on the subject?

That’s one way of looking at it.

Another way of looking at it is, if computers can generate our research, i.e. do our creative thinking for us, and it all turns out to be pretty dumb, are we and our tools, the computers, going to just get dumber and dumber? Will we know we’re getting dumber or will we just keep deescalating through the ugly nit-picking-in-the-fur stage all the way back to non-sentience? The incentive is there. Ignorance is bliss. The stupider we are the happier we are. The happier we are, the more we’ll party. The more we party, the drunker we’ll get. The drunker we get, the more we’ll screw. The more we screw, the more our genes will pass on to the next generation.

Here’s a third way of looking at it: Is the pyramid scheme that is the U.S. economy now extending to the world of scientific research and tech development? Are our whole lives just one big shuffling of text from one corner of the empire to another without proper evaluation and comment? Without interest on the part of the writers, the publishers, the readers?

Do you get the feeling we’re already there? Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

Sue Lange
The Textile Planet



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