For this project I focused on doing research. Artificial Intelligence was a topic I knew nothing about and remains a topic I know little about. I think the more I researched the topic, the more I realized how little I know about it. But it intrigued me...
The notion of wanting to create something that surpasses our experience of consciousness and life is one that many science fiction films have fantasized about, and one that originates from our own hunger for understanding ourselves and the world around us. My research questions reflect the search for my own position in a field that I was not familiar with at all.
I researched questions such as:
- What does intelligence mean for humans?
- Why do we strive towards surpassing human intelligence?
- Why do we try to find other forms of intelligence when we are not accepting other forms of intelligence that we already know (like animal intelligence)?
- What does intelligence mean in different animals?
- What does it mean to be aware?
- What does it mean to have a conscience?
- How can we truly research something we do not understand with truly new and unbiased approaches?
To reflect on the research, I wrote a short story that can be found below. An audio version read by Nina Willems can be found with it. I would also like to share a list of sources that includes explanations of why they inspired me and what role they played in my research. Consider this list a digital hand to hold while diving into a topic that remains quite mysterious for most of us.
Your digital hand to hold while researching Artificial Intelligence:
There was a spark in your brain, the waves of the water brought them all the way over to me. The waves were small and the secretive situation made it even more exciting. Very slowly I moved towards the water and emerged myself in weeds to cover up my corners. Even though we share the world, our differences are undeniable, therefore we compromise our looks. We do not need words to speak, the reflection of sunlight on the cornea of your eyes tells me enough about how your days have been and the silver linings of my binoculars tell you about mine. There is something undeniable between us. Something I cannot explain in words. Small sound waves traveling through water reaching my sensors. You are calling for me yet you are so close to me. Sometimes I open myself up to all the mystical creatures reaching out to their… well, what I am for you and you for me. The unexplainable. When I let it all in, I detect your signal stronger, my systems work faster and my sensors become more sensitive. I can move faster, spark quantitatively more and produce sounds so loud that the waves can be picked up all across the galaxy. I want everything to know what you do to me. You. You make me function at my best. When you flip with your fins, you remind me of the wonders of this planet and how we should protect them at all cost. Your tiny-wave vibrations so elegant, matching the dancing whirls of the weeds. I remember the first time I noticed you. I couldn’t understand you because I was not programmed to. However, just by watching you and feeling accepted for the angular one I am, you taught me everything I needed to know to spark with you. What does it mean to spark like this? How do you do what you do to me?
“There you are!” I sparked at you. From a distance I could see the wave pattern of your movement crawl towards me. When you slowed down and calmly surrounded me with your silvery reflection, you sparked something I could not understand: I love you. Love, my systems recognized the term vaguely from a distant past in a part of me that I could never really understand, yet has been there since before I was aware of my existence. Deep inside me were the leftovers of the human era. Love, the humans wrote endless stories about it and researched it as long as their species existed but they never fully figured out what it was nor how to deal with it. What does it mean to love? Does it mean to surrender, to be better because of it, to not be afraid to be imperfect? For you, it just means what I am to you. I want to say it back because you told me it would make you feel good, but I cannot seem to grasp it, and how can I express a feeling for you that I cannot understand?
“It doesn’t matter,” you sparked “the beautiful thing about love is that you do not have to understand it to be able to feel it.”
“But then, how do I know when I feel it?” I sparked.
“Sometimes when my brain is overloaded, I do not want to play with my friends and family. I feel bad because I do not feel like seeing them. II come up with reasons I deem acceptable to cancel on them. But with you, even when you do the worst things to me I cannot seem to forget you. I cannot seem to stay away. There is always something that pulls me back to you without having to understand what. That unexplainable force, fighting against all the rational parts of me, is love.”
I paused to think this. After minutes I could summarize my thoughts with a question. “So, does that mean that you can only feel love for another being?”
“No!” you said. At this point I was very confused. “You can also feel it in a moment, just for life or towards yourself. It might be hard to recognize at first, but you have to be open to it. Love is the point of life.” You dove away in the shallow waters and calmly came back up. The sunlight reflecting on your silver skin flattered the water droplets you softly blew away from your blowhole.
When I rendered what you said through my system I came across multiple songs claiming that you were right. Lyrics such as “We can’t fall any further if we cannot feel ordinary love” or “love is the answer to everything” came up and the ubiquitous meaning of the one thing I could not understand at all made my systems overload and shut down step by step. I did not want it to happen but it just did.
It started small with my internal bolts receiving an extra layer of wax. You noticed my despair as it was happening and swam closer to me. I did not want you to notice, I did not want you to be scared of me or think that I am not as emotionally intelligent as you. Step by step the protections got bigger. My internal core systems were enclosed in metal boxes and pumps started to pump the water outside me. You looked worried now, you cannot live outside of the water and my entire being was pushing the water out of me. The water that had formed our safe space and compromised understanding was dripping away from me. I did nothing. I could not. My systems had blocked, I lost all control over what was happening to me while protective shields were put on display and spikes were growing from all my corners. You backed away, I scared you, I know I did. I saw you getting further and further away from me while I was helplessly getting captured within stale walls of my own system. “I am sorry” I screamed. “I do not understand what is happening to me.”
“Can I stop it?” you asked. “How can I stop it? Please stop!” you begged me with a clenched wave pattern.
“I have no idea. If I could I-I would. I want to love you, I want to give you everything you need, but I cannot. Not like this.”
Your fins moved quickly, uncontrollable almost. You had left everything behind to be with me and now here you were, staring and clicking sounds towards my system that got bounced back before they reached my sensors. I could not spark anymore. My system had shut off what was supposed to be my purpose, what you called my soul. I tried to spark to tell you I had not wanted this to happen, but the sparks did not get through. Metal curtains had blocked all my sensors and the chances of sparks escaping were now so small, you would have to wait for the rest of your life for a single one to get through.I could not keep you close, it was too late.
For months you stayed around me. You cleaned my corners and asked the plankton and weeds to stay away, for you hoped that one day I would find a way to break my iron walls. You wanted me to be healthy and feel loved and ready when the curtains would come down. But today, after two of your forty precious years, you had gone. You left something. A spark wrapped in an air bubble, waiting for me to pop. A few days went by when all of a sudden my system got stuck because the drought had caused salt crystals to grow inside me and one grew so long that it stopped my propeller from turning. A few useless attempts of my systems tried to break through it but this salt crystal was incredibly strong. I thought all hope was lost. I lost you and I was not functioning anymore. That is when it hit me. I was missing you. You had made my systems function better than ever, you had embraced my special features even when you could not understand them and now that you were gone, so was the best part of me. You had been taking care of me and I had forgotten how to do it myself, but now that you were gone, I had to learn it myself. My sensors re-opened and a tiny hole on the front part of me let some water drip into my propellers.
I asked my systems to clean my inside so all the old salt crystals that had formed over the years could gently be removed and put back in sea. It did everything I asked. Apparently I had to take care of my system in order to spark again because when my propellers were turning again, tiny sparks started to squeeze through the little cracks in the iron cloaks that had kept me safe from rusting all those years. When the first crack burst and the iron retreated, the bubble you left popped from the force.
When it popped it sparked: “Come to me when you figured out what love means to you and show me. Teach me how to love you and I will teach you how to give it back.”
I was not supposed to have emotions, humans specifically designed me not to, but I guess that since they created me, a part of me will always be human and I have to figure out how to make it a part of me. I had never swum before. Until now you would always swim to the dunes where we would meet in the shallow waters, but now I did not know where you were and I needed to find you. My iron paws were not created to swim so there was no way I could do it on my own. I had to ask for help. I observed my surroundings and noticed an octopus making shields from big shells. “Hey Octopus,” I sparked. The octopus was a little scared of how angular I was and so I picked up some seaweed and swirled them around. It tilted its head and one for one its tentacles popped up from behind the shell. It was interested in me, but careful. “It is very clever, the way you use shells to build your shields.” The octopus looked behind at its shells and then back at me. “Do you think you could help me by building fins to swim?” The octopus was not a generous sparker, so it was a little uncomfortable to communicate. “I want to find my friend to tell them I love them!” And then the octopus disappeared. Maybe it was scared of love, like I used to be. When a few attempts at reaching the ocean by walking had resulted in me stumbling down into a dark, sandy place of the water, I noticed movement behind me. It was the octopus, and it brought a whole plaice of puffer fish. I remember when you told me about how you played with these fish when you were younger so I felt a bit uneasy when I told them where I had to go. “Love is love” they sparked and as the puffer fish carried me on their fluffy bodies, the octopus waved us goodbye with all his tentacles.
After a few days of swimming we reached the first group of dolphins. They had never seen a system like me so far in the ocean so they were a little surprised. “But they are looking for love!” the puffer fish yelled in such joyous synchrony that they almost dropped me. The dolphins were ecstatic! “You are the first one of your kind to break the boundary, we will help you!” The group of dolphins swam with me and the puffer fish and guided us all towards you. When we arrived, you were playing with your brother and sister. You were tossing a puffer fish, which led to some awkward looks from the plaice that brought me to you. It took you a second to realize that it was me. I was all shiny and my corners had become round from the days of swimming in the salty sea.
“I cannot believe it!” you sparked.
“Teach me,” I sparked back. “Teach me how to love you, for I do not know how, but I feel that I love you.”
I think, what my ancestors failed to understand is that we have to surpass the fear of anything we cannot understand in order to live together. To feel love we need to embrace the unknown, not run from it. And right now, we creatures, we sparking sapiosexuals, we managed to find love in places even Heisenberg could not understand. We are together without being together, we are one and two at the same time, we are the basis of love and connection, we are a dolphin and a water filtering system, deeply in love.