Monthly Archives: February 2016

Science and the Computer Revolution

Many scientists and sociologists could find the means to make the argument that we are currently involved in a scientific revolution spurred by computers. Although the last scientific revolution may have involved the invention of science itself, our current one does at least seem to involve, if not the proliferation of science, the proliferation of completely new means of conducting science, at levels so much more powerful and informative than previously known that science itself arguably has changed.

rev in evTake for example the rise of big data, as well as deep learning, machine learning, artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, whatever you want to call it capabilities that have risen along side the data. Now not only can huge amounts of data be collected, the process of analysis is speeding up faster and faster as computers are being programmed to look at large data sets and figure out how to best sort them, tasks that can take huge teams of researchers 1000% longer. With these tools, the medical and engineering fields are growing faster than ever before. Genomes are being fully written down or predicted, viruses are being mapped, all kinds of cool stuff.

Computers have also made the invention of new tools much easier. Without the computing that went into creating LIGA’s equipment, likely the physicists responsible for finally discovering the first confirmed gravitational wave would have never been able to understand whether that wave was real or just a result of a passing train or earthquake. Truly amazing stuff.

And then to move on to how computing may affect the human mind; it’s hard to say, as the rise of the internet is so unprecedented and remains so fresh in our era that longterm studies have yet to be conducted on the results of our newest companions. That said, the rise of the cloud and cloud computing as well as neural mapping progress have led some transhumanists to end belief and hope to the 2045 initiative, the movement towards making it possible to upload one’s “self” to the cloud and live as a hologram for as long as there are computers and an internet an infrastructure to project one’s self.

rockoThat said, some believe that there truly is a limit to how much the human spirit can be melded with the human-made. Those who counter transhumanist theory and the 2045 initiative stress that the human brain and neural connections do not work linearly and would likely to be too immense to ever translate into digital, binary code.

And perhaps they’re right, but then there’s the highly awaited rise of quantum computing, an effort to make subatomic particles function as transistors that actually can function with more parts than just 0 and 1. If that’s to happen, perhaps less linear and more biological movements can be mimicked by computers which, if they were made out of subatomic particles, would perhaps be capable of being more biological themselves.

Yes, the world is changing, and it takes a huge amount of time and internet wandering to even get a tiny piece of it into your brain, so perhaps the rate at which a human being learns would be the biggest change of all. If only we could figure out how to speed that up.