Philip K Dick
I take back what I said before – I am a Dickhead. A fan of Philip K Dick, that is.
My introduction to Dick’s work was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which I found slightly disappointing. However, this collection of short stories is excellent. His ideas are incredibly prescient – I’ve no idea how he managed to predict with such accuracy, the sense of paranoia that developments in artificial intelligence would engender in modern society.
The collection seems to have been brought together because of a series of programmes on Channel Four. I don’t watch television, so I haven’t seen them. Having said that, I have enjoyed some episodes of Black Mirror on Netflix and can see that Philip K Dick has influenced them indirectly through the idea that virtual realities would give rise to ethical dilemmas and facilitate our darker impulses. (Or perhaps Dick influenced them directly? I don’t know the screenwriter, Charlie Brooker, so I can’t ask him if he is also a Dickhead).
I’ve seen a few interesting YouTube videos recently. I have mentioned before that I like to watch university lectures! Yes, I’m very sad. Brian Eno mentioned DeepMind in one of his talks, which led me to check out their website. It is fascinating, especially if you are interested in neuroscience and psychology, not just AI. DeepMind describe themselves as “the world leader in artificial intelligence research and its application for positive impact.”
Well, I’m not here to argue the ethics of Artificial Intelligence – I’m sure my sense of paranoia is already evident to anyone who reads this blog! It’s the misuse of our data, that causes me concern, rather than a fear of some Terminator-style rise of the machines. (Having said that, I actually had a tantrum while using a “self-service checkout” this morning – not my finest hour. Really, M&S, is it too much to ask to be served by an actual human being first thing in the morning, instead of arguing with a temperamental computer? Imagine the difference a smiling and helpful sales assistant would have made to the start of my day).
Anyway, please do look at the DeepMind website: there is a project about how AI systems learn, which is very interesting and also one on how AI systems can learn to navigate cities “as humans used to do, without maps, GPS localisation, or other aids, using only visual observations.”
Is that how humans really learned to navigate cities – “using only visual observations”? I suspect it is a far more holistic sensory experience. Perhaps humans attach memories to places, of personal significance, and use them as a breadcrumb trail? Or you may use your nose to help you navigate. Different areas of London still have different aromas – this would have been even more evident when London was a working city with tanneries, docklands, fish markets, abattoirs, etc. For example, the term ‘The Shambles’ means an open-air slaughterhouse, so if you live in a quaint city which has a road called The Shambles, then you can imagine what it must have smelled like once upon a time. Perhaps you could have followed your nose?
I’m not sure why a robot would need to ‘navigate’ a city in a human way – surely you could just program the coordinates into it or something? What do I know?
This is Techno-Luddite signing off.