mercredi 28 novembre 2018

Intelligence is an idol

There is a lot of talk about „intelligent life in the universe”. With some attempts to analyze the probability of such a phenomenon in our galaxy, and contacting it. Mostly, the word „intelligent” or, what is the same „intelligence” is not analyzed. It is presumed to mean something very positive, an intelligent living being must be like us and often is presumed to be better than us. In fact, intelligence, reason is in itself neither good nor bad. Intelligence is a computer we carry with us. A computer that does some important calculations, helps us to find the best way to live our life, to maximise good and minimize bad. But what is good and what is bad, is not for our intelligence, for our shouldertop computer to decide. Good is what we like, what is pleasant for us -- sweet things, nice landscapes, nice people, good sex, interesting games... Bad is what we dislike, try to avoid: pain, hunger, cold, contacts with unpleasant people, ugliness, bad smells, dull surroundings... Dualistic division of things we meet and interact with into good and bad is an essential attribute of every life, be it simple or complex. In evolution, this dualism has evolved, become quite complex, although some fundamental things have not changed. We still pull our hand away from a hot pan, we look for a bottle of water when we are thirsty. But we also avoid some music, some interpreters we consider bad, we like some poetry and dislike some other, we like and dislike some eroticism, we hunt lions and tigers, although they no more pose a danger to us. Our intelligence, our brain is like a guide, a pilot trying to guide us through an intricate maze. It is much more powerful than the computer of other animals, but still it is not all-powerful. It can help us not to stumble on a fallen twig, but it cannot tell us to avoid a drunken driver who is just turning around the corner and can hit us. It does not warn us about an earthquake or tsunami. The problem is that while we become more skilled, our intelligence does a better job in guiding us, it is also busy with making the maze we are in, more complex, more labyrinthine. In the distant past when the human civilization was stable, changed very slowly, mankind more or less succeeded in surviving, its brains, its intelligence evolved and changed in unison with the environment. The turning point seems to have been the neolithic revolution when man began changing his environment faster and faster, creating more and more complex systems he had to control. And, as we see nowadays, man has lost control of the world he has changed, transforming it into a biotechnosystem completely different from the one he evolved in, became what he still is, an animal controlled by its instincts, emotions, trying to use its brain, its shouldertop computer to solve the problems. That are more and more problems created by itself. Man is losing his ability to control the man-made world. And probably this process, the out-of-control development of our world will end with a catastrophe first of all, a catastrophe for us and many other living beings. I believe that this development is not necessarily human, if there are other „intelligent beings” in the universe, they must sooner or later run into the same difficulty: they become unable to cope with the environment, the world they have remade, remodeled, and their civilization falls apart, maybe they are even unable to survive. I think this is one quite probable answer to so-called Fermi paradox: the absence of any trace of extraterrestrial civilizations that should be not so rare in the universe. They may well have destroyed themselves. Self-destructiveness is necessarily programmed in any intelligence, when it becomes powerful enough. Intelligence seems unable to control itself, and, of course, the instincts, the emotions that make it work, dictating to it what is good and what is bad. Intelligence is not God, it has the tendency to become an idol, a false god. 

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