Image: Brian Solis
Image: Brian Solis

Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that Facebook promotes democracy, and runs into a storm of criticism, meanwhile, Ray Kurzweil, futurist and the man who runs Google’s engineering lab, reckons the point when computers are more intelligent than humans is nigh. We better hope Zuckerberg is right.

 

Mark Zuckerberg has once again claimed that Facebook supports democracy. Communicating via Facebook this week, he said that the social media tool means that “more people had a voice in this election than ever before. . . There were billions of interactions discussing the issues that may never have happened offline.”

Back in 2012 he said: “People sharing more … leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others” and “helps people get exposed to a greater number of diverse perspectives.”

It is not hard to see the flaws. The concept of an echo chamber has hit the national media. Wired magazine ran a piece referring to Future Shock author Alvin Toffler. He “saw the problem back in 1970” stated Wired “when he coined the term ‘information overload…Just as the body cracks under the strain of environmental overstimulation,’ he wrote, the ‘mind and its decision processes behave erratically when overloaded.’”

So the problem then, is us, Facebook can stimulate debate but we are not up to it, we misuse the tool that can give us access to just about all the information in the world. Is that right?

Meanwhile, Ray Kurzweil reckons computers will match human intelligence during the next decade and that in the 2040s computer intelligence will be accelerating at such a pace that we are left way behind, he calls it Singularity.

It’s not hard to see why. Intel is working on a neuromorphic chip,  a chip with 130,000 electronic neurons that form 130 million synapses. The human brain, by contrast, has 100 billion neurons which can form 100 trillion synapses, so that might suggest computers have a long way to go. But actually, apply a Moore’s Law trajectory to that, and by the 2040s chips will match the human brain and ten years after that exceed us 100 times over.

So we have a choice, let computers supplant us or enhance us. If Zuckerberg is right, we can be the winners, equipped with more knowledge, greater ability to interact, AI can complement us, enhance us, make us wiser, even more intelligent. Or maybe the brain can’t cope, tell us too much, and we get information overload. If that is right, then humans may become somewhat irrelevant.