Unification News for October 1996



We humans are the most complex of all God's creations. As God's children we ourselves are endowed with creativity, and our own inventions have been growing in complexity. Now, they are coming to rival us, in some aspects.

Futurists envision a world in which science will make life easy for us. The Principle agrees that such a comfortable world can and should come to pass. Cars will do their own driving, goods will create or deliver themselves, and "intelligent" homes will anticipate our every need.

All these future refinements will be operated by computer, and each and every year, computers become faster and more capable. (Just try to maintain a state-of-the-art computer system. You'll either go broke in a hurry, or save thousands on year old, already obsolete equipment!) Today's computers are largely interconnected, sending vast data streams across the globe in moments.

Science fiction writer William Gibson coined the word "cyberspace" in 1984, in his pioneering novel Neuromancer. That's hardly over a decade ago, yet already, even the cheapest toys and devices have microchips built in, and the Internet covers the world with its ever-increasing presence. (Note: Neuromancer will soon be a movie.)

Gibson's envisioned cyberspace does not yet exist. It would be an intense, more-than-virtual reality, involving a direct-to-brain connection with the Internet and its component systems. With special neural attachments, people could travel freely, alone or together, through these exotic, circuitry-borne places, and even "see" software as it worked, as if it were substantial. Gibson placed this world at least two hundred years in the future.

Today's cyberspace is comparatively remote; a colder place which is often accused of freezing people out of human relationships, and the more companionable activities. Activists now seek to rescue people from the shackles of a newly-proclaimed "Internet addiction." Hence, we might call our current, limited electronic reality: "Cyberia."

Cyberian Minds

Science fiction is filled with the specter of computers turned monster, from Colossus in The Forbin Project to Skynet in the Terminator movies. Reality has given us computers powerful enough to play excellent chess; recently the world cheered as the human champion soundly defeated a very expensive computer. However, a child could have easily beaten that same computer at the simplest riddle game-its sponsors would have had to spend months reprogramming it to even get started.

Scientists have struggled for years to build a robot (computer-driven, of course) that could walk, or juggle balls, or manage any such simple function. Only recently has the clever "fuzzy logic" method enabled robots to accomplish such things. Rival researchers are developing many ways to increase these capabilities. Massive initial programming versus gradual "evolutionary learning," hardwired circuitry versus shifting optical data pathways, and massive, central data processors vs. numerous, simpler "parallel" ones. Every year this hi-tech list grows longer.

Still, the ability to drive a car safely, or to perform a thousand other routine tasks, remains utterly beyond any computer. Eventually they will manage it. Still, the easygoing flexibility that "living real life" requires would require yet another leap. Becoming self- aware, much less fully human -in any sense- is a further leap beyond that-almost certainly an insurmountable one.

For a long time, scientists thought they would eventually build a computer so big that its circuitry roughly equaled that of the human brain; the number of brain cells and, more importantly, its numerous, variably interconnected neurons. And that this would be enough for it to function just as effectively. After all, they claim that the body is also a machine, though made of protein and DNA rather than metal and circuitry.

It hasn't proved that simple, if one could ever have called it that. Recently, scientists have had to completely revise their understanding of the human brain and mind. (See my previous article Mind Games.) There are still physical mysteries about the brain that haven't been solved. Furthermore, researchers haven't gotten anywhere near discovering the nature of consciousness itself.

Silicon Brains

There are ways to test these matters, even without viewing a living brain, or knowing how to build a computer. One of the pioneers of Cyberia, Alan Turing, devised a simple test, which now bears his name. In it, you would communicate, via typed words, with two subjects, one a human and the other a computer. You could converse on any subject, or ask them any question. If, in the end, you could not tell which was the computer, you would then have to admit that the computer was "really thinking."

While there are "expert system" programs that can learn to chat, or to discuss some difficult profession, no computer has ever come close to passing the Turing Test.

There are reasons to believe that it is impossible. One involves the "stopping problem," first stated as a simple allegory. That is: a foolish donkey, when placed between two identical piles of hay, would starve to death, because he wouldn't be able to decide which one to approach. There are many logic-puzzles, not to mention everyday situations, which have no clear-cut solution. There is, apparently, no conceivable way to write a software program that could realize when to give up, much less, to make a seemingly arbitrary "intuitive" decision.

Also, logic alone cannot give rise to fruitful action. Living life successfully requires a "metaphysic," a deep feeling about what's good to do, and what is worth striving for. (Remember, even Star Trek's fictional Vulcans have emotions-they just don't show them.) Roger Penrose spells out these various arguments in his recent book Shadows of the Mind.

Some scientists believe that the human mind gets around such problems with a built-in "randomizer," which takes advantage of Quantum Mechanics. Certain of our brain structures are small enough to be directly affected by this, one of the universe's strangest properties. However, in your author's opinion, such a built-in "dice-roller" could not begin to account for the richness of our minds.

Many believe that human minds will someday inhabit computers. One "thought experiment" imagines that, someday, science will be able to replace your brain, bit by bit, with artificial circuitry. Eventually, it would be totally manmade, yet it would still be "you in there." One wonders if the immortal soul would mind being attached to such a construction.

Science has already stretched the limits of "what is human." Organ transplants are common, and tiny, implanted machines enable the heart to beat steadily, and the deaf to hear. Living embryos are transferred to suitable wombs. Recently, the American government issued guidelines for the transplanting of animal organs into humans. Today, thousands die because suitable donors cannot be found. Most people would rather live well, with a pig's liver, than to die a slow, painful death. Even now, a large animal could bring a human fetus to term, and brain transplants may be possible. No one has done these things-yet. It is only a matter of time.

Future Dreams

In the future, both micro-machines and genetic engineering could drastically alter the function and capabilities of the human body. Possibly, also, of the mind. (See the sci-fi books of Bruce Sterling and Nancy Kress.) If "nanotechnology" is ever perfected, then our bodies might routinely carry billions of microscopic "repairmen," enabling us to last for centuries at least, surviving even severe disease and injury. However, such "nanites" could also function as horrific weapons . . . (Read Nanodreams, ed. by Elton Elliot.)

Such techniques are a matter of straightforward engineering. Though far beyond today's science, it should be noted that progress is being made at a breakneck pace, on many fronts. There is no use denying it; even the informed may be overwhelmed-the ignorant certainly will be.

The idea of a self-aware computer, a fully artificial mind, is science's greatest challenge yet. The Principle makes it clear that everything has an "internal nature"; in a sense, even a boulder has a primitive, slow awareness. Principle also explains that the human spirit is passed on to an embryo by its parents. A computer, even if it could think, would still lack that invisible spirit.

This is pure speculation, but it appears that, without that unique "internal, subject-partner" element, a machine awareness would be severely handicapped. Science may someday construct computers and robots that are as clever as we are, yet they would lack much. Perhaps a soul, or true self-awareness. Possibly initiative, or something else unforeseen.

True Father has stated that the spirit is attached to the physical body in another place, at the sexual organs, those crucial centers of human love. Computers, despite having programmable voices, are utterly genderless, not to mention sexless. The same might not be said of some future robot, but again, there would be no spirit behind such a physical simulacrum. There could be no love, loss or humor.

Consider: the unseen universe houses a great variety of spirits and angels, all without physical bodies. Currently, only humans can bridge the two worlds. Perhaps these half-fulfilled elements could find a way to get together?

Spirituality and science should have no problem getting along. A robot could toss the I Ching as easily as a wizened seer. Someday, robots may become reliable nursemaids for our children. If Herod or Caesar had used "rebel tracking" computers, the Apostles would have been hackers. Today, churches have their own World Wide Web pages. So does every other human endeavor, good, bad and ugly.

This rapidly approaching future will present religions, and their dogmas, with a bewildering variety of challenges. The cold realm of the silicon chip needs warming up! God's Principle and Heart are needed everywhere, even in Cyberia.


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