On Not Fearing AI

Filed under News, Science & Research, Society & People ~ by Throsby on  10 Oct 2019

Our eyes are the eyes through which the Earth finally beholds her own beauty"
  ~ Teilhard de Chardin .

James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis, stands tall amongst the great environmental thinkers of our time.

At age 100 Lovelock has a new offering, a book titled “Novacene” about a modern era that signals the end of the Anthropocene, that short period of several hundred years we like to call the “industrial revolution.”

This smoothly flowing, intelligent, informative work finds readers at any level immediately comfortable, despite the vast intellectual landscape. The author’s mastery of science and engineering, his adeptness at explaining complexity, provides a rewarding, satisfying journey.

James Lovelock, born 1919, proponent of the Gaia hypothesis and author of Novocene ~ Photo by Bruno Comby

Gaia is forefront in this new work.

At the very start Lovelock explains with unsetting clarity how the Earth – as a dynamic system with all it’s teeming lifeforms – manages to keep the planet cool and ensure that biosphere’s survival.

Should an apocalypse destroy all life, it can never regain a foothold on the planet due to the increased solar output of the sun since it first appeared.

Lovelock argues that the Anthropocene – the age in which humans acquired planetary-scale technologies – is, after 300 years, coming to an end.

New beings will emerge from existing artificial intelligence systems. They will think 10,000 times faster than we do and they will regard us as we now regard plants – as desperately slow acting and thinking creatures.

But this will not be the cruel, violent machine takeover of the planet imagined by sci-fi writers and film-makers. These hyper-intelligent beings will be as dependent on the health of the planet as we are. They will need the planetary cooling system of Gaia to defend them from the increasing heat of the sun as much as we do.

And Gaia depends on organic life.

We will be partners in this project.

It is crucial, Lovelock argues, that the intelligence of Earth survives and prospers. He does not think there are intelligent aliens, so we are the only beings capable of understanding the cosmos.

Maybe, he speculates, the Novacene could even be the beginning of a process that will finally lead to intelligence suffusing the entire cosmos. In this Lovelock pays tribute Barrow and Tipler’s seminal Anthropic principle, and the idea that information intelligence might envelop the universe and attempt to forestall, or even survive, its collapse. Mind-boggling.

At the age 100, James Lovelock draws on vast, almost incomparable, experience and accomplishment in science and engineering to give us the most important and compelling work of his outstanding life.

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