Thoughts on Technology

Charles Krauthammer and Michelle Malkin write about technology.
Krauthammer stayed home to watch the final game of the Garry Kasparov versus X3D Fritz chess match. He found reasons for optimism in the fact that Kasparov played silicon’s best to a draw:
“We assume that as computers get better, they are going to pull away from us, beating us more and more easily, particularly in such circumscribed logical exercises as chess. Not so. Since 1997 machines have gotten so much stronger that even off-the-shelf ones now routinely massacre the ordinary player. But the great players are learning to adapt. Genius is keeping up.”
Krauthammer’s analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of mortal and machine players is fascinating:
“Interestingly, in each game that was won, the loser was true to his nature. Kasparov lost Game 2 because, being human, he made a tactical error. Computers do not. When it comes to tactics, they play like God. Make one error, just one, and you’re toast. The machine’s exploitation of the error will be flawless and fatal.
“In Game 3 the computer lost because, being a computer, it has (for now) no imagination. Computers can outplay just about any human when the field is open, the pieces have mobility and there are millions of possible tactical combinations. Kasparov therefore steered Game 3 into a position that was utterly static — a line of immobile pawns cutting across the board like the trenches of the First World War.
“Neither side could cross into enemy territory. There was, ‘thought’ Fritz, therefore nothing to do. It can see 20 moves deep, but even that staggering foresight yielded absolutely no plan of action. Like a World War I general, Fritz took to pacing up and down behind its lines.
“Kasparov, on the other hand, had a deep strategic plan. Quietly and methodically, he used the bit of space he had on one side of the board to align his pieces, preparing for the push of a single pawn down the flank to queen — and win. Meanwhile, Fritz was reduced to shuffling pieces back and forth. At one point, it moved its bishop one square and then back again on the next move. No human would ever do that. Not just because it is a waste of two moves. It is simply too humiliating. It is an open declaration to your opponent that you have no idea what you’re doing, and that maybe checkers is your game.
“The observers loved it. ‘This move showed that the computer doesn’t feel any embarrassment,’ said grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov. It was a moment to savor.”
Krauthammer believes that computers will one day evolve consciousness, much as he thinks people did: “I do not see why silicon cannot make the same transition from unconsciousness to consciousness that carbon did.” That’s a big topic for another day, but I very much doubt that Michelle Malkin would agree.
She defends technology, but from a completely different point of view; her topic today is “bomb-throwing Birkenstock brats. Wolves in hemp clothing. Enemies of scientific progress. Inveterate haters of humanity.” This is to say, the anti-science Luddites of the left–radical animal rights activists, anti-biotechnology demonstrators, and so on. Michelle says:
“The same technology that is producing miracle crops is producing miracle medicines to improve human health and longevity. Biotech is also being used to tackle toxic waste, reduce lead contamination and clean up sewage systems. But in the minds of the technophobes, the only politically correct way to cure disease is to wear red-string bracelets, eat organically grown ginger and pray to Gaia. The only environmentally acceptable way to improve the earth is to compost banana peels and recycle soy milk cartons. And the only morally tolerable way to use modern technology — e.g., the Internet — is to use it to preach violence and destroy the progress of others.
“With each new scientific breakthrough, the anti-biotech militants have grown more desperate and reckless. ‘Ultimately,’ [Michael] Fumento writes, ‘only two things can defeat such negativism. One is education; the other is the products themselves.’ There is a third force: the voices of biotech’s myriad beneficiaries, from the cancer patients whose lives have been saved by Gleevec to the Third World consumers of golden rice. It’s time to verbally roast the vegan marshmallows and let biotech move forward without fear.”
Some things, of course, technology just can’t match; in keeping with our fallible human subjectivity, we’ll close with a photo of Michelle–but not of the good Dr. Krauthammer.


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