Sunday, April 25, 2021

Man Over Machine


Mediated desire

Photo by Maximalfocus on Unsplash

The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man.

-B.F. Skinner

    I've decided to take a different direction here, mainly because this wasn't taking any direction. So, I'll share a little bit more about my soul, in an attempt to help myself and others who might for some reason identify themselves with my current challenges and situations in life.

    A question that has been constantly showing up in my head is: am I really in control or I'm just guided by my impulses? I want to be in control. Last night, it was 2 AM when I got up from my bed, grabbed my lemon sorbet in the fridge (which, to be quite honest and fair with myself was half full) and ate it. I wasn't hungry. I was maybe bored, a little anxious (I suffer from chronic anxiety and depression) and I wanted to feel the taste of the lemon in my mouth.

    I am a programmer, considerably immersed in the universe of artificial intelligence. In it, I control the machines - or should I say, I try to teach them to control themselves. Of course that I know that ultimately I am in control, but my goal is to have them work for themselves, so that they can work for me. But it doesn't always go well.

    Even a simple model can go wrong. If we write a simple Tensorflow algorithm using Keras, with one layer and one neuron, a simple input just to try to "guestimate" a linear equation, it won't be perfect. This has to do with the fact that the models deal with probability. But what is the lesson here?

    I believe in God. I know that we, as His sons and daughters have a purpose here, which is in fact similar to His purpose - I'd even go as far as to say that it's the same purpose. However, our machines, even though trained by Him, don't always work as intended. I struggle with two great impulses that are really hard to control, that I know that take me away from the direction that I am supposed to go through. How can I direct myself to the proper path?

    Day by day, I struggle. I do not have the right answer yet. One thing I know, though: that my Great Programmer will not let me work with an imperfect model, but I have to do my part in order to follow my intended path. 

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About Ricardo Prins
Ricardo Prins is a Software Engineer who thinks that technology is not the answer to all our problems.

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