There’s a dual comfort and dismay at the fact of incomputability. Philosophically, it’s humbling to admit that there are simply things that we cannot and may not ever be able to solve. Bringing in Stephen Hawking and his 10 billion year time frame gives perspective to our humanity and our abilities. I recently bought a telescope and having spent a few weeks looking up at the sky at night between the rain lately, I have to admit it’s given my research some helpful perspective.
It contrasts some with the discussion of Turing’s “On Computable Numbers” paper in this same piece, the Church-Turing thesis. It’s more than a computable question, I think, on whether human brain capacity can be equivalent to a computer and deep neural network computing. I listened to an interesting debate recently between Jaron Lanier and a singularity advocate, whose name I now forget. The idea that the human mind could and will eventually be replicated by a computer to me seems like a bad ending to what had been an otherwise enjoyable sci fi novel. I don’t know that that need be our end point, or that it is even possible. Jacques Ellul wrote about Technique, and the ever growing and ever more integral obsession with results, efficiency, and function, and I think there is a healthy space for critique in this area- what’s possible, what’s not, what is lost, what is outside of our horizon and paradigm.
Then there’s the example of Google and the flu. Here we see that big data can make mistakes, and reach impossible predictions. But, when it comes to other areas, like self driving cars, or areas where artificial general intelligence or artificial super intelligence may step in as part of the algorithmic fabric of the imminent future, big data fails are inevitable and more deadly. All new technologies fail. A failure at a certain level, however, might be difficult to come back from. Interesting discussion of this in Our Final Invention.