Will computers ever take the power?


Part three.


Here in this part we put aside the fantasy of a post-human futuristic society populated by a new type of "living being" in the form of highly advanced computers. Let's discuss computers as part of their current mission as machines created by man to automate calculations, information processing and control. And let's pose the question: how far will the process of computerization of large enterprises, or even cities or states, reach.

In other words, to what extent can the already existing assisting role of computers in design, research, process control and information services be expanded in the future? Can a moment come when a large production, city or state will be entirely controlled by a computer in the COMPLETE absence of any personnel supervising them: say, within a year?

NO !

"NO" not because of the high cost of computers: they are now cheaper than dust.

"NO" not because of the still insufficient speed of computers: computers are already so powerful that their speed is more than sufficient for almost all administrative tasks.

The real reason for this "NO" is...

a) An increasingly expensive and difficult process of writing and debugging programs.

b) The high cost, unreliability, difficulty of setting up and maintaining the performance of servo-mechanisms and robots in automated enterprises that are controlled by a computer.

Let's discuss (a). Let's define the efficiency of a line of code of a program as the value

The number of all executed instructions incluidng those in linearized loops

                  The number of written instructions in the code                               

The maximum is achieved on scientific problems based on mathematical algorithms in numerical methods. Say, a couple of thousand lines of such a program can make a computer to perform trillions of operations during a day, or a week, so that the efficiency of a line of code will be in a matter of trillions.

On the contrary, extremely inefficient code is in programs that imitate human actions, business rules, and the actions of operators of complex processes consisting of thousands of steps such as

if ... then ... else ...

if ... then ... else ...

Efficiency in this case is just something close to 1. But the worst thing is that such a program must reproduce all the conscious and subconscious actions of every responsible specialist or manager whom it is intended to replace.

It is a torment to write such a program (hundreds of thousands of lines long) being sure that nothing of the human knowledge and experience was missed. And it is even more torment to find errors in it. Yet the utopian goal is to remove all people, from operators to the top manager, leaving the most responsible production only at the discretion of robots! Let's say a nuclear power plant!

Is it thinkable to send a passenger plane to a flight on autopilot from the start to finish, without any pilots on board (and without remote control of the aircraft by the operator)?! 

Yes, modern automated factories use many programs controlling robots and processes – but under the constant supervision of hundreds of specialists and adjusters of all robots. To replace all human adjusters and operators with the next generation of robots and servo mechanisms for them will again require even more skilled operators and adjusters! And so on, and so forth.

Thus, the fundamental obstacle to full automation of production and even wider facilities is the ever-increasing cost and unreliability of software, as well as the cost and unreliability of servo equipment. For these reasons, automation of anything will hit the ceiling when trying to make it more and more comprehansive, never reaching full automation. At the same time, the catastrophic consequences of inevitable automation errors will also increase.


Part one.

As it has just been analyzed, there are fundamental limitations in the expansion of the use of computers even as assisting machines in large-scale production. Then is it reasonable to talk about a post-human society of the future, in which computers have replaced people, if there is a ceiling even in the automation of production and services?!

However, the most important thing here is that computers are man-made inanimate machines that execute only the algorithms entered by man. Computers are the most typical example of a completely deterministic physical device – and therefore they cannot have its own "goal setting" or "free will". Computers can do that and only that which is entered as a program by a human operator.

Of course, a villain operator can create a program that controls such servo-mechanisms which will start killing people and "taking power." However, this would mean that it was not computers taking power, but the person with his accomplices who armed himself with computers (and various murder weapons) to usurp power .

Talking about the taking power by "beings" incapable of goal-setting and free will is SENSELESS.

If we however imagine a new kind of computerized person as a living human brain inserted and functioning in a robotic body with a computer, then the soul of such a creature is the same as that of this brain (once it was part of a full-fledged person). Such a robo-man will indeed retain the ability of goal-setting and free will, plus he will have great physical strength and computing abilities. But how is such a symbiosis better than a normal person using a computer plus mechanical amplifiers? Such a symbiotic robotic brain is, in fact, the most severely disabled person, equipped with many prostheses. He still needs normal physical conditions and a blood supply of renewed blood to survive. He, just like a man, is not suitable either for flights to planets, or, even less so, for flights to stars (being a "piece" of matter of non-zero mass). What are the super qualities of such a creature? It is pointless to fantasize about the taking of power by this kind of invalids.


Part two

And now let's consider the question of whether a computer, as an absolutely deterministic machine, obviously without its own goal-setting and free will, can at least create the illusion of a soul, i.e. to model the properties of the soul and consciousness in full?

In full – no! A number of scientists such as Penrose, Hofstadter and others prove that the functioning of consciousness (and subconsciousness) cannot be modeled by any algorithm.

However, even putting aside such a mysterious process as human consciousness, it has long been proven in the theory of algorithms that a number of seemingly "ordinary" and useful problems of mathematics itself and the theory of algorithms can not be solved by any algorithm. For example, there is no algorithm that can determine whether a given algorithm under study will ever stop. I.e., even in such a narrow area as solving problems in mathematics and the theory of algorithms, the possibilities of algorithms have a ceiling.

Algorithms can create an illusion of non-deterministic behavior: for example, an algorithm that generates pseudo-random numbers. A sequence of pseudo-random numbers has exactly the same mathematical properties as a sequence of real random numbers (though the sequence of pseudo-random numbers is deterministic and reproducible).

One can insert into the computer a physical device that generates physical random variables. In this case, the sequences of random numbers will be irreproducible, but the process itself, being physical, is deterministic by definition, therefore, there is no free will.



Analyzing the fantastic assumption "whether computers will ever take power" over people, one must clearly realize what exactly is a "computerized" person" or "computerized higher living being".

According to our definition, a "supreme living being" is that which has an immaterial soul, i.e. a non-physical substance, outside the physical world and outside the zone of physical laws, capable of goal-setting and free will (as well as feelings).

The Turing test is unable to detect whether the creature in question has the ability goal-setting and free will! The Turing test only detects the semantic and literary quality of the speech generator – in the perception of these qualities by the person conducting the test.

Programs like "Talkative Eliza" written in plain Basic already worked well 30 years ago. Now a sophisticated translation program (like that in Google) could very well be modified to detect the meaning of the incoming text, and to generate logical answers at the level of an average living person.

Then what is the test for the presence of goal-setting and free will? (At that, the feelings of a given soul, by definition, cannot be detected by someone or something outside).

And here comes the bad news. Even a living person on his own cannot logically prove to himself whether he has free will.

He can accept the axiom that he has free will – and no experiment will disprove it.

And he can accept the axiom that "free will" is merely his own illusion, a game of subtle physical effects of his purely physical deterministic body (while there is no soul at all). And again, no experiment will disprove it.

But then no experiment would disprove solipsism either (if this is a person's axiom)! The experiment that the hero of the Solaris novel staged on himself does not actually prove that he is not dreaming.

However, all these uncertainties and doubts only apply to humans, to the highest living beings known to us on earth, and to hypothetical "creatures" in question on other planets. With regard to computers, there is no uncertainty, because they are special machines created by man to perform absolutely deterministic actions.

Therefore, speculations about a possible takeover of power by computers in some future are unfounded.

Alexander Gofen, 2022