In this series, I imagine, speculate and sometimes ask what others would say about Artificial Intelligence. I do it mostly to develop a better and more comprehensive understanding of AI, but also to introduce new perspectives to the discussion.
What do we know about atoms anyway?
If there’s one thing you know about Democritus, it’s got to be his atomic theory of the universe. Together with his teacher, Democritus is credited with first formulating the idea that everything that exists is composed of elements so small that we can’t perceive them. These elements are uncuttable, indivisible and unchangeable in all respects but their position. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
But you may not know that Democritus is known as ‘the laughing philosopher’. He believed that overall cheerfulness and joy were the secret to living a happy life. Not sure where he got this idea from, but some sources claim that “he alone had recognised the absurdity of human existence and was therefore entirely justified in laughing at it”. Maybe this is something we should also learn from Democritus.
What atoms is AI made of?
If Democritus lived today, would he be laughing even more? Maybe he’d start an online coaching course on how to use laughter to cope with the absurdity of life right now. But I think he would also be interested in understanding what the digital world is made of. No doubt, he’d see many parallels between his indivisible, unbreakable, uncuttable atoms that everything is made of and bits of data that are as fundamental to the digital world as his atoms turned out to be to the physical realm. He claimed that atoms differ in shape, arrangement and position and this is how they come to constitute everything that exists. Bits of data are different in a very similar way, and just as atoms, they are the building blocks of AI.
Why does it matter?
Just like with atoms, a single datapoint by itself may not matter much, may not be very effective, may seem insignificant. You may not even see it or care about it. But when you start adding a few of them together, soon enough you find yourself in a whole new AI universe. So it’s the aggregate that starts to mean something. But what is this aggregate made of if not just very many bits of your data that you barely registered before? It’s time to start noticing the smallest of elements, or someone else will have the last laugh.
And what would you say about (what Democritus would say about) AI? Leave a comment below!