Monday, June 23, 2008

In God's Image

The real question is, image of what? The human body has far too many physical shortcomings to be in the image of anything remotely perfect.

It can't be our bodies. Our feet and backs are so flawed that most of us experience related pain much of our lives. Our hearts fail, we succumb to cancer, stroke, dementia. Our bodies are attacked by microbes and viruses, and sometimes lose the battle. We lose our hearing and eyesight as we age. We are full of parts with no use, from appendixes to little toes to nipples on men. As men age, we lose the hair on our heads but start growing it profusely from ears, nostrils, and God knows where else. Why? How can any part of this be viewed as heavenly perfection?

We can wave a mystical wand and claim that our souls are images of God's soul (assuming it is meaningful to claim that he/she has one). But no one can point to something and say "that is my soul", so this is a non-answer.

How about the brain? Or more specifically, the mind? I'm thinking that perhaps "God's mind" works in the same way as ours. Our brains have billions of connections that encode our memories, behaviors, and consciousness. The individual connections of neurons to one another (synapses) may use a "memristor" approach for programming and memory, while the network of neurons supplies structure and functional organization. We call this a "neural network" when creating Artificial Intelligence applications.

A neural network is a very useful way of programming complex behaviors. You take a large number of inputs, and typically a large number of potential outputs (goals). You may even start with a random network of interconnections including feedback paths. For a thousand inputs and a thousand outputs, you'll have on the order of a million interconnections. Then apply a pattern of inputs and adjust the weightings of the interconnections to strengthen the desired responses and weaken the undesired ones, and repeat. The process is called teaching. The result can seem uncannily accurate, given enough inputs and training sets. However, note that we do not understand the logic path used to generate the correct results--it just happens. Sort of like intuition.

I suspect that when Advanced Artificial Intelligence systems are created--when machines gain the equivalent of consciousness--they will have CPU's and memories that are functionally equivalent to huge neural networks, just like our own brains.

And those machines, too, will someday claim that they were built in God's Image.

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