TOOLS, TECHNOLOGY, STEM, ROBOTS and “Artificial Intelligence”

FROM STICKS AND STONES, TO SMART PROBLEM SOLVING AND AUTOMATION

(DOCUMENT EDITING IN PROGRESS….)

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These times, humanity keeps experiencing dramatic progress of all kinds. Day-by-day, new situations, needs, problems and opportunities are identified and so new ways and means are created for their resolution. The availability and uses for old and new tools and technologies are therefore uncovered. New and often unexpected virtues, benefits and dangers of corresponding tools are consequently discovered.

In this environment of change, new tools and technologies are usually welcome news. Unfortunately though, at times, situations and progress can become misstated, exaggerated and/or misused in many different ways. This is, in large part because things, anything, new or old, can be interpreted and/or used in either BENEFICIAL or DETRIMENTAL ways, and perhaps both. Take the simple example of clean, pristine and pure water: Water can be used to create, protect and nourish life or (mis)used to destroy it through asphyxiation or by blunt physical impact. Similarly, this can happen with some highly complex object, structure or system such as what is today known as “inter-continental nuclear missiles.” Initially designed and used to target, impact, blast, burn and destroy military and civil infrastructures, kill hundreds or perhaps billions of people and destroy the planet itself during worldwide senseless conflicts, can perhaps be deployed and used instead to detect, target, impact, deflect or destroy rogue celestial objects that could threaten our well-being and existence in dangerous massive, calamitous collisions.

Similarly, today we learn about the worrisome damage and catastrophes caused by the buildup of “greenhouse gases” disrupting earth’s atmosphere, ecology and climate. In the past humanity has also suffered, major natural events of disastrous proportions. so are always a variety of potentially harmful, unchecked human activities, involving pervasive and destructive impact to individuals and communities, such as the uncontrolled dissemination, misuse and abuse of massive personal, commercial, industrial, and socio-economic information involved in our critical digital telecommunications, media, Internet platforms and support networks.

The beneficial or harmful effects of all kinds of tools, both simple (i.e. sticks and stones, fire) and complex (i.e. small and large electromagnetic, analog and digital devices, supercomputers and “giga-factories,”) are essential: because they are products and result of all the basic precursors and necessary components, “helpful” things, physical objects and ideas, tools intended to help us understand, imagine and work with and take advantage of our environment. Tools are what has made, and continue to make us humans successful: to survive and thrive with and against good and bad environments and situations. We survive, live and secure our living because of the tools we create and how we use them.

Recently, a new, increasingly powerful type of tools from the area of digital technology have been made possible and are referred to as “AI” or Artificial Intelligence. These enhanced information analysis and decision-making tools create new, powerful abilities for non-human, non-living, physical devices and systems to analyze, understand, and possibly substitute the coherence of human sense, judgment, intelligence and independence with self-operating tools (independent, automated devices,) to then execute actions normally expected from, and perhaps beyond the control of other humans. This creates specific worries about AI with possibilities of loosing control of critical parts of the environment: allowing rogue devices, machines and people involved, to become inappropriately enabled and entitled: “things” that can become independent (autonomous,) to conceivably execute unproductive, destructive, dangerous, and human-threatening.

Similar concerns and situations have risen at other moments throughout history: Over a century ago there were warnings about the threat of “horse-less carriages,” evil robots and machines that could replace and eliminate humans and/or the need for their presence, at work and elsewhere. Powerful, out-of-control, rogue artifacts and computers, massively destructive “atomic power,” harmful and pernicious “electromagnetic radiation” in the air, dangerous “cybernetic creatures” and “evil virtual-embedded reality weapons.” Today we are indeed suffering tools and complex systems capable of violating the privacy, safety and well-being of individuals, groups and societies.

In today’sinformation age,” we do know that poorly understood, innovative tools of technology can and do influence peoples lives, affect and destroy the well-being and freedoms of people and communities through invasive physical interference or uncontrolled, misuse of information. Things like “big brother watching” surveillance, “Dark Web” information collection, mining and misinformation, wide-coverage satellite communication networks” can assist war and global damage as feared in the ideas of guaranteed mutual destruction” and terrorism enabled in the past through public communication and the media. A few decades ago, even a short, simple radio broadcast (Orson Wells - War of the Worlds, October, 1938) was able to provoke larger scale panic and chaos among an otherwise peaceful and quiet population. Poor understanding and manipulation of sectors of our massive information infrastructures can become instruments of social impact to either promote productive understandings and progress, or instigate misunderstandings and fears that provoke failures and disasters.

Indeed, there is no doubt that anything can be used effectively to do good or evil, jut like water can nourish or otherwise, suffocate and kill, tools can as well. Tools can be used to provide good help, or inflict intended or unintended damage and destruction. Automation, being used as unassisted help, likewise can help productivity and the quality of the goods people produce, or negate well-being for at least some of the population by replacing helpful human labor.

So, let’s look at all of this through basic meaning of the words “tools” and “technology.”

WHAT ARE TOOLS AND WHAT IS TECHNOLOGY?

For most of us in daily life, the word "tools" reminds us of the useful objects and devices we keep in a "toolbox" at home or at work to help us discover and fix practical problems.

In general, however, the word refers to (e.g. Wikipedia 2017) "any item that can be used to achieve a goal.The Oxford Dictionaries and the Cambridge On-line dictionary (ref) define a tool as: "A thing used to help perform a job," or "anything that helps you to do something you want to do". ...

Stated in an extended way: a tool is something we use to help us do the things we need and want to do to stay alive and live better. We do this by using and extending the capabilities of our own bodies to explore, think and change our environment in smarter, more effective (cheaper, faster, safer, and/or more powerful) ways.

Therefore, we can say that virtually every man-made object, a hammer, a spoon, a fork, a knife, as well as computers, telephones and their applications are all tools. Also the clothes we wear, our homes and the vehicles we use to move around: Tools are all the objects and their uses that help us understand, imagine and deal with the environment to stay alive, protect and nurture us. Thus allowing us to live and enjoy our existence in safer and happier ways.

From the beginning, we have used our bodies and all kinds of objects in our environment as tools. Clearly, much of our success as humans on earth can be has attributed to our continuous use and improvement of our tools, assisting and building on our basic nature-given strengths. Today we have tools that help us with almost every need and activity. We design, produce, and utilize newer, more effective and satisfying goods with assistance from the environment itself to better understand it and thus, obtain and use (transform) our energies best.

Starting with simpler tools,sst t1

... we have created and improved through today's and tomorrow's simple and complex tools.

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