Baanda, the Man-Machine Collaborator
Thousands of years ago, one of our ancestral forefathers, came face-to-face with a domineering adversary. A huge giant-of-a-man stood between the survival of the tribe and the much-needed food and water. Our hero realized that the odds were not in his favor, but he picked up a rock and hurled it towards his opponent. He missed the target, but he saw a sturdy branch laying on the ground. Out of instinct, he picked it up and slammed it on the head of the giant. The giant fell down and the man continued to pummel his opponent with the stick until the giant stopped moving. He looked at the stick that saved his life. Man, and machine just collaborated to circumvent a negative probable outcome.
Either consciously or unconsciously that forefather of ours had observed that his hand was much weaker and shorter than his opponent’s. The stick extended his arm and made it hard. The stick by itself was of no use until the hand raised it. The machine, or the stick, collaborated with the man for a cause.
Let’s fast forward by thousands of years. In 1997, the machine Deep-Blue defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov. In 2005, there was another free-style chess championship where man and machine could cooperate. In the beginning, the result was predictable. A grandmaster with a weak laptop could defeat a supercomputer based chess game. But, what came as a surprise was when two American chess amateurs and a few weak laptops defeated the super computer, the grandmaster, and the combination of supercomputer and grandmaster. This was an astonishing result where average men with average machines defeated the best man and the best machine. Similar results observe that a strong cooperation among people and machine outperform individuals.
Marvin Minsky, co-founder of Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1959 at MIT with another pioneer in the field, John McCarthy, put forth that the human mind behaves like a computer. Or, conversely, a computer can be made to be like a human mind. That led our collective imagination into innumerable literary and artistic works where we imagined the evolutionary emergence of a world of machines replacing humans. After the 1997 chess game of Kasparov and Deep-Blue, the world perceived that the age of machines is inevitable and eminent. The competitive hierarchical society played into the hands of competitive mental programming and pitched machines vs. humans.
J. C. R. Licklider, a contemporary psychologist and computer scientist of Minsky and McCarthy, perceived the world as an inter-connected society where computers would tightly couple, or augment, the human mind. JCR, foresaw modern interactive computing long before the advent of the internet or today’s smart phones and IoT devices. He postulated a deeper symbiotic relation between human and machine, where smart, neural network software and a computing device will become integrated with a person. Integration may occur as an implant, a helmet-like device with direct connections to the brain and nervous system, or as a wearable like a watch or jewelry. We are observing such emergences as IoT devices across the world with an estimated trillion or more IoT devices by 2020. The terms ‘intelligence amplification’, ‘cognitive augmentation’ and ‘machine augmented intelligence’ all refer to using computing and information technologies to assist, help or support a person in making decisions and in thinking. The next generation of cognitive systems will be people linked to and supported by smart machines. That will give rise to IA (intelligence augmentation), instead of AI (artificial intelligence) which indicates competition between man and machine.
There is a belief that fierce competition mines the best in human society. The alternative hypothesis is that cooperation mines the best in human society. From our education system to our businesses, we continuously observe the practice of setting people to compete via individualized recognition and reward. This caters to the maintenance of the hierarchical order of the society. However, almost all human achievements come out of the cooperative nature of being human. At some point of time, an individual performs seemingly all by himself or herself. Let us try to imagine how could Einstein have emerged with Theory of Relativity without the work of others who came before? or how could Salvador Dali paint without people providing canvases or inks for him to express the artistry we admire.
The human mind and computers have similarities because man created the computer in his shadow. However, our mind is quite different from the most advanced, or even imaginative computer such as a quantum computer. Computers can churn huge amount of data in a linear pattern in a very short time. Humans perceive in many dimensions and think using feelings and information as an undivided whole. In fact, every individual perceives and process in a very unique way.
Let us go back and observe the time of our ancestor where we began this story. A young man observed the incident of a weaker man defeating the giant. The observer was holding a sharp piece of rock that he used to skin his hunt the day before. The young man observed how the rock missed, but the stick reached the target. He wondered if he could put the rock and the stick together to better the odds. He played with the rock in his hand and tried to attach it to the stick wondering if there was a way. A woman of the group had tied her baby to her back with ropes she made from dried animal skin. She saw him and took the rock and the stick from the young man. She tied the rock to one end of the stick with a piece of her leather-rope and gave it back to him. The young man smiled in acknowledgement of assistance in the innovation; looked around for another stick, another rock, another piece of leather rope and put them together. He presented the second stick with the sharp rock tied to it to the man who defeated the giant. The men acknowledged each other, stood tall together in the grasslands and looked out at the horizon like an army forged with human collaborative spirit.
If you are reading this blog, you are participating in the collaboration. Millions of people over thousands of years have formed a communication protocol we call the English language. Thousands of people have collaborated to build this computer that is being used to write and the computer you are using to read this blog. There are people who taught the author; the thoughts of innumerable scholars, like the names mentioned before, who influenced his imagination. They made him wonder, observe, think, and initiated the desire to participate in the collaborative humanity. The world wide web, forged by millions of humans working in harmony, enabled the author to observe his planet, his only home in the universe, and observe the universe together with everyone else. This blog and this author is just a node in the complex essence of cooperation among human and machine that spans space and time. The sole purpose of this blog is to include you, the reader, in this web of complex collaboration. Whether you feel it or not, you are already one of us, in the spirit of Baanda, and cooperating to enhance human society.
Baanda is a concept forged with cooperation to enhance inter-human collaboration on the back of man-machine augmentation. Operationally, Baanda intends to mimic biological entities where there is no hierarchy or competition, but an essence of collaboration among individuals like pieces of a puzzle forming a big evolving picture on the canvas of time. Baanda itself intends to collaborate with others, in various affiliations, increasingly evolving to expand across humanity. Baanda strives to permeate collaboration among physically connected communities of people, many of whom may be strangers, by mitigating the need for trust. It also provides observing mechanisms of events that affect the agreements and make them observable to participants.
Similarly, Baanda does not advocate any technology as its main adherence; but intends to intelligently augment (IA) all technologies as tools, and use them as necessary to perpetuate the essence of cooperation. Baanda will intelligently augment (IA) some of the nuances of artificial intelligence to enable people to talk to computers in their own human-language; it will use Blockchain technology to store immutable memories of agreements among people and will observe that the events adhere to the agreements; it will use IoT (internet of things) to sense and activate the world and machines around; it will use powerful collective computing capacity needed via cloud computing and so on. Inversely, Baanda will learn by observing the collaborative human interactions. Baanda acknowledges that many of the tools are also evolving. The morphing and evolving with dependent technologies is embedded in the Baanda architecture. Baanda members continuously observe for emergences in the global technology space, just like those forefathers and foremothers did thousands of years ago, to enhance the quality of life.
Join the Baanda movement for enhancing the social, communal, and man-machine cooperation. We, the people of Earth, a blue speck of dust in infinite space and time continuum, have a wide universe to explore.