Deep learning, God and Zen emptiness

It’s quite terrifying discovering how deep learning can work smoothly while performing tasks that even human beings consider difficult. Undoubtedly it’s stunning, extraordinary, but at the same time, it’s almost a terrible discovery. I must confess that I’ve never liked reductionism and I still continue thinking about and “ego” behind the scenes, someone or something, that cannot be a pure neural production. Indeed I don’t have any element to say that my brain is the subject of my thoughts and maybe I’m wrong when thinking that a complex task (like image recognition or text decoding) is something that doesn’t belong to a mechanical world. Lots of biological mysteries keep charming everyone even if we all know almost everything about their inner dynamics, but there’s a difference, a singularity point when switching our topics to the human mind.

I love artificial intelligence, machine learning and, of course, deep learning (which is something possible thanks to affordable high-performance computing – GPU vs. CPU, a small revolution inside a global one) and I keep on studying every day, trying new algorithms, training new models, reading papers and dreaming about hundreds of possibilities that can be realized with a laptop, a good GPU and dozens of free frameworks ready to meet any requirement. But what about the one who’s sitting in front of the screen, reading these words, trying to imagine how to end this post, thinking of his lunch, afternoon, friends, relatives, parents, pets and so on? Do 100 billion neurons are modeling such a complex illusion? Or maybe they’re only a biological support to something different? Just like the electrical current upon an antenna is not the original electromagnetic wave (maybe this example is not perfect at all)?

Is transhumanism right? I don’t think so. Science and technology cannot explain why we can conceive infinite natural numbers while our lives are finite. So is religion right? The idea of an anthropomorphic god is almost useless, so I don’t like ideas based on the assumption that someone like a “father”, a “chief” or simply an almighty creature can do whatever he likes with me. First of all, because I can experience (if somebody really can) him/her or it only through my imagination, so it’s not hard to say that such kind of god is a human product, with all those features we currently miss. Maybe it’s better to address a different kind of religion (for example Zen Buddhism), which keep an ethical structure (something necessary in order to move from individuals to larger groups), together with a subtle form of awareness. A door kept open, not to find something in order to fill the gap, but simply because even the gap has an inner nature to look at while keeping silence.

Have I answered to any important question? Absolutely I haven’t. I try it every day, but I always fail. But who’s failing? A bad-trained neural network or a subject who never vanishes like an unused synaptic weight? Sincerely, I prefer the second option, but I’m open to taking into account any theory which can really explain why a bunch of neurons keep on looking themselves at a mirror, without any particular reason but to give birth to something radically different from themselves: me.

Photo credit: Clever Cogs! via photopin (license)

See also:

An annotated path to start with Machine Learning – Giuseppe Bonaccorso

“Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.” (A. Einstein) Machine Learning is becoming more and more widespread and, day after day, new computer scientists and engineers begin their long jump into this wonderful world.