ROD GARLAND

CAGC MANAGER OF SAFETY & MEMBER SERVICES

ROD@CAGC.CA

Ever since man slithered out of the primordial soup disguised as a single-celled organism about 3 billion years ago, give or take a few millennia, he, she, or it has been greatly advantaged by change.

Not the least of this change would have been the changing environment which had finally cooled the planet to a suitable temperature such that a mixture of chemicals and necessary elements could interact to create lifeforms that would embark on their evolutionary and competitive race into the future.

Incidentally, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon were the leading players in these interactions, representing 98% of the atoms to be found in the human body. A personal “shoutout” to the much-maligned carbon for its significant and magnificent contribution to this process.

Along the way, genetic diversification took place, as life encountered challenges and changes in the environment, whereby some life took advantage of the change while others disappeared from the “tree of life” in a continuing struggle of survival of the fittest and perhaps even survival of the most intelligent.

In this scenario, if you choose to believe it, climate change was a good thing, if not vital to our eventual existence in the form of life we are today.

The title could describe the way any Canadian might think of artificial intelligence, it being a creation to be used as a tool to perform enhanced tasks beyond current human capabilities for the betterment of humanity.

Let’s hope this is the case. Some are quick to warn us of dangers akin to the releasing of a repressive “genie in the bottle” or the opening of “Pandora’s box”, with apocalyptic “Terminator” consequences.

“We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.” – Carl Sagan

US congressional hearings are ongoing right now to see how AI should be kept in check through regulation and controls. Canada and Europe are having similar hearings. There isn’t an easy solution to be had from this discussion.

The predominantly unregulated social media experience over the last two decades could be a harbinger of things to come in this digital space, allowing for corporate and personal data to be illegally accessed, outright stolen, manipulated to abuse the unwary, mess with elections or create misinformation, propaganda, and “false facts”.

Basically, it can be argued that we humans don’t have the intelligence to design effective controls for AI, let alone even understand it. So maybe we should accept that it is part of natural evolution and just go with the flow and the convention of survival of the fittest. The use of the word “intelligence” is something of a misnomer anyway the same way that “civilization” continues to fail miserably to be “civil”; and with the hands on the doomsday clock sitting at 90 seconds before midnight we are demonstrating that we don’t need anything artificial to help us with our own annihilation.

Clear to me is that resources and the energy required to convert those resources into life-sustaining items will be an ongoing requirement of humanity and even our descendants or successors well into the future.

“The future is much like the present, only longer” – Don Quisenberry

Before we get too worried about the future, a glimpse into the past will confirm that similar fears were common throughout history. There was opposition to the radio, telephone, cinema, television, microwave, and computer, and travel at speed in trains, planes, and automobiles were predicted to be harmful, if not fatal, for the human body. The caveman had every right to be fearful of fire until he recognized its benefits in food preparation, boiling water, or providing warmth for his family.

“Do you realize if it weren’t for Edison, we’d be watching TV by candlelight?” – Al Boliska

So where does the seismic industry fit into all this AI business? Probably at the leading edge, in a science that pioneers innovation in resource exploration technology using ever-evolving data acquisition and analysis techniques. I could point you to Geophysical Services Incorporated (GSI) founded in 1930 by John Clarence Karcher and Eugene McDermott, a couple of geophysicists. This company later went on to change its name to Texas Instruments but was originally established to provide exploration services to the petroleum industry.

From the Blog, VIEWS AND NEWS ABOUT GEOSCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY called 90 years of seismic exploration by Matt Hall on December 4th, 2018

“John Clarence Karcher was a geophysical legend. After Geophysical Research Corporation, he co-founded Geophysical Services Incorporated (GSI) which was the origin of Texas Instruments and the integrated circuit. And he founded several exploration companies after that. Today, his name lives on in the J. Clarence Karcher Award that SEG gives each year to one or more stellar young geophysicists.”

Jack Kilby was an employee at Texas Instruments who invented the integrated circuit (chip) in 1958. In 1969, Kilby was awarded the National Medal of Science, and in 1982 he was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame. Kilby also won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit. Without these and many other inventions, semiconductors, and subsequent speech and signal recognition, computer technology would never have progressed whereby AI was possible.

Not bad for a few old seismic guys. I predict that in future profound innovations will abound from our young geophysicists and engineers.

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – American composer John Cage

So, before you get too fearful of the future and all the talk of existential threats and the like, remember human life is limited in length to something short of a century, which is just a moment in time on the grander planetary time scale, a big improvement from the recent past, however. Life expectancy In North America in 1870 was just 35.1 years, in 1950 it was 58.1 years, and before Covid struck in 2019 76.7 years.

If AI can improve our life experience, maybe even extend it and at the same time eliminate all the ills in the world, I’m all for it.

“Dear Lord: The gods have been good to me. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here’s the deal: You freeze everything the way it is, and I won’t ask for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely no sign. OK, deal. In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, give me no sign. Thy will be done.” – Homer Simpson

Please note that the opinions and views expressed in the content of the column belong solely to the author. They do not represent the views held by the RECORDER team or the CSEG or any of its affiliates.