IT: Only philosophical considerations can identify the Next Big Thing

Is philosophy a problem-solving discipline?
In 1969, while I was a student of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York I have reached the out-of-the-mainstream conclusion that the foundation of knowledge is the most powerful problem-solving area. I noted, for example, that while no basic science is self-contained, the knowledge area that interrelates basic sciences provides top-down solutions that are not derivable by bottom-up inference from any given basic science. This view has been out of the mainstream. I decided to put these views to a reality test to prove their validity, to myself at least. Having been interested in information processing in the conscious brain as it may relate to information processing in general-purpose electronic computers, I chose the information technology field.

That experiment in applied philosophy proved a success: it contributed to the development of the first 8-bit single-chip microprocessor (1972). Below I provide a chronology of my actions. Such an account does not disclose the philosophical reasoning involved. One way to demonstrate that it was philosophy rather than computer knowledge is the following.

The current multiplicity of computer devices with overlapping functions indicates the need and possibility of a major simplification, which constitute The Next Big Thing. Knowledge from within information technology is, characteristically, insufficient to identify major simplification. Thus, if philosophy was indeed to a driver of my actions then I should be in a position to apply these high-level, top-down solutions to the current IT state. I would welcome such a challenge. I return to it at the end of this item. I now return to the chronological account.

Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC)
In 1969 I evaluated and recommended for $4 million Initial Public Offering (IPO) a new high technology venture, Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC) in San Antonio, Texas. I had an extended discussion with Austin “Gus” Roche, Vice President of Research and Development, in which I mentioned the 1000-fold increase in transistors per unit area that was being achieved during the 1960s. I suggested that such development makes the “computer terminal” a conceptually obsolete notion. I recommended that CTC in their next product do the following:

1. Develop and utilize a general-purpose central processing unit (CPU)
2. Implement that CUP as an 8-bit single-chip microprocessor
3. Utilize that CPU in a user-dedicated mode

CTC did develop for their next product, the Datapoint 2200, a general-purpose CPU. CTC also requested proposals from Intel and Texas Instruments (TI) for the implement the Datapoint 2200 CPU as a single-chip microprocessor.

Intel was formed as a semiconductor company in 1968. Its main products were semiconductor memory chips. Its customers were companies making computers. The prospect of making chips that functions as a CPU did not appear attractive. The salesforce felt that their unfamiliarity would handicap marketing CPU chips; the management was concerned that making CPU chips would make Intel appear as a competitor.

These were some of the reasons when, in 1969 Intel received requests for proposals from CTC and from Busicom, a Japanese electronic calculator consortium, it gave priority to the development of the chip for Busicom, shelving the CTC development.

On hearing that I met with Intel’s CEO Robert “Bob” Noyce. I conveyed to him my conviction that Intel’s implementation of an 8-bit single-chip microprocessor based on the Datapoint 2200 CPU would unleash a technological revolution. In contrast, I noted the 4-bit chip Intel was developing for Busicom, which can represent only 16 different symbols thus insufficient to represent the alphabet, a limitation that defines the 4-bit chip as an applications-specific, not a general-purpose computer.

In response, Bob Noyce said that Intel would develop the Datapoint 2200 CPU microprocessor after completing the development of the 4-bit chip for Busicom. But in order to do so, it would need to obtain the consent of CTC that Intel develop, produce and sell to the general market such chip.

I then told Noyce: “I am flying back to San Antonio, and will get Intel the required consent.” On parting, I added that I will form a company that will be Intel’s first customer for their 8-bit single-chip general-purpose microprocessor.

In San Antonio, I met with Phil Ray, CTC’s CEO. CTC was not happy with Intel’s putting their project on the back burner and found the specifications of the single-chip processor were below of what it could do using existing technology. Phil Ray agreed to my request that Intel may develop, produce, and sell to the general market a microprocessor incorporating aspects of the Datapoint 2200 CPU architecture.

I so notified Bob Noyce. My initial surprise that my contribution has not been acknowledged turned into dismay. Lamont, in his book Datapoint, estimated the value of that act (without mentioning my involvement) in over a billion dollars. The dollar amount is secondary. It is the intellectual property contribution that has not been acknowledged.

Texas Instruments (TI)
TI, after receiving CTC’s request or proposal filed in 1971 a patent application for an 8-bit single-chip microprocessor satisfying the request for proposal requirements. However, the initial attempt to produce such a chip suffered delays. The patent was granted in 1973. But for a few years, TI showed reticence entering the microprocessor filed.

Q1 Corporation
In 1972, the Datapoint 2200 single-chip CPU microprocessor was introduced with the name Intel 8008. Later that year, Q1 Corporation, a company I formed, delivered the world’s first microprocessor-based personal computer to Litcom, a division of Litton Industries in Long Island, NY. Subsequent generations of the 8008 are known as the x-86 microprocessor family. By the end of the 1970s, it became dominant worldwide.

In 1973, Nixdorf Computer of Paderborn, Germany paid Q1 $40,000/month to develop software related to the 8008 and forthcoming 8080 processors. In 1974, Q1 delivered the world’s first 8080-based personal computers to the Israel Supply Mission in New York City. In 1975, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) ordered Q1 8080-based systems for all its eleven worldwide bases. Also that year, at the request of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), I organized and chaired the opening session of its first worldwide conference about the microcomputer revolution.

On identifying the next major phase in the information technology field
I seem to be in a unique position to outline the major next phase in information technology. If any major IT company would like to explore it further, I would suggest the following three stages:

First a short overview of the chronology leading to the introduction of the first 8-bit
single-chip microprocessor. It then can be followed by a 90-minute outline of some general principles that determine the next phase. Optionally, such session would conclude by a three hour in which the general principles are shown to specify some hardware and software choices.

Interested parties may contact me via my associate,
Ms. Lizzie Villas Boas
+ 1 (917) 530-4735

Hod Lipson

Director of the Creative Machines Lab at Columbia University


We used to refer to consciousness as ‘the C-word’ in robotics and AI circles because we’re not allowed to touch that topic,” he said. “It’s too fluffy, nobody knows what it means, and we’re serious people so we’re not going to do that. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s almost one of the big unanswered questions, on par with the origin of life and origin of the universe. What is sentience, creativity? What are emotions? We want to understand what it means to be human, but we also want to understand what it takes to create these things artificially. It’s time to address these questions head-on and not be shy about it.

Quoted by John Pavlus in Curious About Consciousness? Ask the Self-Aware Machine. Quanta Magazine. July 11, 2019.

The prospect of controlling future human evolution

Biotechnology. Biotechnology now makes it possible to control future human evolution. This is the most important development in human history. It also proves that history is unidirectional. For this reason, the use of the past as a guide for the future is likely to have adverse consequences.

A possible scenario. The strife among world powers may prove unnecessary in the future. Being prisoners of the past, some world leaders are likely to feel compelled to consider, or even embark on introducing heritable enhancements to the genomes of their population. Once any national entity embarks on such a course then within a few generations the genetic distance from the rest of humanity would be no longer reversible. It may make this millennium Homo sapiens’ last. In order to prevent such bifurcation of humanity, it is necessary to find a way to bridge the cultural chasm now separating East and West.

The absence of common grounds to decide what ought to be done. The ability to heritably modify genomes illustrates success and rapidity of scientific and technological advances. In contrast, humanity has failed to effectively address any long-term global issue. Typically, the cumulative aspect of such problems is at the stage beyond our capacity this century to reverse or stop these toxic trends. This consistent failure of humanity points to the absence of a science-based conceptual with which to address such issues. The current ethical and legal systems of the West are non-universal. The resulting relativism makes impossible reaching consensus based on underlying commonalities of human nature and conduct. It is as if the technology is catapulting humanity into an unknown future, while dysfunctional guidance system locked the trajectory toward apparent extinction.

Updating the foundation of knowledge as a survival imperative. Current neuroscientific knowledge has demonstrated that humans possess innate elementary sensations, emotions, and cognition. This basic fact, in turn, implies that there exist innate commonalities of human nature that constitutes the empirical ground for universals of human conduct. The problem is that for the last 300 years philosophy has been based on the denial that any sensations, emotions or cognitions are innate.

It is therefore now necessary for the philosophic community to undertake the reconstruction of knowledge. The application of this knowledge to the various normative disciples will take time. For example, in the West, it implies the transition from the current legal systems which are based on positive law to a legal system based on natural law. It is said that even a thousand-mile march begins with a single step. The time to take that step is now.

Philosophy, Gene Editing and The Next Phase of Human Evolution

We can now control future human evolution. It is the most far-reaching technological development since humans branched from other primates some six million years ago. There does not exist at present a conceptual framework with which to address this (or any other) long-term global issue. Typically, any long-term global issue is a looming disaster. Consider a few examples: climate change, pollution of the oceans and air, nuclear proliferation and demographic upheavals. This record suggests that the worst outcome is also the most likely in the instant case: that during this century, some national entities would introduce heritable enhancements to the human genome in their country – making the last millennium Homo sapiens’ last.

This book identifies philosophy as the root problem. It then outlines how current science requires updating the 300-year-old foundation of knowledge. It concludes by indicating how such reconstruction provides the ground for formulating normative social policies.

De-nuclearizing North Korea

What has prevented atomic conflict since the Second World War is the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Kim Jeong Il discovered that this formula is inapplicable to the potential atomic conflict between a superpower and a small country. Instead, the superpower, having more to lose, is in a military disadvantage. This fact confers negotiating advantage in the smaller country. However, such an advantage is limited to negotiations. In an atomic conflict, neither side wins.

In the interim, North Korea is subject to a punishing embargo. It desperately needs a source of income. They have one thing that many entities desire, so naturally, North Korea is in the business of selling atomic know-how. Some well-funded terrorist entities that seek to obtain atomic weapons are not geographically locatable. As a result, there is no way to counter any attack by such entities. China may be among the initial targets for such unilateral attacks. Such prospects are utterly unacceptable. It would force China to prevent opening this Pandora’s box: this means de-nuclearization of North Korea.

Some notes relating to the forthcoming publications of the revised The New Foundation of Knowledge (2017)

A. Philosophy

A1. The current state of affairs.

Philosophy is the most basic and most troubled field of knowledge. Present-day knowledge is still based on assumptions about human nature that are now known to be false, that were introduced some 300 years ago. These assumptions underlie normative disciplines, including ethics, law, politics and economics. As a result, human institutions are guided by policies which appear inconsistent with long-term survival.

A2. Bringing the foundation of knowledge up to date

A2.1. Psychological attributes are heritable. The theory of evolution led Darwin to conclude that heritability applies to biological as well as psychological attributes. Present day science proved Darwin right on this point. Specifically, humans possess innate sensations emotions and cognitions. For example, the newborn human (or rodent) likes sweet and dislike bitter. It shows that both the sensations of taste and likes and dislikes are innate. Furthermore, the innateness of the preference constitutes knowledge of the world prior to personal experience.

A2.2. The denial of heritable psychological attributes. Empiricism is the theory of knowledge that is based on the denial that sensations or emotions or cognitions are innate. Empiricism underlie all present-day theories of knowledge. By and large, the philosophic community proved unable to set aside the 300 year epistemology legacy, and do not acknowledge the scientific evidence.

A2.3. Truth and consequences. Innate commonalities of human nature is the ground for deriving universals of human
conducts. In the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a manifestation of the view that some moral principles are universal. But this is an exception. The more basic law is called “positive”, which means non-universal. In contrast, the legal doctrine of natural law is based on the view that these laws should not be relativistic. Relativistic ethics and laws make it impossible to bridge the cultural chasm separating East and West in trying to address the long-term global issue of the future of humanity.

A3. Toward a dawn of a new day.

Updating the foundation of knowledge is the most important and most urgent problem confronting humanity now. The philosophic community ought to undertake the long-term challenge of making explicit the implications of the scientific evidence about biology, mind and brain. It would bring philosophy the recognition and authority it deserves, once it does its job.

Why this century is unlike any other

T. Philosophy and survival
T1. The state of the world.
T1.1. Climate change. From the evolutionary perspective species come and go; Homo sapiens is still a work-in-progress. Climate change exemplifies the fact that long-term global consequences of technology are generally toxic, irreversible this century, and raises concerns about the challenge of surviving convergent natural disasters.

T1.2. Demographic trends. Some other long-term trends suggest that Western philosophy may be the implicit cause of self-destructive policies. For example, there is a question Western culture can survive having the white population of Europe and the United States become the minority this century (e.g. non-Hispanic whites in the US would become the minority among the newborn within a year).

T1.3. The prospect of controlling our future evolution. Biotechnology now makes possible to introduce heritable enhancements in the human genome. If any national entity undertakes to do that then, whether or not others follow, the last millennium would prove Homos sapiens last.

T2. Philosophy
T2.1. Updating the foundation of philosophy is a priority. Philosophy is the only part of knowledge that could have served as a survival manual in confronting the looming upheavals. But philosophy is not only the most fundamental part of knowledge but also the most troubled. This makes bringing the foundation of knowledge up to date a priority.

T2.2. A single factual issue. Neuroscience has recently established the fact that sensations are innate. For the last 300 years, the most basic assumption at the foundation of knowledge was the direct opposite – that no sensation is innate. John Locke (1689) introduced that assumption, concluded that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa).

T2.3. The challenge. It is now necessary to make explicit the epistemological implications of replacing the tabula rasa by its direct opposite. This would be the most basic change in the foundation of knowledge since Locke introduced his factually false assumption.

T2.4. The philosophic community. Updating the foundations of knowledge would establish the central role of philosophy in guiding social policy. But it would take time before the philosophic community is ready to set aside the 300-years of epistemological legacy. In the interim, the most pressing philosophical issue confronting humanity now is virtually terra incognita.

T2.5. The forthcoming revision of my 2017 book. The forthcoming revision of The New Foundation of Knowledge (2017) reviews the evidence for the innateness of sensations and provides an initial glimpse of the new epistemological landscape.

T3. Sensations are innate.
T3.1. The sensation of sound. The electrical stimulation of the cochlea elicits sensations of sound in the normal hearing and in the deaf. The heard pitch is determined by the cochlear locus stimulated. It proves that heard sound is not a property of air vibration. Some children are born with a dysfunctional auditory nerve. They can be made to hear by an implant that electrically stimulates hearing-related brain loci (e.g. brainstem, thalamus, or cortex). This proves that heard sound is innate and elicited by the brain: it is neither a property of air vibration nor originates in the ears.

T3.2. Any sensation. In every sensory modality (e.g. vision, hearing, touch, taste or smell), the same type of electrical stimulus elicits the modality-specific sensation as determined by the modality-specific area stimulated. This proves that said electrical stimuli do not contribute to the resulting qualitative sensation; it is the stimulated brain loci that determine the qualitative aspect of the sensation. Thus, sensations are innate and are elicited by the brain.

T4. The first empirical proof that consciousness exists. Innateness of sensations and consciousness. Evolution stumbled on consciousness, and natural selection let it be. From an evolutionary perspective, the role of conscious knowledge is to improve survival. Yet, to date all attempts to account for what consciousness is and what it does have failed. The reason for this failure is the denial of the fact that sensations are innate.
The physical is publicly observable. Innate sensations are private or alternatively termed subjective, phenomenal, or mental. Thus, our knowledge of the physical is an inference from the phenomenal. This conclusion confers epistemological priority on the phenomenal relative to the physical. The hope that Physicalism could account for consciousness is not realizable.

T5. Spatiality and Ubiquity. Physical objects, such as triangular tiles, are locatable in space. The concept of triangularity is not. The phenomenal cannot be said to be located in space. It is ubiquitous.

T6. Some top-down implications
T6.1. Pain. The tabula rasa assumption presumes that pain originates in the body and is imported into the brain by afferent C-fibers. Pain, like all sensations, is innate and is elicited by the brain. Based on the tabula rasa misconceptions, neurosurgeons performed numerous operations to disconnect the presumed source of pain from the brain, hoping to stop painful stimuli. In many of those cases, the pain returns with a vengeance. The continued failure of medicine to effectively address chronic pain is based on the philosophical error.

T6.2. Light. Like all sensations, the sensation of light is innate. The electric stimulation of visual cortex elicits the visual sensation of spots of light, called phosphenes both in normally seeing subjects and in the blind. On the basis of this fact, visual cortical prostheses were developed. Such prostheses are about to be available for the born blind. As in the case of auditory prostheses, it is best to implant prostheses in the subject during childhood. I expect visual prostheses for the born blind would be demonstrated within five years.

This century whites are due to become minorities in the US and EU

It is projected that whites in the EU and US will become the minority by the end of the century. In the EU, that transition is expected in the second half of the century. In the US (non-Hispanic) whites will be a minority within a generation and among the newborn, within a year.

In the EU, that prospect is a subject for intense discussions, for example, see The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray (2017). In contrast, the US is still in denial of the inevitable transition. For example, the media addresses immigration issues on daily basis, but discussion of the impending transition is avoided.

The EU is the primary destination of asylum seekers. States in Sub-Saharan Africa cannot feed their rapidly growing populations. Many are under a dictatorship and are known for human rights abuses. Thus, immigrants from these countries satisfy the asylum seeker criteria. The United Nations projects that by the end of the current century the Sub-Saharan African population would grow by some billions. At present, there is no real or conceivable mechanism to stem the expected tidal wave of migration. Include the fact that immigrants during the initial two generations double in number, while Europeans, like Americans, do not even reach replacement levels: the demographic shifts will be massive.

Murray in his book addresses only Europe and only from the perspective of a journalist. However, the issue applies to Western culture on both sides of the Atlantic, and the root cause is not political in that people did not vote for this consequence. Western culture has been dominant for the last
100 years. The only explanation for its current predicament is that it is the consequence of principles implicit in the philosophy ascribed to in the West. Philosophy is the only knowledge area that can address this failure of self-preservation. With authority comes responsibility. The philosophic community has let us down by retreating to the position of a spectator on vital issues of survival.

It is now imperative that the philosophic community confronts the challenge of bringing the foundation of knowledge up to date and, recognize, for the first time, the innate commonalities of human nature, and derive survival imperatives to guide policy.