Raise your hand if you know Einstein, Newton, Maxwell, and Tesla. These characters have left their mark on the history of technology and physics, and I have decided to bring them together to discuss some of the issues of our time and what they think about the future.
Are you ready?
Obviously, this is some kind of science fiction, but not entirely. Let’s find out!
What would these scientists think of our world? If they existed today, what contribution would they make to the planet to solve current problems?
For a moment, let’s leave this universe behind and immerse ourselves in another, parallel, science fictional dimension and imagine that Einstein, Newton, Maxwell and Tesla get together, talk to each other and express themselves as if they knew everything about our present world. Quantum mechanics and relativity have taught us that it is possible to have parallel worlds. A space-time tunnel (wormhole) opened the door to this parallel world. In 1935, Einstein and Rosen represented an electron as a black hole, to give a continuity between relativity and quantum mechanics that we described earlier, avoiding the contradiction of the singularity of black holes. The collective imagination changed radically. It was at this time that the concept of what is known today as a wormhole appeared, i.e. the connection between two universes.
The concept, from a physical point of view, was later theorized in 1957 by Wheeler and Fuller, who also gave it a name: this opening was possible only in the presence of a black hole on one side and a white hole on the other. However, it was energetically unstable and destined to close. To date, gravitational wave detectors in physics have detected gravitational wave signals from black holes. We could say that black holes exist. The problem is how to go through them.
A space-time tunnel called the Einstein-Rosen or wormhole bridge would allow us to travel and move through time and space. For now, in fact, it belongs only to the world of science fiction.
Isaac Newton is best known for his theory on the law of gravity, but his “Principia Mathematica” (1686) with its three laws of motion greatly influenced the Enlightenment in Europe. The scientist was president of the Royal Society of London and teacher of the English Royal Mint until his death in 1727.
Albert Einstein was a German mathematician and physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity. In 1921, he won the Nobel Prize in physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. Over the next decade, he emigrated to the United States after being targeted by the German Nazi party. His work also had a major impact on the development of atomic energy. In his later years, Einstein focused on unified field theory. Einstein is considered to be the most influential physicist of the 20th century.
James Clerk Maxwell was one of the most influential physicists in the world along with Einstein. In particular, he has made great strides in helping to understand electromagnetism and has produced a unified model of electromagnetism. His research laid the foundation for modern quantum mechanics and special relativity.
Nikola Tesla was a Croatian, naturalized American, inventor and engineer who discovered and patented the rotating magnetic field, the basis of most AC-powered equipment. In 1891, he invented the Tesla coil, an induction coil widely used in radio technology.
Nikola Tesla (1857-1943) American inventor. Photograph, 1915. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
We were in a UNESCO meeting room.
Tesla wasn’t sure he could get in. Einstein gave him a tap on the back and said, “Come on man, they can’t do anything to you, they need us”. Newton smiled, throwing his apple that he always had with him like a juggler. When in doubt, someone thought of the alleged zero gravity. Maxwell later completed the quantum aggregation.
The UNESCO room was full of people. Einstein smiled at the audience. Testa lowered his head and went straight towards him. Meanwhile, Newton stayed behind, awed by the myriad of people who had come here. He did not leave the front door. An usher said: “Excuse me, Sir, you should sit down, you cannot stay at the door.” Newton took his seat, followed closely by Maxwell.
Physics has seen many scientists as protagonists, such as Archimedes, Fermi, and many others. Each played an important role. Galileo, with his studies on astronomy, paved the way to the experimental method, Newton introduced the concept of gravity, Maxwell formulated his famous equations that allow us to communicate with the other part of the world, and Einstein revolutionized the concepts of relativity and photoelectric effect, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1921. Tesla, finally, is famous for his studies and inventions on the electric motor, alternating current applications and more.
Einstein, as a true leader, immediately spoke up.
“I accepted to be here to give my contribution with my teammates. I know little about this period, but I already know that you are not having a good time.”
Einstein continued: “I’ll get right to the point. If we want to keep this planet alive, we need to think in terms of renewable energy. Green. The force of gravity for many years was known as a mysterious force, with relativity this situation has definitely improved, much clearer don’t you think? I would never have said that, but you succeeded. Well done to all the scientists of LIGO and Virgo! What I want to say is that nothing is impossible? and the energy of the universe that hits us every microsecond is definitely vast. We capture the energy from the sun quite well, but we should do more.”
Tesla added: “The purpose of an invention is primarily to harness natural forces for human needs. Most men in our time, now I am not sure you will tell me later, considered the electric current as a mysterious lymph flowing along wires thanks to the intervention of a phantom hand. I wanted to master the laws of this fluid. And instinctively I was convinced that the future belonged to an alternating current system. I followed the fast alternating movement of the electric current that rustled in the switching circuits, at first without success but then we know how it went. The money was not important: what mattered was the spread of my achievements. I imagine a world where everyone would receive free and unlimited energy. I cried when I saw this, but it is the only thing that can save the planet in terms of energy. It was like an intuition: suddenly, I realized how it is possible to transmit energy without a cable over long distances.”
Maxwell took the floor: “Electromagnetic waves have enormous potential, they offer the possibility of talking to someone else at the same instant; it is not a trivial matter. Indeed, you can even see each other from a great distance. From this point of view, technology has made great progress, but I believe that a little more can be done. I am waiting for the holy grail of physics, the unification of everything, the equation that will lead us to the creator. We only need to understand which creator. I admit that you were good with smartphones, a mix of technology that even extraterrestrials would envy. Tell me the truth, did they suggest this to you? Computers are our technological surplus to increase the potential of cars and thanks to artificial intelligence they will allow us to perform complete diagnoses/medical operations. The full development of computing will allow us to undertake interstellar journeys, looking for other planets that can host life on earth.”
“Personally, I don’t think there is anyone else besides us, besides you,” Newton said. “We are the only ones.” He added, “even though technology is changing, the way we discover things has remained the same. Curiosity, of course. Investing in engineering and mathematics is a priority for any country to remain competitive in the globalized society. We know more or less everything on our planet, not yet well, let’s try not to destroy it.”
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a great hope for the future of humanity. Without realizing it, we are already using it. According to some “scientists”, it can also represent a great danger, as it is able to supplant man as the dominant species. For example, humans cannot travel in time, but somehow, if artificial intelligence were able to solve some quantum nodes, humans could find themselves arguing with their alter egos without imagining what might happen.
So what prevents AI, which is already able to drive cars, diagnose diseases and recognize objects and people in photos, from taking the next step and becoming truly intelligent? Creativity and common sense can be two key factors. The goal of AI is to implement human intelligence in machines so that they can “think” and “mimic” the way a person behaves. The key feature of AI is its ability to analyze data and ensure the best chance of achieving a set goal.
Einstein said, “Science fiction movies tell us that artificial intelligence is a giant computer in a secret location and it takes over the world, I don’t think AI is that thing. AI searches for models, recognizes them, and then classifies them.”
From intellectual abilities, the functioning of AI is mainly based on four different functional levels.
Comprehension: through the simulation of the cognitive abilities of correlating data and events, AI is able to recognize texts, images, tables, videos, voice and extract information.
Reasoning: systems can link the multiple bits of collected information (through precise mathematical algorithms and in an automated way). Learning and interaction.
Tesla stated: “The pattern recognition aspect is actually inspired by how we think and how our brains work; the neurons of the brain are trained to recognize something, and the same thing is done with the neural network.”
Should we be afraid of AI?
Newton smiled and said, “If you watch too many movies, then maybe yes, but actually, I don’t think it’s something to be afraid of. It’s just another type of algorithm. If there is anything scary that comes with it, it is what people choose to do with algorithms.” Newton pursued his speech: “An important thing to keep in mind is that these things are trained for a task that comes with data and a set of expectations, i.e., the expected results. So, you can train anything to do the wrong thing. Is this the AI? Or is it the person? Yes, in every fear scenario that comes to my mind, we always end up thinking it is the person. It is not exactly the technology.”
We are experimenting with the use of AI within production flows, which today are human-driven algorithms. And now we are conducting experiments in our factories to see if we can use machine learning and deep learning to improve or optimize production. It can draw a series of parallel conclusions at once and ultimately get a faster route to a better result. AI is truly a very capable pattern recognition system. If we have an IT system and a cyberattack threatens it, the number one challenge is to recognize the type of attack. In general, AI can be used in cyber defense to create valid “security assessment” tools. Unfortunately, the same tools are also valid for the massive collection of information on victims and for planning a state-of-the-art attack.
Maxwell wanted to intervene by giving his opinion..
“The formation of an AI algorithm takes place using billions of data from structured and unstructured sources, such as blogs and newsletters. Through deep learning and machine learning techniques, AI improves its ability to “recognize” cyber-security threats and cyber risks”. A cyberattack is something that happens to the computer system. “An AI or machine-trained machine learning algorithm is just as likely to notice this attack and be able to alert the system so that it can then take further actions to protect itself from the cyberattack.”
The learning algorithms used for pattern recognition activities are much more widespread than we realize. Google works with machine learning. Whenever you type something into the Google search box, as pretty much the world does, there are machine learning algorithms behind that search, and they decide which results to return. One of the reasons for Google’s success is that the results are generally correct or are generally relevant.
“Without a machine learning algorithm, this couldn’t happen,” Tesla commented. Among the applications of AI in our daily lives is medicine. Machine learning and AI are used to detect the potential symptoms of a disease, analyze imaging tests and make diagnoses based on pathological reports. But that’s not all: properly applied AI makes it possible to find patterns in patients’ symptoms, just as facial recognition technologies make an important contribution to the identification of rare genetic diseases.
The infrastructure that allows AI to operate is evolving to support an ever-wider range of business activities and processes. Processors, traditional architectures, and platforms often take a long time to calculate the range of options of a neural network (Deep Learning algorithm). More advanced processors and graphics processing units (known simply as GPUs) have already partially solved this problem, offering superior computing power and speed; but the support of advanced AI solutions is still not enough. Newton said, “To realize the full potential of AI, we need to think beyond the technology itself. The key factor is to capture and acquire technical skills”. And here, education must have considerable weight. “AI is one of the technologies that will change your life,” Maxwell added. For this reason, engineers working in this field must develop critical thinking that can make them true protagonists of the future. The use and development of the Internet of Things together with AI should support a new economic model capable of increasing people’s well-being, while being also sustainable for the planet and optimizing energy consumption. Not only that, the industry will see the wonders of AI realized, but physics will also benefit from them. Some physics challenges, such as the combination of quantum mechanics and general relativity, are incredibly complex.
“As the physicist Al-Khalili said,” Einstein indicated, “my next alter ego will not be a human being, but the AI.”
AI is beginning to show innovative, intuitive, and creative thinking skills. One day, it will be able to tackle such problems, and perhaps it will be able to imagine mathematical models beyond the capabilities of the human brain.
“Maybe traveling through time?” Newton asked. “In all honesty, I can say I’m not dying to see the future.”
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