When I was 14 years old, my father took two weeks off from work – for him an act lacking either precedent or recurrence – to spend his days and nights in the Library of Congress researching the book that would startlingly and accurately predict the trajectory of Artificial Intelligence and computer technology in ways that would astonish even if it had been written in 2017, not 1984.
The Fusion Threshold by Ronald H. Sones could only have been written by one who was involved with computers from their inception. He takes an arcane subject and makes it not only fascinating for scientists and laymen alike, but rather he "connects and coordinates diverse yet clearly discernible trends, and forms logical conclusions as to what the results will be of the interactions of these trends, but not through linear (straight line) extrapolations, rather through non-linear application of analysis and imagination."
In his Introduction to the 2009 revision he writes, “By the time I wrote the first version of this composition 26 years ago [now 33 years ago - MS], I, as a computer software developer, had been considering for several years before that point, a great dichotomy. This was the immense disparity between the advances made, over the years since computers were first developed until that time, in computer processing, storage, and transmission capabilities vs. the lack of advance in computer input through keyboards. I wondered, 'What would happen if this limitation were overcome? Suppose that instead of entering information into a computer through a keyboard, a mechanism only marginally improved during the century or so since it was invented, what if we could somehow transmit information directly from our minds into computers through some kind of radio frequency link? But then further suppose that many computer users could do the same thing, and that these users were linked together through a large communications network, and that the high speed links between the computers and the users were two-way, rather than just one way?'”
For thirty years I have watched his conclusions consistently play out in an eerie stream of reports from the world of neuro-hacking and Artificial Intelligence (AI), yet his predictions from way back then remain ahead of what has actually been achieved, and the ramifications he cautions against exceed even today's pleas of Steven Hawking and Alon Musk to regulate AI before it destroys the human race.
The Daily Mail published an article entitled “Could we soon 'speak' telepathically? Mind-reading computer deciphers words from brainwaves BEFORE they are spoken” (16-1-16). They report a 90% accuracy rate in deciphering words by looking for the distinct wave forms produced in the brain before speaking, and they envision people issuing instructions to robots by thought.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last year, computer scientists and biomedical experts exhibited neuro-feedback technologies that capture and manipulate brainwaves to control objects like prosthetic hands.
And the Daily Express reported the invention of a stimulator that can upload skills and knowledge directly to the brain (Education of the future? Scientists figure out how to UPLOAD knowledge to the brain, 24-3-16). Researchers analyzed electrical signals in the brain of a pilot and then fed the data to people who didn't have the knowledge how to fly planes via an electrode-embedded head cap that stimulated the pertinent regions of the brain. "The participants who were fed the information via electrodes were then pitted against a placebo group on a realistic flight simulation test, which found that the former performed an average of 33 per cent better than the latter, according to the results published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience," the article said.
The Fusion Threshold was written and then revised to reflect technological advances that supported my father's forecast, and to reflect inner advances away from agnosticism and toward Torah observance that intensified his urgency that the “good guys” achieve the technology that he foretells before the “bad guys” do.
But what are his startling conclusions? To spoil them here would diminish their effect, but it is significant that between the time he finished the manuscript in 1984 and revised it in 2009, personal changes that led him on the path toward Torah observance enhanced his conclusions. As he explains in the Afterword, “In my own case, The Impossible happened a few years after I wrote the first manuscript. I was raised in a non-religious atmosphere, and I got a degree in physics in college. I always fancied myself a logical, scientific thinker; I prided myself on being an agnostic, and expected that I always would be.
“When I reached my early 40’s, my teenage son Got Religion, which in our family’s case, is Judaism. He challenged me from the Orthodox Jewish perspective with some intensely logical arguments as to why this Belief System accepts the existence of God and all that follows from that within Judaism. It has to do with the gross improbability that an entire nation of people, especially such argumentative and 'stiff necked' people as the Jews, could be made universally to accept and maintain in consistent national tradition for thousands of years the story that God appeared before the entire nation (at Mt. Sinai, as asserted in Exodus 20), if it were not actually true. One would have to believe that were the story not true, then an entire nation participated in a conspiracy to accept such a fabricated story, which, in all other contexts, is an idea that is taken as patently absurd.
“The details of this argument are beyond the scope of this work, and I have no intention of turning this endeavor into an advertisement for conversion to Judaism (which is actually forbidden in Jewish Religious Law, in any event.) But, there it happened: I, a secular humanist if there ever was one, became a religious Jew.
“But, what that has to do with this work is that I discovered, much to my own surprise, that there are things in Judaism that seemed to me to be strangely related to the ideas of this work.”
The Fusion Threshold has never been published. At one time it would have taken extraordinary vision for a commercial publishing house to risk passing off what must have seemed to them like science fiction as imminent fact. Although we haven't yet reached the technological critical mass required to pass the fusion threshold, to recognize it as fact today only requires that one keep up with the urgent warnings of people like Musk and Hawking. My father has always believed that once it is grasped what power is contained within these technologies, there will be a mad race between nations to be the first to implement them. It would be neither hyperbole nor metaphor to assert that the forces that will be unleashed once the fusion threshold is passed will make a mere nuclear explosion seem grossly antiquated.
In preparation for this article, I asked my father what he would like said in conclusion. His answer was that "if you believe that something ought to be done about such a thing happening, you'd better do it fast, because in all probability it will come to pass a lot sooner than you think."