Intelligent Work

by | Mar 28, 2017



Author’s Definition:

  1. work accomplished by a machine.
  2. work not solely the result of natural causes.


Intelligent Work is work accomplished by a machine.  A machine’s functionality is the the result of intelligent manipulation of matter and energy to enable sensing, signaling, logical information processing and energy control functionalities.  Such manipulation embedds intelligence in the machine.

The technical definition of work is a force applied over a distance, in vector algebra:Term “work” has many non-technical meanings.  A Webster definition is:  sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result.   Another Webster definition:  energy expended by natural phenomena.  The definitions of interest here involve the expenditure of energy to cause something to happen.  In the natural word it can mean the energy of the sun to heat the earth, or the energy of wind and rain to cause erosion or energy or the energy released by burning or from a battery, or metal rusting.   For humans it might mean to build a fence, clean the house or to put out the garbage.  All these examples involve the consumption and/or release of energy that performs some sort of work.  The first list of examples involve work by natural causes, and the human examples involve intelligent work where the human is performing the function of a machine. 

Work by natural causes has no intelligence involved.  Intelligent work is a different paradigm as it can only be performed by a machine.  A machine requires embedded (logical) intelligence because it must gather information, process the information to determine action required, and have embedded means (control the expenditure of energy) to perform the specified work.

An example that is commonly thought of as work due to natural causes, but is actually intelligent work, is the sun’s energy using a process called photosynthesis to make food.  Photosynthesis is a result of both molecular machines and natural chemical reactions – this process cannot occur as a result of natural chemical reactions alone.  Here is how Wikipedia describes the area in a plant cell that performs this process: “A photosynthetic reaction center is a complex of several proteins, pigments and other co-factors that together execute the primary energy conversion reactions of photosynthesis. Molecular excitation, either originating directly from sunlight or transferred as excitation energy via light-harvesting antenna systems, give rise to electron transfer reactions along the path of a series of protein-bound co-factors. These co-factors are light-absorbing molecules (also named chromophores or pigments) such as chlorophyll and pheophytin, as well as quinones. The energy of the photon is used to excite an electron of a pigment. The free energy created is then used to reduce a chain of nearby electron acceptors, which have subsequently higher redox-potentials. These electron transfer steps are the initial phase of a series of energy conversion reactions, ultimately resulting in the conversion of the energy of photons to the storage of that energy by the production of chemical bonds.”  This is a description of intelligent work being performed by molecular machines in conjunction with some normal chemical reactions.

There are two levels of intelligent work that we regularly experience.  The first is logic level intelligent work, work that has at least logic level functionality.  This include all man-made objects but also includes things made other living things such as bird nests and beehives1.  It also includes the work done by each molecular machine in every living cell. That is a lot of machines doing a lot of work! 

Humans can perform a higher level of work: abstract intelligent work.  We can think, conceptualize, design, build machines and processes that logic level intelligent entities cannot. 

Then there must be an even higher level intelligent entity that designed us.2

Intelligent work, performed by machines, require the continual expendure of energy to power the logical functionality of the machine.  Natural work does not have this requirement as there is no intelligence.  There is a physics defined relationship between the work performed and the energy required to perform it.  Such a relationship does not exist with intelligent work because the energy involved in performance of a task involves variable, logical factors in addition to the performace of the physical work required for the task.

Understanding the difference between Intelligent work and “natural work” is key to understanding the conclusions presented herein.  Life depends upon the intelligent work that takes place in every cell.  Everything we (humans) make and do is the result of the intelligent work we do.

© 2016 Mike Van Schoiack

  1. Bees and Birds have neural networks, which is probably a level higher than logic intelligence, but lower than abstract intelligence which humans have
  2. This is a judgement call of this engineer who believes that designing an entity capable of abstract thinking is beyond our reach.
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