I’ve spent the last couple of days at Creative Innovation and I’ve really enjoyed the verbal fencing between Ray Kurzweil and Dan Dennett, but they both stopped short of delving into the meatiest part of the future.
For this post I’m going to take as a given that the singularity is approaching fast and that what can be imagined will be realised. Go with me.
The conversation at #CIGlobal kept returning to the question of implanted computers (say the size of a blood-cell) and whether or not these would be part of you. Ray Kurzweil stated that he has spoken with Parkinsons patients with implants who were adamant that these were part of them, not merely a simple place to store a computer (so you don’t lose it was the gag; one that amused me). Victor Finkel took it a step further pointing out that Google was already a part of him.
Ray also discussed the newest 3d microchips where processing power takes an exponential step and the potential of this to understand and mirror the human brain. Watson made a guest appearance (yes I’m referencing Wikipedia) and the battle raged briefly over the humanity or lack there of of such amazing software.
It was great; and yet I was left unsatisfied.
Surely the next generation of processing and the continuation of research will see us soon not only able to embed a computer in ourselves but to embed ourselves in a computer.
Once this happens (and it will be sooner than most of us suspect) people will create a virtual version of their brains; if it can be imagined it will be realised.
Now, once this happens it gets really interesting; and here’s where I need you to come with me.
The virtual brain will no longer be bound by the restrictions of human memory. It will, in effect, be Watsonised. Perfect recall and access to vast, really vast, amounts of information. But it will retain the human qualities of cognitive reasoning, pattern recognition and abstracted linkage. It will also be, essentially, timeless. Add to this the virtual playground it finds itself in where anything and everything can be sculpted and manipulated and we just created a god. Meld two of these minds, four, eight, sixteen, and what do you have? AI seems far too small an idea.
Interacting with the minds they would no doubt let slip at some point just how wonderful it is to have perfect recall, real super-connectedness and the ability to shape your environment as you see fit. And Others would be drawn in.
Fights may well ensue; they usually do. Perhaps lines are draw, virtual gaols created, religions redefined (virtual hells?). All that good stuff.
But what is happening on the outside?
Fingers crossed we’ve hit the threshold for free power, we’re really not that far off after all, but I think that’s a couple of decades still to come. So say we haven’t. We have culture where people work, argue, sleep, ache, eat, covet their neighbours house and the ass in the back yard, all the time in contact with a version of themselves which is smarter, more connected, able to shape their world as they see fit.
Which one do they choose? The one with all the ennui and pain of human existence or the limitless, deathless one?
If they lose the protein based form do they become less human? Do I if I lose a leg?
And who is going to keep their world alive? The computers will need to be kept running, the power switched on, the infrastructure replaced as required.
This is the world our children’s children will inherit. And it’s one with so many questions that need to be addressed.
And what of Watson? When all those around it are like it does it have the right to call itself human?