The Dawn of Transhumanism

Humans have always been interested in learning about their surroundings, to try and find ways to improve life on earth. Through the genius of the human imagination, we have created tools and technologies that have allowed us to create smarter and smarter machines. 

Mankind has been on a long journey to create a world where machines think, feel and communicate like humans. Today, our species is approaching a critical junction in human evolution.

The relationship between humans and technology is growing exponentially and we will continue to merge with these technologies and devices faster and faster as we move forward into the future.

But how do we teach super-intelligent machines to have the same core values as humans such as love, non-violence, peace, right conduct, and truth? What happens if we can’t? Let’s take a closer look on how we lay the ground work for a super-intelligent machine.

The Brain

If we want to build the perfect human, it needs a brain, right? The technological way of doing this is through Artificial Intelligence (AI). IBM Watson is arguably the smartest AI in the world. They coin it as “…cognitive technology that can think like a human“. It is being built (trained) to understand, reason, learn and interact just like a human. IBM is not alone in the race to build the most advanced AI. Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon are only a handful of known tech giants that are researching and testing AI. And of course there’s Apple. They just hired a new director for their AI research department.

The Mind

With any discussion about AI and transhumanism, one must talk about the work of Ray Kurzweil. He is “…an American author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist.”¹

He introduced the term singularity into main stream society. The singularity is described as “…the hypothesis that the invention of artificial super-intelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.”²

His most recent work, How to Create a Mind, takes you through the process of “…reverse-engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works, then applying that knowledge to create vastly intelligent machines.”³

He is currently the Chief Futurist of Google.

The Body

Having an advanced AI that helps you get around and search information online is one thing but, integrating it with a physical machine that is capable of processing this wealth of information is another. This where robotics comes in. One of the leading companies in this field is X. They are a “…an American semi-secret research-and-development facility founded by Google in January 2010.”

They have some crazy advanced robots, like SpotMini.

And then there is the more human like robot Atlas, the Next Generation.

 

I’m scared

I don’t know about you but if you look just 20 years into the future when Google X robots have evolved exponentially, coupled with a more advanced IBM Watson, we could have a very dangerous machine. Vice Motherboard produced a great short documentary The Dawn of Killer Robots, which explores the possibilities of such dangerous machines (unfortunately, this looks like the future of warfare).

I’m not scared

On the other hand, there are great initiatives to ensure that advanced AI is used responsibly and ethically. Take for example the non-profit AI research company OpenAI (led by Elon Musk). Their mission is to “…build safe AI, and ensure AI’s benefits are as widely and evenly distributed as possible.”

It is imperative that we have ethical people leading us into an unknown era of advanced technological capabilities.

Speaking of ethics, there is some great technical research being done to help us better understand how to approach the construction of a super-intelligent machine. For example, you have the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) who are doing “…foundational mathematical research to ensure smarter-than-human artificial intelligence has a positive impact.”

In 2014, MIRI released a very thought provoking research paper entitled Agent Foundations for Aligning Machine Intelligence with Human Interests: A Technical Research Agenda. This document “…discusses six research areas where they think foundational research today could make it easier in the future to develop super-intelligent systems that are reliably aligned with human interests.”

The Future

Whether we like it or not, we are heading towards a world in which technology will be so far advanced that we cannot even fathom their implications today. Think of what society was like before the internet was born. In 1985 we couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to go onto a computer and have access to a wealth of information and to interact with people all across the world using tools like social media. Now we have self-driving cars and drones being sold in Walmarts. We have advanced AIs in our pockets.

As technology continues to grow exponentially, new ‘unfathomable’ inventions will be born and force us to evolve and deepen our relationship with technology. Just like the internet deepened our relationship with the computer.

What do you think a super-intelligent machine will look and behave like? To help us, look no further than the science fiction. It has always given us a glimpse of what future technologies will be like. A recent example of this is the film  Ex Machina.


What do you think a super-intelligent machine will look and behave like?


¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Kurzweil
² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity
³ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_(company)

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “The Dawn of Transhumanism

  1. I’m pretty terrified to see what the future holds for AI. Not everything can be 100% perfect and positive, can it? Even with technology today there are glitches and problems. They are things that can be fixed, but it’s scary to think that these issues could happen with AI. You also have to think of it from the AI perspective. This reminds me a lot of the show West World. The characters (who are actually machines) begin to question things like their existence and it’s actually really sad to see. There are also many scenes where the characters have glitches and try to attack the guests (who are humans). Don’t get me wrong, I think AI is incredible, but it’s also really scary!

  2. On the other hand, the robot didn’t pick up the banana peel it slipped on, nor did it ‘laugh’ at being caught by a very old joke. The upright, snow-walking robot didn’t reach over and take its colleague’s hand or converse. Being knocked over again and again didn’t elicit any swearing, and instead of ‘removing’ the dangerous person, the robot focused on the box. Humans have feared machines for their ability to replace human effort, and now consciousness is on the table. Time will tell whether the Ex Machina robot – who leaves the young man trapped in a sealed house in which he will soon die – will be the way of the future. Of course, she was programmed by a man whose values were questionable; for me, that’s the scary part.

  3. I feel like I’m more scared than not for what is to come. The advancements, as you mentioned, are already so huge. My mother and I were driving today and discussing how far the internet has come and what has changed in such a short amount of time – when I was beginning school, the internet wasn’t a thing – when I was finishing my degree, my major source of content and information was found on the internet.

    My biggest fear is what this technology means for jobs and for society as a whole. Already machines are taking away jobs (self check out scanners for example). There is already a need for more jobs and with technology beginning to replace what’s out there – what does it mean for the coming generations? When(if) they can get machines to respond/understand emotions, where will that leave us with social media? Right now something that is so great about social media is companies ability to speak to the consumer so readily – this development could change how we use/view social media as a whole.

    One thing is for sure, technology is ever changing. Ready or no, it’s only going to continue to develop – all we can do is try to understand and develop with the changes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s