posted by Nicholas Blachford on Thu 11th Mar 2004 19:36 UTC

"Future of computing, Page 2/3"

Unreal Capabilities
The Science Fiction AI entity ends up very similar to us but in reality they will be able to act in ways we can't do and wont be expecting, they are not human and I don't expect them to act anything like a human unless they have been specifically designed to.

I talk of an entity as if it is one thing but it will be able to hold conversations with different people simultaneously, a single consciousness may not be able to do this but our entity can split itself apart. It will be able copy itself, it may take over mechanical systems and take on a physical body, it may do the same in the virtual space and take on a virtual body. They will also do things we can't even conceive of doing ourselves such as sending memories directly to one another. We can co-operate with one another, these may be able to not only co-operate but actually merge into one entity, then de-merge with all the knowledge of each other. This is just the beginning, they will have capabilities we can't even imagine. Who knows, Perhaps one day they be able to merge with us.

Cybermen
In part 6 I mentioned cyborgs which were a combination of machine intelligence and a human body. What if it were to do it the other way around and use a human intelligence instead?

Interfacing directly with the human brain is a long term goal and it'll be worked on for many years so how this will operate is more than a little open to question, but it will give some intriguing possibilities. If our interface to the world goes via a computer we to will be able to take on other bodies (providing the necessary nutrients and oxygen are still supplied to our brain).

The idea that some already have of recording a persons entire lifetime could be turned on it's head and allow you to experience someone else's life, rather than watching someone getting shot on TV you could join in and experience it yourself, with the pain turned down of course. Of course sex change operations will be rather simpler, you can become whoever (or whatever!) you want. If you don't like it just change back. This is a vast oversimplification of course but I am talking SciFi technology here...

If we are injured we just switch off pain and perhaps send a bunch of nano-technology machines to go fix the damage. If we could do the same to the brain (which has no self repair mechanism) we could significantly extend our lives, perhaps even permanently.

Of course the idea of brains without bodies isn't new, H. G. Wells had Martian brains with mechanical bodies fighting Humans in "The War of the Worlds" way back in 1898?. [5]

Putting our brains into a different body is one thing, but can we fit a human and computer intelligence together? I've no idea how we'd communicate but it'd be very useful to have an intelligent computer with you especially which all it's knowledge and ability to upload more. Of course in any mixed intelligence we'd need to ensure that the human was the boss.

If the entity is using evolutionary programming perhaps it can find a way to apply it to us, to evolve us. If a way is found to replace biological neurones with artificial ones who knows what'll be possible. Just make sure there's no power cut! A human brain made out of artificial electronic neurones will have some of the same advantages of an artificial entity, no need to sleep. It will also have the disadvantages, a completely different experience of emotions or worse, no emotions.

I for one don't believe we will ever be able to upload ourselves to a computer as is sometimes suggested in Science Fiction so I don't think the above is possible, but that said I don't think anyone can really give a meaningful prediction on that matter today.

Artificial Questions
AI poses many more questions than we can answer today. Some answers will be answered when we have AI, others we will be forced to answer ourselves when it has it's inevitably huge effect on our society.

The future could be a wonderful place and AI could be a very useful part of it but we need to get it right. Release a learning machine too early and it could have very bad consequences for all of humanity. We need to define it's role and the rules it needs to follow, we also need to extrapolate to see what happens when we push those rules to their limits and when they collide, otherwise we could get unexpected results. Whatever way you look at it the coming of AI is going to change the face of human society.

The normal path of evolution is for superior species to survive the lesser ones. Today we are the superior species, will AI change that, or will we fuse with the machines and ourselves take on a different form of being?

I am of course missing a lot of detail here and am making a lot of assumptions. There are many questions to be asked and technologies to be developed so these possibilities may take centuries to be realised if they are realised at all.

Predicting the future is difficult enough but I have gone into the unknown here and this is a lot more difficult than simple extrapolation. While I may sound like a Science Fiction writer all of these predictions are at least partially based on today's technologies being combined and extrapolated over a long time period. I'm describing a path, but I don't know if it's the one that will walk or even if it can be taken.

Perhaps you can give very good reasons why these ideas cannot possibly work, maybe they break the rules. Those reasons may be valid today, but tomorrow? Science has a long history of rewriting the rules.

I will make one solid prediction though:

You'll know they've got Artificial Intelligence right when your robotic girlfriend says No.

Table of contents
  1. "Future of computing, Page 1/3"
  2. "Future of computing, Page 2/3"
  3. "Future of computing, Page 3/3"
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