Friday, October 10, 2014

The Singularity: When Humans Become Cyborgs

Here’s some food for thought: computers double in processing power every 18 months. This has been known as Moore’s law, and has been true since the 1950s. It is still true today.

Today, the fastest supercomputer is approaching the processing power needed to simulate a human brain. In the next few years or decades, this feat will be achieved. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. Humans will build human level artificial intelligence. The Human Brain Project is attempting to accomplish this by 2020, although that’s probably optimistic. My estimate is 2030, considering how those things usually go.

But Moore’s law continues to hold sway, and when we build human-level AI, we will be able to build twice human AI, then four times human AI, then eight times human AI, all within a matter of years. The intelligence of our machines will grow exponentially, greatly outpacing our mammalian brains. We’ll be left in the dust, say some, and machines will take over the world, yada yada yada, you know the drill. It’s the plot of half of all dystopian stories. But here’s why it’s not going to happen.

There’s going to be a nice big window of time where computers are almost as smart as humans—or even a little bit smarter—where other technologies will also be catching up. The one I’m interested in is brain-computer interface technology. It’s going to get better too, which means we’re going to be seeing memory chips implanted in our brains, external processors wired us to assist our thoughts, and a whole bunch of crazy stuff like that.

So it’s not going to be a competition between brains and computers. It’s going to be a competition between brains plus computers and just computers. And brains plus computers will always beat just plain computers. So we’ll become smarter and faster with our machines. Eventually, machines will be so fast that the biological components won’t even be necessary anymore, and we’ll just ditch those. But we’ll be essentially us. I’m not worried about AI taking over the world, because we’re going to turn into the AI.

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