The “Big Shift” is bound to happen and that generates amazing perspectives and opportunities.
Creating artificial intelligence and creating virtual / augmented reality experiences are one of the subjects ranking higher and higher in discussion trends all over the media.
And, closely related to it, another word inevitably pops into mind: Transhumanism. This was the main topic of our last month’s tech talk held in Bucharest, QUALITALKS #4, and our courses at Tap That Job 2016.
Dan Cautiş was our special guest and speaker for QUALITALKS #4 and Tap that Job
He currently teaches two university courses at Georgetown University. One of them is based on the study of Transhumanism, a cultural and intellectual movement through which we can supposedly improve the human condition through the use of emerging technologies.
During QUALITALKS #4, Dan Cautis discusses the transhumanist visions of how humanity can evolve beyond its current boundaries and “upgrading” humans to better versions of themselves, up to the point where we upload our minds into silicone structures instead of the current, assumedly imperfect, carbon structures. Transhumanism revolves around core concepts such life extension, genetic engineering, downloading the human mind, artificial superintelligence, nanotechnology or cloning, used for curing major illness or even obtaining eternal life, racing towards creating a “post-human” superior being.
For those who missed QUALITALKS 4, we have asked Dan to share his thoughts on Transhumanism and provide us with his view.
The concept of Singularity is related to the availability of extraordinary computational resources (both hardware and software) that could lead to artificial intelligence equal (and maybe superior) to the one of humans. What makes these visionaries believe that this could happen within few decades? It is what Ray Kurzweil calls the “Law of Accelerated Returns – LOAR, which he observed in many areas related to technological change; this change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive view”.
So, the law of accelerated returns creating LOAR acknowledges that each of these technologies will eventually saturate but the overall exponential growth is composed of a number of S-shaped technologies and by switching to a succession of different paradigms.
The overwhelming power of exponential growth insured that we won’t experience a hundred years of computational progress during the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of technological progress (at today’s rate).
That is why when talking about Singularity, it is important to keep in mind that even if it seems like science fiction, it is not a fringe idea; it is a serious hypothesis based on carefully observed and analyzed patterns of technology development.
But the growth of computational power and of artificial intelligence software is only one of many other fast growing technologies that could lead to the advent of superintelligence and eventual to a posthuman phase: nanotechnology, advanced robotics and a series of human enhancement technologies based on rapid advances in biotech, pharmacology and genetic engineering are some others.
There is a very large number of creative scientists and entrepreneurs involved in all these activities and a huge amount of investment provided by both private and governmental sources (especially by DARPA – the research agency of Pentagon) so, there is a good bet that the technological exponential growth observed so far will not slow down; on the contrary it is very likely it will accelerate.
All these new developments are so new and with such potential explosive consequences for the entire society that there is a real concern that there is not enough public involvement in the myriad of necessary debates to sort out the social, ethical, religious and policy implications. How could we make the judgments about a desirable outcome? This is a very difficult question to answer and I hope within the next decades more people will get involved and try to sort out this conundrum; do we want our future to be decided by geeks and/or Frankenstein builders? Or by bureaucrats? Either way, the policies that will be applied in these areas will decide what kind of society we will become.
So where to, what’s next?
Whether you’re on the optimists’ or pessimists’ side, it’s hard to anticipate rising of certain trends. But one thing’s for sure: you can watch passively and notice how things are shifting around you or you can get actively involved in creating the future. In a field dominated by such dynamics we just need to keep up with the times and seize rising opportunities for innovation. There will be plenty.