Merging with machines inevitable, scientists say
Today, we are entering the beginning stages of a society that many futurists believe will not end until man and machine become completely integrated into a single being – an enhanced human.
The biotech revolution, from 2010 to 2020, promises to correct many of our biological flaws including vulnerability to disease and telltale signs of aging. Doctors will re-grow cells, tissues and organs to replace aging body parts; and by as early as mid-2020s, most humans can look forward to an extended healthy lifespan of 200 years or more.
Molecular nanotech marks the next step in our march towards this futuristic society. From about 2025, we will enjoy home-replicators that provide food, clothing, and essentials at little cost; and tiny nanobots that roam through arteries and veins keeping us forever fit and healthy.
The final stage of achieving this remarkable future lies in supercomputers and artificial intelligence; powerful robot-like machines that many predict will outthink humans by 2030. These silicon marvels will possess reasoning and logic similar to our own, but can share data and knowledge millions of times faster than we can with our slow human language; a desirable feature that many humans will want to incorporate into their bodies, experts say.
Author Ray Kurzweil, in The Singularity is Near, says, “Between 2035 and 2050, we will merge our knowledge, skills, and personalities with our silicon cousins. This will produce a superior human that thinks, reasons, and communicates far more efficiently than today’s humans.”
When we combine computer intelligence with rapid innovations in biotech and nanotech, we see a future where the distinction between humans and machines begins to blur. During this transitional time, experts say, we will escape today’s frail limited bodies and evolve into powerful ageless “housing units”. By mid-2030s, nearly everyone will enjoy perfect health with an indefinite lifespan, and without any fears of unwanted death.
Most people will welcome these advancements with open arms. However, techno-conservatives say there may come a time when tomorrow’s powerful machines might understand us better than we understand ourselves and they could manipulate us – even replace us.
But positive futurists believe this will never happen. J. Storrs Hall, in his book, Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine, says there’s no need to fear artificial intelligence. When machines reach the point where they can outthink us, technology will also allow enhancement of human brains enabling us to always remain superior to our machines. Enhanced human brains can be made stronger than AIs, Hall says.
Most forward-thinkers do not envision machines soaring into the future as a separate species. As our silicon friends acquire “smart” new components, we may want to incorporate those parts into our bodies. Over the years, we will become more like our machines. We will still consider ourselves “human,” but eventually we will morph into a human-machine configuration indiscernible from our machines.
If this “magical future” unfolds in the timely manner suggested above, by mid-century, many people reading this piece could be enjoying a grand life using their increased intelligence to re-design the planet, visit space colonies on moon and Mars, develop timetravel technology, or search the galaxy for advanced life-forms to exchange knowledge with.
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