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There has been a lot of talk about AI recently.
There has also been a lot of talk about neural interfaces between man and machine.
What happens when you combine the two?
How long before we see augmented intelligence -- the integration of human brain and computer in a way that hugely boosts our own capacity for understanding and improving the world around us?
Right now that's true... but then again, anyone who might have suggested 60 years ago that just about every human on the planet would be walking around with a supercomputer (smartphone) in their pocket, would have been equally delving into the world of scifi.
The reality is that we're already seeing massive inroads into the world of hi-tech prosthetics to replace limbs and even ears and eyes so the next logical step would be prosthetic or augmented brainpower.
Giving your brain a silicon co-processor for all those boring/hard tasks might free up our "creative" areas for dealing with more interesting, enlightening contemplations.
Robotics remain a hot topic and there's been much discussion about integrating AI with robots to produce synthetic humanoids -- but I think the real future lies not in creating mechanical men but biologically augmented AI.
The problem however, is who's in control?
If we start implanting people with AI co-processors that can be linked to their brain in order to provide far more mental capacity -- how do we remain sure that the AI doesn't become hyper-adaptive and seek to take over control of the consciousness - either directly or in far more subtle ways?
If someone's brain is half organic and half silicon, who really owns the resulting hybrid intelligence?
This is a pretty tricky subject and while it's nice to think that the decisions that will have to be made from an ethical, moral and survival perspective will be many years or decades away, I think we could be underestimating the rate of progress in these areas.
Imagine when we come up with a neural-net processor with inbuilt AI routines that can be patched into your brain to compensate for (say) the failing memory of dementia patients or the declining motor-control of someone with Parkinson's. It will be a no-brainer (excuse the pun) that we roll these things out to the people who can benefit from them and the pressure to do so will be immense and immediate. Will we have had time to properly consider the real implications of handing over parts of our most intimate neural processes to a bit of silicon programmed by a spotty-faced lad feasting on pizza and coca-cola in a dark room somewhere?
And what if/when those bits of silicon get hacked?
OMG... the thought of that makes a zombie apocalypse seem positively tame by comparison!
But seriously, the integration of AI and human intelligence, at biological level, will happen -- it's just a matter of when.
Will we ever be truly prepared for this gargantuan step in our evolution?
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