Scientists: Humans and machines will merge in future
2008 07 20

By Lara Farrar | cnn.com


A group of experts from around the world will hold a first of its kind conference Thursday on global catastrophic risks.

They will discuss what should be done to prevent these risks from becoming realities that could lead to the end of human life on Earth as we know it.

Speakers at the four-day event at Oxford University in Britain will talk about topics including nuclear terrorism and what to do if a large asteroid were to be on a collision course with our planet.

On the final day of the Global Catastrophic Risk Conference, experts will focus on what could be the unintended consequences of new technologies, such as superintelligent machines that, if ill-conceived, might cause the demise of Homo sapiens.

"Any entity which is radically smarter than human beings would also be very powerful," said Dr. Nick Bostrom, director of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, host of the symposium. "If we get something wrong, you could imagine the consequences would involve the extinction of the human species."

Bostrom is a philosopher and a leading thinker of transhumanism, a movement that advocates not only the study of the potential threats and promises that future technologies could pose to human life but also the ways in which emergent technologies could be used to make the very act of living better.

"We want to preserve the best of what it is to be human and maybe even amplify that," Bostrom said.

Transhumanists, according to Bostrom, anticipate an era in which biotechnology, molecular nanotechnologies, artificial intelligence and other new types of cognitive tools will be used to amplify our intellectual capacity, improve our physical capabilities and even enhance our emotional well-being.

The end result would be a new form of "posthuman" life with beings that possess qualities and skills so exceedingly advanced they no longer can be classified simply as humans.

"We will begin to use science and technology not just to manage the world around us but to manage our own human biology as well," Bostrom said. "The changes will be faster and more profound than the very, very slow changes that would occur over tens of thousands of years as a result of natural selection and biological evolution."

Bostrom declined to predict an exact time frame when this revolutionary biotechnological metamorphosis might occur. "Maybe it will take eight years or 200 years," he said. "It is very hard to predict."

Other experts are already getting ready for what they say could be a radical transformation of the human race in as little as two decades.

"This will happen faster than people realize," said Dr. Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and futurist who calculates technology trends using what he calls the law of accelerating returns, a mathematical concept that measures the exponential growth of technological evolution.

In the 1980s, Kurzweil predicted that a tiny handheld device would be invented early in the 21st century, allowing blind people to read documents from anywhere at anytime; this year, such a device was publicly unveiled. He also anticipated the explosive growth of the Internet in the 1990s.

Now, Kurzweil is predicting the arrival of something called the Singularity, which he defines in his book on the subject as "the culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but that transcends our biological roots."

"There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality," he writes.

Singularity will approach at an accelerating rate as human-created technologies become exponentially smaller and increasingly powerful and as fields such as biology and medicine are understood more and more in terms of information processes that can be simulated with computers.

By the 2030s, Kurzweil said, humans will become more non-biological than biological, capable of uploading our minds onto the Internet, living in various virtual worlds and even avoiding aging and evading death.

In the 2040s, Kurzweil predicts that non-biological intelligence will be billions of times better than the biological intelligence humans have today, possibly rendering our present brains obsolete.

"Our brains are a million times slower than electronics," Kurzweil said. "We will increasingly become software entities if you go out enough decades."

This movement towards the merger of man and machine, according to Kurzweil, is already starting to happen and is most visible in the field of biotechnology.

As scientists gain deeper insights into the genetic processes that underlie life, they are able to effectively reprogram human biology through the development of new forms of gene therapies and medications capable of turning on or off enzymes and RNA interference, or gene silencing.

"Biology and health and medicine used to be hit or miss," Kurzweil sad. "It wasn't based on any coherent theory about how it works."

The emerging biotechnology revolution will lead to at least a thousand new drugs that could do anything from slow down the process of aging to reverse the onset of diseases, like heart disease and cancer, Kurzweil said.

By 2020, Kurzweil predicts a second revolution in the area of nanotechnology. According to his calculations, it is already showing signs of exponential growth as scientists begin to test first generation nanobots that can cure Type 1 diabetes in rats or heal spinal cord injuries in mice.

One scientist is developing something called a respirocyte, a robotic red blood cell that, if injected into the bloodstream, would allow humans to do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath or sit at the bottom of a swimming pool for hours at a time.

Other researchers are developing nanoparticles that can locate tumors and one day even eradicate them.

And some Parkinson's patients now have pea-sized computers implanted in their brains that replace neurons destroyed by the disease; new software can be downloaded to the mini computers from outside the human body.

"Nanotechnology will not just be used to reprogram but to transcend biology and go beyond its limitations by merging with non-biological systems," Kurzweil said. "If we rebuild biological systems with nanotechnology, we can go beyond its limits."

The final revolution leading to the advent of Singularity will be the creation of artificial intelligence, or superintelligence, which, according to Kurzweil, could be capable of solving many of our biggest threats, like environmental destruction, poverty and disease.

"A more intelligent process will inherently outcompete one that is less intelligent, making intelligence the most powerful force in the universe," Kurzweil writes.

Yet the invention of so many high-powered technologies and the possibility of merging these new technologies with humans may pose both peril and promise for the future of mankind.

"I think there are grave dangers," Kurzweil said. "Technology has always been a double-edged sword."

Article from: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/07/15/bio.tech/index.html



Related Articles
Red Ice Creations Radio - Kevin Warwick - "I, Cyborg": Implants, RFID, Microchips & Cybernetics
Red Ice Creations Radio - Kevin Warwick - Artificial Intelligence & The Rise of the Machines in 2020 (Subscription)
Machines 'to match man by 2029'
The next big bang: Man meets machine
Brain Machine Interfaces
In A First, Scientists Develop Tiny Implantable Biocomputers
The Creation of Smarter Than Human Intelligence
Team develops DNA switch to interface living organisms with computers
Science's new blend mixes man and beast
Transgressive technologies: Does a posthuman dystopia await us?
Aubrey de Grey, Artificial Intelligence, Singularity, Longevity and the Holy Grail
We are moving ever closer to the era of mind control
Patent sought on 'synthetic life'
'Darth Venter' (J. Craig Venter) & The Archon Genomics X Prize
Artificial life likely in 3 to 10 years
The Global Brain (Video)
Red Ice Creations Radio - Michael Tsarion - The Post Human World
Nanotechnology Risks Unknown
Berkeley Physicists Make a Radio 10,000 Times Thinner Than a Human Hair
Chips push through nano-barrier
Nanogenerator provides continuous power by harvesting energy from the environment
Mind at Light Speed - A New Kind of Intelligence
MIThril, the next generation research platform for context aware wearable computing
Bring on the nanobots, and we will live long and prosper


Latest News from our Front Page

The Aeon of Horus is Ending and the Elites are Nervous as their Icons are Dying
2014 04 18
I predict there is going to be a huge resurgence of interest in European indigenous spiritual traditions from Norse to Celtic/Gaelic to Slavic and so on. Millions of Europeans are going to realise that we are the victims of Christianity and New Age garbage. Their bastardised Kabbalah, the psychic force used by Crowley and the elites to cement his Aeon ...
Easter - Christian or Pagan?
2014 04 18
From: truthbeknown.com Contrary to popular belief, Easter does not represent the "historical" crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In reality, the gospel tale reflects the annual "crossification" of the sun through the vernal equinox (Spring), at which time the sun is "resurrected," as the day begins to become longer than the night. Rather than being a "Christian" holiday, Easter celebrations date back ...
Man-Made Blood Might Be Used in Transfusions by 2016
2014 04 18
Researchers in the U.K. have created the first man-made red blood cells of high enough quality to be introduced into the human body The premise of the HBO show and book series True Blood revolves around a technological breakthrough: scientists figure out how to synthesize artificial human blood, which, as an ample new source of non-human food, allows vampires to "come ...
The Trials of the Cherokee Were Reflected In Their Skulls
2014 04 18
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee have found that environmental stressors – from the Trail of Tears to the Civil War – led to significant changes in the shape of skulls in the eastern and western bands of the Cherokee people. The findings highlight the role of environmental factors in shaping our physical characteristics. ...
Our Fears May Be Shaped by Ancestral Trauma
2014 04 18
Last December, an unsettling Nature Neuroscience study found that mice who were taught to associate the smell of cherry blossoms with pain produced offspring who feared the smell of cherry blossoms, even if they had never been exposed to it before. We knew that the process was epigenetic—that it was not hard-wired in the permanent genetic structure of the mouse—but ...
More News »