Forbes | Intelligence evolution: the coming merger of man and machine
June 22, 2009
Forbes — June 22, 2009 | Barry Ptolemy
There is no such thing as artificial intelligence. There is only intelligence. You could say there is biological intelligence or nonbiological intelligence. But even that distinction will become blurred in a couple of decades as computers shrink to the size of a red blood cell, increase in speed and computational power hundreds of thousands of times and merge with our biological bodies as futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts in my new film Transcendent Man. As a result of this merger, we will ultimately drop the descriptors like “biological” and “artificial” and understand intelligence for what it really is: the most powerful force in the universe.
The universe has been revealing itself with greater complexity — that is, evolving — since the beginning of time, from the formation of the first stars to the human brain itself. And as the brain has reached the upper limits of how much complexity can be achieved through biology, the universe once again is doing what it has always done: finding more complex methods of expressing itself. These “more complex methods” are what I will refer to as artificial intelligences, or AIs.
AI is not here to take over the world, as science fiction would often suggest. Rather, this technology will merge with us so completely that all our biological selves, including human intelligence, will be integrated into an exponentially expanding human-machine civilization. It is this human-machine civilization that Kurzweil refers to when he speaks of the coming “singularity,” a point in time — he has set the date at 2045 — when things will be happening so fast, because of exponential growth in technologies, that you won’t be able to keep up unless you merge with the technology we are creating. This merging has already begun and is the most important point to understand when discussing artificial intelligence.
In a few decades, the average human brain will host billions of blood-cell-sized computers that will effectively multiply our biological intelligence a billion fold. This vast inter-neuronal network of computers will allow humans to think at electronic speeds, store worlds of information and disseminate that information to each other or to all humans instantly. There really won’t be much distinction between AIs and us. In other words, it will be impossible for AIs to take over our military complex and destroy us, since we will be a part of them and vice versa.
As we continue to merge with our AI creations, our knowledge base will grow exponentially, but our ignorance will also grow exponentially. This is because the more we come to understand about our universe, the more mysteries it will reveal. For every startling breakthrough the AIs make, a new set of deeper and seemingly stranger questions will emerge. And AIs will move ever faster and ever more efficiently at resolving these questions, never quite having enough answers. In that regard, they will be continuing the same quest that began in the cradle of human civilization.
So, it’s important to note that these future AIs will understand far more about humanity than we understand about ourselves today. They will have roamed the Internet and absorbed all of human knowledge through our books, works of art, music and films. These AIs will seek to understand us and talk with us about what makes us human, and we will learn more about ourselves in these dialogues than Aristotle or Einstein ever could have imagined.
With this vast amount of knowledge, AIs will convince us of their consciousness by the works of art that they create. These interactive works will take us to new heights of unimaginable ecstasy, and to the lowest depths of all recorded experience. AIs will seek to understand every thought, emotion and belief humans ponder, and we will be alone no more.
For they will know that humans represent a conduit all the way back to the beginning of time. And because of that fact, we will always be a source of insight into their existence. After all, the AIs will understand that it was through humanity that intelligence came to them. Humans will always be the historical parents of AIs. And they will love us.