When I was a scrawny little chap, shortest in my high school class, I always wanted a super power. Wanted doesn’t capture the feeling. I would have given a limb for a super power. I read a lot of books back then (and now) and landed on a super power that had something to do with the brain. I eventually landed on Prof. Xavier of the X-Men. I wanted to be Prof Xavier, to read and control people’s minds. And also to have the vast amount of knowledge he seemed to have. I never thought I’d be able to turn those dreams into reality…
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last year and a half, you’ve surely heard that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking over everything. AI taking over jobs from almost every type of employee out there; AI as the tool the world’s most technologically advanced companies are placing the bets of their future on; AI as the brains of our most valued companions who also happen to be robots.
If you’ve paid more attention than the average you’ve probably checked out the Oxford research, quoted and discredited in equal measure, which gives you the probability of your job being replaced by a machine. The rhetoric ramped up when Google’s AlphaGo won one of the masters of GO, this most complex of games, earlier in 2016. But the more forward thinkers saw something else in this loss a human suffered at the hands of Artificial Intelligence. They saw the improvements in Lee Sedol’s game (the GO master that lost to AlphaGo) as he played the AI. He learned and adapted. He augmented his own skills in real-time by playing against AlphaGo. It was a big indication of the possibility of human augmentation, at the cognitive level, with AI. Because what we currently get from the robots or improved skills by humans interacting with AI/Robots, is external augmentation. We get this through voice controlled devices like Alexa and through the use of Google search on the web or our mobile devices. Amazon is already training new employees to deal with increases in holiday shopping/shipping season in just 2 days using AI and methods augmented by robots.
The logical next step is through embedding AI inside our bodies. And we are already moving towards the internal through microelectronic prosthetics.
No surprises, and like the internet before it, the government is already doing this. With DARPA having already done work to enhance the capacity of soldiers, almost 300,000, who come back home from wars with brain trauma using artificially intelligent chips in their brains. There has been some complaints about the ethics of this but for the most part those concerns will ebb away. It’s the resistance that all new technology always meets. Like the internet before, the technology is starting to seep into daily lives. Neuropace, a company embedding chips in brains to manage seizures, already got FDA approval.
image courtesy FDA
These technologies will start to get into our lives in 2017 as it has started to make the natural progression from critical medical needs (Neuropace and Kernel focusing on Alzheimer’s). According to Bryan Johnson, the founder of Kernel,
“Programming our neural code will enable us to author ourselves and our existence in ways that were previously unimaginable… we’re building off of 15 years of academic research at USC, funded by the NIH, DARPA and others.”
The unsurprising next step is that it will get into the hands of body-hackers (more casual use cases of people trying to improve themselves using technology) and then the early adopters and the mass market.
Imagine, for the more adventurous, embedded chips that prevent you from wearing Virtual Reality goggles, but all you need is an artificially intelligent chip that is activated in your mind and enables you to see Virtual, Augmented and Mixed reality? The ethical questions of these technologies will still need to be answered as we adopt them at the mass level. What I do know is that more of these technologies will hit the market in the next year.
We can either wait in fear and trepidation. Or embrace it and be a part of shaping what is bound to be our near future. Personally, I’m looking forward to finally getting my super power and becoming more like Prof Xavier…
originally published here.