Artificial Intelligence (AI) will more than likely bring about the next technological renaissance. Although it’s capable of some extraordinary things already, it’s not quite at the revolutionary stage yet – but that doesn’t stop people in the know making some intriguing predictions.
Enter John McNamara, a senior inventor and the Innovation Centre Technologist Lead at IBM. He was recently giving evidence to the UK Parliament’s House of Lords AI Committee, and he said that by around 2040, AI nanomachines being injected into our blood streams – effectively creating machine-augmented humans – will be a reality.
“These will provide huge medical benefits, such as being able to repair damage to cells, muscles, and bones,” he told those in session, adding that they could actually end up improving the original biological frameworks.
“Beyond this, utilizing technology which is already being explored today, we see the creation of technology that can meld the biological with the technological,” McNamara points out. He explained that just a little bit more advancement will mean we can “enhance human cognitive capability directly, potentially offering greatly improved mental [abilities], as well as being able to utilize vast quantities of computing power to augment our own thought processes.”
He goes on to suggest that if our environment was augmented too, with nanomachines, AI, and so on, we’d be able to connect to it and interact with it using our thoughts alone. Controlling your home, car, TV, computer and so on like a Jedi? No problem, as long as you can wait 20 or so years.
At this point, you may be thinking that these predictions may be somewhat unrealistic, in the sense that they are possible but not within that short a timeframe. You could be right, but remember, IBM has a history of making predictions about the technology we are likely to have in the near-future, and things like medical laboratories on a chip by 2022 certainly seem completely reasonable.
Yes, 2040 is further away, and the fog of uncertainty is a bit more constraining at that temporal distance. If you take these predictions as a general guide to where we’re heading, though, then we’re sure you can agree we’re in for a very strange and exciting future, no matter when it becomes the present.
As the Lords Committee is also an ethically-focused panel, McNamara emphasized that this technological leap won’t be available to everyone.
“Today, being poor means being unable to afford the latest smartphone,” he surmised. “Tomorrow this could mean the difference between one group of people potentially having an extraordinary uplift in physical ability, cognitive ability, health, lifespan and another much wider group that do not.”
So is society ready for AI to become so widespread? That’s what the Data Society Research Institute – a New York-based tech-heavy think tank – openly wondered when it also submitted its evidence to the Committee.
“The implications of AI will be far-reaching, and are impossible to comprehensively predict,” the authors explain in a written statement, adding that proper science communication is key here, or else people will simply fear AI rather than embrace it.
“We believe that the most productive ways for the general public to be prepared for widespread use of AI will be to understand the limitations – alongside the possibilities – of AI technologies.”
In an ominous addendum, the institute goes on to warn that we should be wary of AI being controlled by the heads of large organizations. “If AI technologies are allowed to bypass existing norms and regulations, this is likely to benefit corporations at the expense of individual workers.”
[H/T: The Telegraph]