TECH TALK: Bill Magee assesses the latest moves for a ‘merger’ of the human brain with machines
“When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole” – Nikola Tesla, 1926 (quote courtesy of Prof. Bill Buchanan OBE)
“It’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact” – Marie Lu, New York Times best selling young adult dystopian novelist
“Scotty, beam me up” – Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home
I don’t mind telling you, even the merest of thoughts of a Borg-like unrelenting advance of artificial intelligence threatening to change forever the traditional “master/servant” relationship between humans and machines, is doing my head in. What’s become known in cyberland as the potential for a “digital-to-digital” merger between brain and AI represents a daunting prospect for each and everyone of us.
Your noggin, even mine, is unique, comprising a web dependent on electro-chemical processes of a complexity we still barely comprehend or grasp. We’re talking of what actually amounts to a computer interface – where 100 billion cells connect thousands of others creating 100 trillion connections and counting.
Despite this, some bright sparks strongly argue a human-computer symbiosis is achievable. One where each component operates on the same wavelength, in what some describe as a meeting of minds. If that wasn’t enough, and taking things significantly further: where machine cognition independent of human direction becomes a basic developmental stage within human evolution.
A contrary view is the brain is endowed with a cluster of principle human cognitive functions it’s impossible to replicate by applying AI to the equation. Also, as the near 100-year-old Tesla quote above testifies, wireless perfection is taking its time getting there.
Pretty scary stuff and a bit too cerebral for yours truly. In the meantime, Scotty’s fictional teleport/transporter does bring things neatly onto technology provider “Fasthosts”.
They’ve teamed up with futurologists Dr James Bellini and Andrew Gill, to share their digital predictions from now until 2050, with my thoughts in italics:
- The next generation of social networkers will experience such an acceleration in digital innovation, they’ll seize control of their own data brokered by AI agents through personal clouds.
“Not if the tech giants get their way, and they usually do. They like being in control as it equates with profits.”
- Hyper-augmented reality will see brain-to-computer interfaces, with implants placed over our eyes accessing the digital world without need of a display. Virtual reality (VR) and AI will streamline the online ecommerce, entertainment, or business experience.
“Stuttering early development of smartspecs indicates we still have a long way to go to make the leap to eye implants. Also, just imagine VR in a self-drive car or better, don’t.”
- Brain-computer interface technology developments will see users sending information and commands through brain signals. By 2050 it’s expected consumers will plug nanobots directly into the brain for full-immersion virtual reality that directly influences the nervous system.
“The nanobot concept seems ripe for miswiring given the ‘brain computer’ complexities, leading to a lack of transparency, algorythmic bias or worse onto potential meltdown/burnout following a cyberhack. We’re talking someone’s brain here, not Grand Theft Auto.
- VR developments across a broader spectrum of senses will simulate smell and taste as current technology does sight. Real life social interactions and not only experienced during a digital detox.
“Some might argue and do, that sight, smell and taste of say mountain, flower and a juicy apple respectively hard to top. But I’ve experienced VR of the beach in the States – it is impressive, especially if jetlagged!
- Green web hosting will universally enable companies to dramatically cut down on the size of their data centres in favour of cloud-based technology reducing their environmental impact.
“Unfortunately, such urgently needed global developments will continue to be dictated by politicians”.
- 3D printer prominence by 2040 will see a DIY home economy with a trip to the hardware store a thing of the past, in favour of ‘printing’ your desired appliance.
“Just as DIY is not for everybody (me included) this concept will be fine for some, not others”.
- Cybercriminals will break through encryption barriers using super-fast machines taking immediate hold over the lives of millions.
“World Wide Web creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee admits WWW is making all kinds of crime easier to commit, and he hopes some ‘golden rules’ will clean up the web over the next 30 years. Here’s hoping”.
- A “total reduction” of physical money is predicted before the turn of the next decade with 60% of UK adults expecting a completely cashless society by 2030. Digital advisers will address customer concerns and queries. Unless a situation requires complex human involvement.
“It’s already happening.”
- As early as the next 5-7 years, we’ll begin to see a rise in digital agents renewing our insurance, screening advertising messages, increasingly thinking for us.
“It’s already started to happen”.Star Trek’s Spock would no doubt describe brain-computer interface notions as “illogical”. Scotty’s teleport, meanwhile, will have to wait a wee while longer.