Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Extending Our Intelligence: The Coming Era of Binary Sapience

Our disembodied extensions of our brains are set to become smarter and more closely linked with us

Our phones and other computing devices are more or less passive creations, bound at every step to man's programming. Now, however, they are becoming more and more responsive to us. More anticipatory towards our various needs, subtle tastes and wants; they are becoming more intelligent.
What does it mean for humanity exactly? How far can we take this?

If an intelligent algorithm can read and classify your current mood, and map your different mood swings over the course of a day through different data inputs with a higher accuracy than your spouse, could it be used to subtly use that data to make your mood better? Is such a state of affairs desirable, assuming it is possible given current technology. And what of that data anyway?

A broad personal artificial intelligence (AI) suite, perhaps more powerful and capable than anything our current best could one day be set lose on every individual on Earth to map out what makes them tick exactly (the data profile on each individual could be worth quite a lot of money to say the least), and then actively engage with them to achieve a desired individual state for each person as set by themselves (or others?). Such a machine could become the sort of ancillary intelligence we see in many works of science fiction; a true intelligence that will allow each person to understand themselves COMPLETELY, and then proceed in assisting us to make ourselves better than we can possibly ever be on our own, or even with the help of HUMAN professionals.

An individual human will cease being a single intelligence, but will instead become a binary intelligence, with the personal machine significantly expanding our cognition and identity at an almost subconscious level, while itself advancing itself via software upgrades and learning.

We can imagine a remote future where a newly born child is assigned such a personal intelligence the moment he or she is born. The intelligence will observe his development and consult the corpus of our knowledge to extrapolate the future possibilities of this child's personality and behaviour, to better understand how to manage them as he/she grows up.

Meanwhile, the child's parent's own intelligent aides can be synchronised with their child's, to enhance not just their parenting experience, but to enhance the way the literally think about their role as parents. We can keep going; we can even imagine training AI to school children (a personal tutor from the future). Given the knowledge these AIs will have access to, it is reasonable to assume that they will probably evolve to become the best tutors, or at the very least, tutor-student aids possible.

Why should any of this be desirable? Why would anyone want to create machines that not only replace humans in a variety of high level skilled tasks, but also become a very part of our very being. And we haven't gone into the ethics of the data used produced in the meantime. But make no mistake, we're heading in that general direction very fast. And the reason is painfully obvious.

While human beings are versatile in terms of initiative and creativity, we don't scale very well in the realm of perfect recall, infinite patience, logic, reasoning, et cetera. Obviously we will need tools to give ourselves these superhuman abilities. And of course, sometimes we might need something to light our way forwards, like when a writer has writer's block and needs a dose of much needed inspiration from his personal intelligence aid. The more these tools actively interact with us, the better we'll become at handling not just the modern world, but ourselves as well.

However, we shouldn't kid ourselves. Advancement comes with risks. The Wanna Cry worm that rocked the world over the weekend demonstrates not the fragility of our systems, but the fragility of our ability to get a grip on our systems. Our minds are the weak point (which the hacker knows and exploits), and at the same time our strongest point. We evolve through experience, and in this century, the sum total of our experiential knowledge is more accessible and more voluminous in scope and depth than ever before. It would be folly to not add on an extra layer of thinking cortex, our exocortex in the form of actively engaged, thinking machines to ourselves in order to make efficient use of our species' knowledge vault.