Cheer up, the Post-Human Era Is Dawning

Unlike many who believe that artificial intelligence will eventually threaten humankind, this author has a far more optimistic view:

The far future will bear traces of humanity, just as our own age retains influences of ancient civilisations. Humans and all they have thought might be a transient precursor to the deeper cogitations of another culture — one dominated by machines, extending deep into the future and spreading far beyond earth.

Not everyone considers this an uplifting scenario. There are those who fear that artificial intelligence will supplant us, taking our jobs and living beyond the writ of human laws. Others regard such scenarios as too futuristic to be worth fretting over. But the disagreements are about the rate of travel, not the direction. Few doubt that machines will one day surpass more of our distinctively human capabilities. It may take centuries but, compared to the aeons of evolution that led to humanity’s emergence, even that is a mere bat of the eye. This is not a fatalistic projection. It is cause for optimism. The civilisation that supplants us could accomplish unimaginable advances — feats, perhaps, that we cannot even understand.

Human brains, which have changed little since our ancestors roamed the African savannah, have allowed us to penetrate the secrets of the quantum and the cosmos. But there is no reason to think that our comprehension is matched to an understanding of all the important features of reality. Some day we may hit the buffers. There are chemical and metabolic limits to the size and power of “wet” organic brains.

Today’s computers do not learn like we do. Their internal network is far simpler than a human brain, but they partly make up for this disadvantage because their “nerves” transmit messages at the speed of light, millions of times faster than the chemical transmission in human brains. They can learn to identify dogs, cats and human faces by crunching through millions of images. They learn to translate from foreign languages by reading multilingual versions of millions of pages of EU rules, among other documents (and, crucially, they never get bored).

(Read more from “Cheer up, the Post-Human Era Is Dawning” HERE)

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