The Future of Mankind

A Question of Limits




Copyright Meghan McCracken, Jeff McGee, Marianne Pike and David Wheatley, 2004

What happens when an artificially intelligent being becomes smarter than a human?


The Age of Spiritual Machines

This extraordinary 1999 book by Raymond Kurzweil illustrates the exponential evolution of various technologies in the 21st century, as well as the speeding up of time as order increases. Ray Kurzweil explores a future where the processing power and capacity of the human brain will be inexpensive to purchase, conscious machines demand civil rights, and our ideas of self and spirituality evolve as we merge with technology and extend our lifespans. (source)

Why the Future Doesn't Need Us

Bill Joy forcefully argues that humankind ought to consider whether certain lines of research such as AI, robotics, nanotechnology or genetic engineering, might not pose a serious threat to the survival of the human species. He suggests that the products of this research might develop beyond human control. If so, then the development of artificial intelligence might thereby signify that the era of the human is drawing to a close. (source: Imitation Games, see "Helpers")

"- "How soon could such an intelligent robot be built? The coming advances in computing power seem to make it possible by 2030. And once an intelligent robot exists, it is only a small step to a robot species - to an intelligent robot that can make evolved copies of itself" (p. 244)

Predictions for the Future

There are many speculations as to "worst case scenarios" (often depicted in books and movies) that involve robots evolving into the dominant species and humans eventually becoming enslaved. Although seemingly farfetched, it is interesting to note that the word robot comes from a Czech term that means "a debt of forced labour" or "slave." Alternatively, if the machines do become independent of the human race, they may simply choose to ignore us, similar to how humans currently treat animals. As a third possibility, roboticist Hans Moravec proposes that some day "humanity may be able to survive, and even achieve a level of immortality, by digitally uploading our own consciousness into advanced robots." For this reason, many label AI development as the quest for the "holy grail" of robotics. (source: The Age of Robots..., see "Helpers")