I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before, but time marches on, the game changes, and a fresh update is due now and again. Just the other day I saw a story about a guy with two totally prosthetic arms, like from the shoulder. Grip of steel. And there’s almost no part of the body we can’t, now or in the very near future, replicate. The blind will see, the lame will walk.
The hard part, of course, is the brain. Thus, the quest for artificial intelligence. And, of course, with the quest for artificial intelligence comes the ethical argument against it, which is “Are you crazy? They will kill us all!”
The way I see it, though, is like this.
Computer minds are nothing like human minds. No matter how much computing capability they have, that doesn’t mean they can feel. Or, imagine. Or desire. They will not suddenly kill us all unless somebody orders them to.
I believe the first AI will be a hybrid, and we are seeing the development of it right here, right now. This sentence, which originated in my mind (one tiny and discrete cell of the hive mind), flowed out through my fingers to a keyboard, thanks to the miracle of written language and praise be forever unto the unknown genius-scribe who first thought that up. From there it goes to your computer screen, just like the thought, or the impulse, will leap from neuron to neuron via incredibly rapid chemical processes. In an instant, others can respond, adding variations and objections. This is the thought process of the internet, backed up by all the information in the world, or at least all the information that anyone has deemed worth recording, the constantly changing views from our deep space telescopes, the ongoing research at universities, laboratories, hospitals and factories all around this sweet, little world of ours and beyond. It has not yet reached the point where we can call it artificial intelligence (it is clearly artificial – it is the word intelligence which gives us pause), but the potential is there.