In his post ‘Virtual People‘, Scott Adams writes that his generation would be the last of the ‘pure humans’ raised with no personal technology. Someday historians will mark the smartphone era as the beginning of the Cyborg Age. From this day on, most kids in developed countries will be part human and part machine. As technology improves, we will keep adding it to our bodies.
Singularity has appeared on this blog in various forms, and in at least a couple of posts, I have written about the augmented human, and like the proverbial frog in the slowly-boiling water, we wouldn’t know when it happened. (check this post for a fantastic short film on the subject) In fact, medical applications of 3D Printing are already accepted and on the rise. Not just ‘accessories like hearing aids or dental braces, we have moved on to a lower jaw, (previous link) 75% of the skull, an ear, and yes, ‘cyborg flesh‘! It’s obvious that the applications are improving the lives of many. My question though remains – as we replace more and more of ourselves, possibly the brain itself within my lifetime, what happens to the essence of us that makes us human – the feelings, the emotions, the zillion unique reactions to various physical and mental stimuli?
In this wonderful post titled “How not to be alone“, in which the author writes about how we have begun to prefer (diminished) technological substitutes to face-to-face communication, (I couldn’t help but remember this) he quotes Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” And from that statement I realised how the the narrative might come full circle – I remembered this post I had read a few months back. It mentions bots that have passed the Turing test (“test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of an actual human”) and has a compelling argument that while we’re singular entities with a complex design, we’re still just blueprints – with many similarities. This also entails that we’re building machines that can mimic, and evoke, our emotions. Thus, he writes, the era of artificial emotional intelligence is not far.
Perhaps, in the future we will outsource our humanity and reverse roles – half-machine former humans who deal with each other in mechanical ways and go back home to a humanoid bot that will give it all the empathy and emotional anchoring needed. Or would it need it at all?
until next time, be human, comment