Technology and the experience of what it means to be human are evolving at an exponential rate, entering the steep of an asymptotic curve. If we don't destroy ourselves first, it is likely in a few decades we may not even recognize ourselves as what we are today. Hang on, we're embarking on one helluva ride and the outcome is a real nail biter.
"Evidence suggesting that our universe is tailor-made for habitable planets — ones that could reasonably support life — continues to pile up. And as humanity flings cosmos-observing technologies further into the sky, we’re developing a deeper appreciation of just how likely it is that life could have emerged anywhere.
So, why is our universe so void of activity when it seems suitable for beings who might create technologies like ours to emerge?
Many have speculated on the Fermi paradox, the name given to this head-scratching question, but last year I profiled one promising theory called the transcension hypothesis.
Proposed by futurist John Smart, the theory suggests that technological civilizations — and the Fermi paradox assumes there would be many by now — don’t colonize outer space (and thus flood the cosmos with signatures we could easily find). Instead, they move toward inner space by building vast digital realities on computers much smaller than we can detect."
For years now, scientists have been working to make cells into computers. It’s a logical goal; cells store information in something roughly approximating memory, they behave due to the strict, rules-based expression of programming in response to stimuli, and they can carry out operations with astonishing speed. Each cell contains enough physical complexity to theoretically be quite a powerful computing unit all on its own, but each is also small enough to pack by the millions into tiny physical spaces. With a fully realized ability to program cell behavior as reliably as we do computer behavior, there’s no telling what biological computing could accomplish.
Now, researchers from MIT have taken a step toward this possible future, with cellular machines that can perform simple computational operations and store, then recall, memory. In principle, they provide the sort of control we’d need to design and build real cellular computers, but they could just revolutionize cell biology long before that future comes about.
The Asymptotic Leap's insight:
If we humans will be able to soon turn cells and DNA into computers, then in the not too distant future it's likely we won't be able to tell life forms and computers apart. And it also begs the question, was life on this planet somehow created by another intelligent life form that figured out how to create computers in something that appears like biology, then program it for evolution and propagate it across the universe to see what it does? Oh yeah, and if that intelligent life form has evolved technology sufficiently to allow it to live forever by replicating itself across digital substrates and augmenting itself with artificial intelligence (both things that leading scientists and futurist think are entirely possible during the next centuries, if not decades) then that intelligence would definitely be able to follow, if not influence, the progress of its star-seeding experiment.
Musk said he thinks there’s a “one in billions” chance that we’re not living in a computer simulation right now, meaning Musk is a firm believer in the hypothesis that a super intelligent artificial intelligence created the universe as we know it.
"There’s a one in billions chance we’re in base reality" “The strongest argument for us being in a simulation, probably being in a simulation is the following: 40 years ago, we had pong, two rectangles and a dot,” Musk said. “That is what games were. Now 40 years later we have photorealistic 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality, if you assume any rate of improvement at all, the games will become indistinguishable from reality.”
Google Image search, instead of returning photos it indexed from millions of sites, could take a query and based on what it knows about good photography and you, build an entire new photo from scratch that would perfectly match your request. Instead of searching for a photo, it would create it.
The thought experiment driving the evolution and development of this idea for over 8 years is: “if I were a sentient entity at the scale of our planet, what would I need in order to become functionally self-aware?” the subtext to that inquiry is, “what evidence, if anything, is there which points to the possibility that a higher order entity (existing governments, ngo’s and corporations not withstanding) may be emerging from the sum of human interactions?”
In my last post, I added more future scenarios to this visual describing the complexity and impact of our emerging future. The one piece left unfinished was the expansion of innovation accelerators to include emerging and future accelerators.
"In the 2030s," said Ray, "we are going to send nano-robots into the brain (via capillaries) that will provide full immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system and will connect our neocortex to the cloud. Just like how we can wirelessly expand the power of our smartphones 10,000-fold in the cloud today, we'll be able to expand our neocortex in the cloud."
The research by High Performance Networks (HPN) group in the University of Bristol’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering has found, for the first time, a scientific solution that enables future internet infrastructure to become completely open and programmable while carrying internet traffic at the speed of light.
In a recent study, Prof. Tongcang Li at Purdue University and Dr. Zhang-qi Yin at Tsinghua University proposed the first scheme to use electromechanical oscillators and superconducting circuits to teleport the internal quantum state (memory) and center-of-mass motion state of a microorganism. They also proposed a scheme to create a Schrödinger’s cat state in which a microorganism can be in two places at the same time. This is an important step towards potentially teleporting an organism in future.
Graphene – said by many to be the lightest, thinnest yet hardest material in the world may soon be used to create the perfect wearable device. Academics from the University of Manchester reported that graphene communication devices would not only be lightweight and unbreakable, but have the ability to be printed directly onto the skin …
We are talking about the implications of intelligence that can make refinements to itself over a time-course that bears no relationship as to what we experience as apes. We are talking about a system that can make changes to its own source code to become better and better at learning and more and more knowledgeable and, if we give it access to the Internet, it has instantaneous access to all human and machine knowledge. It does thousands of years of work every day of our lives--thousands of years of equivalent human intellectual work. Our intuitions completely falter to capture how immensely powerful such a system would be and there is no reason to think this isn't possible.
The Asymptotic Leap's insight:
One of the most expertly articulated pieces I've listened to or read about the sobering implications of the super-intelligence black hole we're hurtling into.
Soon, you can control a computer screen with just your eyes. Eyefluence, a Silicon Valley-based startup, is working on a technology for hands-free navigation using augmented reality glasses. The glasses are equipped with cameras that can assess where you’re looking at any given time and users can click on icons with a glance.
"The nanostructures exhibit properties similar to biological synapses. Using newly developed technology, the memristors were integrated in matrices: in the future this technology may be used to design computers that function similar to biological neural networks."
A team of psychology and computer engineering professors at Binghamton University was able to successfully match test subjects to their uniquely identifying brain waves—or, brainprints—with 100 percent accuracy.
What the study’s authors discovered was each person’s brain wave responses to the visual stimuli were unique enough to identify them by—very much like fingerprints or DNA.
It’s not illogical to wonder, then, how brainprints can and will be used to surveil citizens outside of the lab.
What if we could harness the power of the human brain by using actual brain cells to power the next generation of computers? As crazy as it sounds, that’s exactly what neuroscientist Osh Agabi is building. Koniku, Agabi’s startup, has developed a prototype 64-neuron silicon chip. Their first application? A drone that can smell explosives. read more
"Scientists from the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute transformed contact lenses into computer screens. They came up with a polymer film coating able to conduct electricity on a contact lens, with the potential to build miniature electrical circuits that are safe to be worn."
Ray Kurzweil is the world's foremost futurist, authoring bestsellers like "The Age of Spiritual Machines" and "How to Create a Mind."
He's so influential that Google hired him to lead its artificial intelligence efforts. Kurzweil is known for making predictions, which are right about 86% of the time. Here are some of his most promising (and terrifying) visions of the 2020s and beyond.
Nanobots, Kurzweil said in a webinar earlier this year, will give us "full immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system." Earlier this month, Kurzweil said that nanobots will "finish the job" of the natural human immune system. We'll be able to defeat any disease, even cancer. This leads to what futurists call "radical life extension." Kurzweil, like other futurists,considered death a disease to be cured — and nanobots are one of the ways to cure it.
As 3-D printing becomes more large scale and open source, more of of the world around us will become information technology.
Kurzweil says that by the 2020s, you'll be able to "live extremely well and print out everything you need." Already, 3-D printed houses, rib cages, andbridges are becoming a reality.
And we will hit singularity. The most important date for Kurzweil is 2045. That's the year, he says, of what futurists call the Singularity, the moment when biological evolution's rate of growth is superceded by artificial intelligence. Kurzweil says that in 2045, the computational power of artificial intelligence will be a billion times that of human intelligence. And our species will never be the same...
Kurzweil and other futurists see "mind-uploading" as a major consequence of the singularity. Even Stephen Hawking thinks it's possible. "I think the brain is like a program in the mind, which is like a computer, so it's theoretically possible to copy the brain on to a computer and so provide a form of life after death," the physicist says. "However, this is way beyond our present capabilities." But by 2045, it might not be.
If your mind is uploaded and virtual reality is fully immersive, then no doubt your bodywill be virtual, too. "The virtual bodies will be as detailed and convincing as real bodies," Kurzweil says.
"Mind reading may become a reality with artificial intelligence technology...technology could also be adapted to allow people to control robots through the power of thought by helping the machines interpret instructions from brain activity."
"I think it very likely – in fact, inevitable – that biological intelligence is only a transitory phenomenon… If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is very likely to be postbiological in nature, writes Arizona State's Paul Davies in The Eerie Silence. World renowned experts from physicist Sir Martin Rees of Cambridge University to astrobiologist Davies have asked that if we were to encounter alien technology far superior to our own, would we even realize what it was. A technology a million or more years in advance of ours would appear miraculous.
The Asymptotic Leap's insight:
Forget "a million years more advanced." At our current rate of technological evolution, can you imagine what we might be like (if we don't destroy ourselves) in 100 years? 500 years?!
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