With much of our attention focused the rise of advanced artificial intelligence, few consider the potential for radically amplified human intelligence (IA). It’s an open question as to which will come first, but a technologically boosted brain could be just as powerful — and just as dangerous – as AI.
As a species, we’ve been amplifying our brains for millennia. Or at least we’ve tried to. Looking to overcome our cognitive limitations, humans have employed everything from writing, language, and meditative techniques straight through to today’s nootropics. But none of these compare to what’s in store. Unlike efforts to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI), or even an artificial superintelligence (SAI), the human brain already presents us with a pre-existing intelligence to work with. Radically extending the abilities of a pre-existing human mind — whether it be through genetics, cybernetics or the integration of external devices — could result in something quite similar to how we envision advanced AI.
Looking to learn more about this, I contacted futurist Michael Anissimov, a blogger atAccelerating Future and a co-organizer of the Singularity Summit. He’s given this subject considerable thought — and warns that we need to be just as wary of IA as we are AI. The real objective of IA is to create super-Einsteins, persons qualitatively smarter than any human being that has ever lived. There will be a number of steps on the way there.
The first step will be to create a direct neural link to information. Think of it as a "telepathic Google." The next step will be to develop brain-computer interfaces that augment the visual cortex, the best-understood part of the brain. This would boost our spatial visualization and manipulation capabilities. Imagine being able to imagine a complex blueprint with high reliability and detail, or to learn new blueprints quickly. There will also be augmentations that focus on other portions of sensory cortex, like tactile cortex and auditory cortex. The third step involves the genuine augmentation of pre-frontal cortex. This is the Holy Grail of IA research — enhancing the way we combine perceptual data to form concepts. The end result would be cognitive super-McGyvers, people who perform apparently impossible intellectual feats. For instance, mind controlling other people, beating the stock market, or designing inventions that change the world almost overnight. This seems impossible to us now in the same way that all our modern scientific achievements would have seemed impossible to a stone age human — but the possibility is real.
For it to be otherwise would require that there is some mysterious metaphysical ceiling on qualitative intelligence that miraculously exists at just above the human level. Given that mankind was the first generally intelligent organism to evolve on this planet, that seems highly implausible. We shouldn't expect version one to be the final version, any more than we should have expected the Model T to be the fastest car ever built.