Computers are already smart, just in their own ways. They catalogue the breadth of human knowledge, find meaning in mushroom clouds of data, and fly spacecraft to other worlds. And they're getting better. Below are four domains of computing where the machines are rising.
In a decade, cognitive enhancement may have gone mainstream. Pills can already help you stay up longer, bring more focus to your work, and who knows what else. But what might sound good on an individual level could create societal disruptions, or so Palo Alto think-tank the Institute for the Future proposes in its latest Ten-Year Forecasts.
As a result, the Institute has proposed that the world's citizens need a "Magna Cortica."
"Magna Cortica is the argument that we need to have a guidebook for both the design spec and ethical rules around the increasing power and diversity of cognitive augmentation," said IFTF distinguished fellow, Jamais Cascio. "There are a lot of pharmaceutical and digital tools that have been able to boost our ability to think. Adderall, Provigil, and extra-cortical technologies."
Back in 2008, 20 percent of scientists reported using brain-enhancing drugs. And I spoke with dozens of readers who had complex regimens, including, for example, a researcher at the MIT-affiliated Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. "We aren't the teen clubbers popping uppers to get through a hard day running a cash register after binge drinking," the researcher told me. "We are responsible humans." Responsible humans trying to get an edge in incredibly competitive and cognitively demanding fields.
Then there is transcranial brain stimulation, which is already being practiced by dedicated DIYers because of tantalizing results like this, despite limited clinical evidence about its efficacy.
Verbeterde mens te koop | Dubbelcollege door filosofen Pieter Lemmens en Laurens Landeweerd | 7 april 2014 | 19.30 - 21.00 | l Collegezalencomplex Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen | Een mooier lichaam, betere concentratie, het is allemaal te koop. Met human enhancement, oftewel mensverbeteringstechnieken, zijn de beperkingen van ons menselijke lichaam te overwinnen.
Killer robots will be debated during an informal meeting of experts at the United Nations in Geneva.
Two robotics experts, Prof Ronald Arkin and Prof Noel Sharkey, will debate the efficacy and necessity of killer robots.
The meeting will be held during the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).
A report on the discussion will be presented to the CCW meeting in November.
This will be the first time that the issue of killer robots, or lethal autonomous weapons systems, will be addressed within the CCW.
Autonomous kill function
A killer robot is a fully autonomous weapon that can select and engage targets without any human intervention. They do not currently exist but advances in technology are bringing them closer to reality.
Those in favour of killer robots believe the current laws of war may be sufficient to address any problems that might emerge if they are ever deployed, arguing that a moratorium, not an outright ban, should be called if this is not the case.
However, those who oppose their use believe they are a threat to humanity and any autonomous "kill functions" should be banned.
"Autonomous weapons systems cannot be guaranteed to predictably comply with international law," Prof Sharkey told the BBC. "Nations aren't talking to each other about this, which poses a big risk to humanity."
Prof Sharkey is a member and co-founder of the Campaign Against Killer Robots and chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.
Side events at the CCW will be hosted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.