The famous Professor of Particle Physics, Brian Cox, is one of many scientists who believe we will soon be able to completely merge our human existence with machines. Specifically, he believes that we aren’t that far off uploading all the information stored in our brain to a computer, and that this would form the basis for our future machine-based immortality.
Artificial Intelligence is undeniably a hot topic; one that has been fueled by rapid developments in the fields of computer science, technology, and robotics. A simple definition, written by Techopedia, states that AI “is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.”
A step towards technological singularity
Scientists often captivate the public with their rhetoric about the possibility of the ‘technological singularity’ — a time when, according to Futurism.com, machines will be smarter and more progressive than human beings. Discussions about AI’s potential have also been shrouded in controversy due to its inherent ethical implications and, in the eyes of some, its relative lack of importance in a world ravaged by bigger problems such as war and poverty.
Nonetheless, many influential scientists have now weighed in on the AI debate. Elon Musk, CEO of Space X and Tesla, for example, is an advocate for biological and digital symbiosis. According to the DailyMail, Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, is also a fan of this symbiosis. He purported that, in just a little over 30 years, humans will be able to upload their minds, as it were, to computers.
More recently, without putting a time frame on it like Kurzweil, Cox likewise suggested that humans will soon be able to upload their minds to computers. He publicized the possibilities of complete human-machine integration as a means of one day achieving immortality. In an interview with the Sun Online, Cox iterated that there is “no reason at all why you cannot simulate human intelligence.”
As a physicist, his confidence lies in the power of quantum computers— computers that, in his eyes, are powerful enough to achieve the unthinkable. According to Cox, even if we like to think that human intelligence makes us a superior species and will never be equalled, there’s not that much that separates us from computer systems. “I don’t think people’s minds are different from computers because that would imply there’s something non-physical about them”, he says.
Professor Brian Cox at IP Expo in London’s Excel Centre earlier this month.
Not so fast, say other experts
However, many are not so convinced that a full human-machine integration is within our grasp.
In a recent article that appeared in The Conversation, for example, Professor Richard Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Sheffield, suggested that there are some seriously limiting factors in our quest to upload our minds to computers.
Jones wrote, “To replicate the mind digitally, we would have to map each of the [brain’s] connections, something that is far beyond our current capabilities… No conceivable increase in computer power will allow us to simulate the brain at the level of individual molecules.”
Clearly, to some, advancements in AI and the surge towards the so-called ‘technological singularity’, along with the surrounding rhetoric, is pretty exciting stuff. Others feel that it is something you will only see playing out in a fictitious, hair-raising sci-fi thriller; and possibly better off left that way.
Either way, there is no need to live in fear of the AI future. Reconstructed digital brains and human-like robots may be a long way off. “I think we are at a cockroach level of simulating the nervous system right now,” Cox jested.
Let the thought experiments continue.