It’s already 2029 and the unthinkable has happened. Human beings are drastically altered into a new existence; a new species because of profound technological advances of computing power, which now equals that of the human brain. Welcome to The Singularity.
It’s not clear if this prediction is a good thing or a bad thing. What do you think? First broadcast nearly two years ago, the BBC produced a hyper-dramatic review of the run-up to this potential event. As technological developments continue to inch forward into brain-computer interfacing as well as advanced understandings of brain function, it is important to consider the possible ramifications of these developments. This is where the ethics of neurotechnology comes into play. However, we must be entirely reasonable about these considerations, and unfortunately this BBC broadcast is a bit–OK, it’s nearly obnoxiously–fear-mongering about where we might be headed.
In particular, let’s assume for the moment that computing “power” (however this might be defined) does match that of the “power” of the human brain. The projection of the Singularity Event is that this will somehow directly lead to a fundamental change in the human being… a Human v2.0, if you will. Hopefully, our global society will complete a thorough beta test before releasing the final upgrade to the general public!
But, there really is an enormous leap in this assumption of change. If we see computing power resemble computational abilities of humans, then why would this necessarily change us? It certainly could change us fundamentally, but the only way for this to occur is to also have the technology to integrate the human brain with a computer.
Precisely fabricated computer chips and mushes of neuron networks are different. And, they are different at basic, fundamental levels. We can pretend to make software look like neuron networks, but the software is only processed by computer chips. There really is no comparison to how each computational entity functions. So, fully interconnecting the two so that one might fundamentally change the other is a non-trivial task–to say the least–and may even be fundamentally impossible.
Although the following episode feeds a bit too much on the fear of what could happen to humanity with the ultimate success of neurotechnology, it still should be considered and reviewed for a better understanding of how to approach the developments.
Human v2.0 :: BBC Horizons Science & Nature :: October 24, 2006 :: [ VIEW ]