Monthly Archives: August 2015

Humans Artificial Intelligence and Synths

Billionaire CEO and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk has voiced serious concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) recently. Other prominent figures such as Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have also indicated that AI is potentially one of humanity’s greatest threats.

We only need to look at the fossil record to realize that our place as humans, the dominant species on this planet, is anything but permanent. The arrival of homo sapiens (modern humans) marked the end of at least two other proto humans, Denisovans and Neanderthals. Fortunately for Neanderthals and Denisovans, some of their population bred with modern humans.  Thus, some of their genes live on according to DNA evidence. It’s also somewhat apparent once you compare the facial features of Neanderthals to some modern humans.

Neanderthal Facial Features

Neanderthal Facial Features

Neanderthals Bred with Homo Sapiens

Neanderthals Bred with Humans – It’s in the face too

What will be left of us after the next phase of our evolution? We can’t seem to help but create technological versions of ourselves. It’s almost like a biological imperative. Maybe the underlying “purpose” of all our technological advancement is to create that next step in the evolutionary progression. In much the same way religion says God created us in his image, will we do the same for the life we create?

I’ve recently started watching the show “Humans”. In that world, people have created artificial beings called Synths. The Synths live among us and there is concern that they might replace us. They look human, they sometimes act human, and their existence poses and existential threat to us because they can do almost anything we can do. Yet they do not get sick, they are immortal, they learn faster and retain it all.

A Synth Reads to Child

Synth Reads to Child While Mom Looks on Nervously

Robots, androids and Synths in the physical world are easy enough to spot. What happens if the AI evolves somewhere inside a super computer and has access to the internet? Would we know of its existence?

Imagine what a super intelligent, artificial mind with direct access to all the systems connected to the web could accomplish. It would make the best human hackers look like amateurs. It could manipulate financial markets, accrue wealth by creating or taking over bank accounts, alter the information we receive online, digitally create pictures and videos that look like real world events or even create new goods and services. Right now it is possible for an American sitting in his or her home to contract Chinese manufacturers or Indian programmers to create a variety of apps or items without meeting anyone in person. All made possible by the digital economy. A consciousness in cyberspace could easily create real world, tangible items. If there was a task it could not accomplish in the physical world, it could hire someone to do it via sites like Craigslist. With enough money, masquerading as one human or 1000’s of humans online, there is virtually no end to what an AI could accomplish. It could even steer the course of our society’s development or downfall without us knowing it.

Think of it this way, what if there was a human hacker dedicated exclusively to you. He could read all your emails and listen to all your phone calls. He could hack all the microphones on your various devices so that he could hear private conversations. He could see your search history and the sites you visit.  With all this information, the hacker would get to know you very well. This hacker, if human, would have limitations on the number of people he could monitor and derive useful information from. An AI, with sufficient computational resources could do this to millions of people simultaneously. It could customize, for each of us, the news, images and information that we consume… therefore, heavily influencing the decisions we make. An internet based AI could wage “war” on humanity without firing a shot.

Follow me on Twitter

Self Driving Cars and Office Spaces

Automotive technology has come a long way. We’ve made cars safer than they have ever been. Yet the global casualty rate for car accidents is close to 1 million. Over 90% of the time it’s due to human error. If we can remove our fallibility from the equation, our roads could be much safer. The solution, the autonomous/self driving car.

Self Driving Car

Mercedes Shows what the Interior Could Look Like

It’s not science fiction anymore. In fact, car manufacturers have already created vehicles that can drive across the country safely. In test after test the autonomous car beats a human when it comes to safety. It makes sense. Human beings can be distracted, we get tired, we make mistakes. OK, so let’s say at some point in the future we relinquish control to an autonomous vehicle. What then?

Safety is enhanced but the list of potential benefits could be limitless. Imagine cruising around in your self driving car with an internet and cable connection. Your laptop, tv and all your devices could have power and high speed internet anywhere. This has broad ramifications for work and play. You could have a mobile office that takes you around town as you work. What types of occupations might arise as a result of this new found freedom?

Once there is a proven and safe track record for these cars, we’ll start sending our kids and pets out in them on their own. Millions of hours will be saved that would have otherwise been spent taking the kids to school or the dog to a grooming appointment, dog sitter or vet.

Going to the Vet

Going to Doggy Day Care

We could see autonomous vehicles that can link to one another physically to create larger inside spaces. Think square cars merging to form a long tractor trailer type unit. Want to hold a wine tasting with your closest friends out in the middle of no where? No problem. The car drives you there, you link vehicles, you drink wine in the shared space while enjoying a scenic view, then the car drives you home.

When your car becomes your home office/game room on wheels, all of a sudden that 5 hour drive to NYC doesn’t seem so long. Or that road trip down the East Coast takes on a whole different meaning when you can sleep comfortably as your car drives all night.

Follow me on Twitter