Yet another unrealistic body expectation for women (photographer: Hsing Wei)
Science

Should humans “merge with machines” or risk irrelevancy?

by Jamie Hathaway

US technology billionaire Elon Musk shared his views about humans becoming irrelevant in the face of artificial intelligence (AI) at the World Government Summit in Dubai this Monday. He proposed that as technology continues to develops, humans will need to merge with machines in order to avoid becoming obsolete. Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, chairman of SolarCity and OpenAI, is the 94th richest person in the world, and launched Tesla’s presence in the United Arab Emirates at the Summit.

He said that his main concern is “mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output”, as computers can communicate at “a trillion bits per second” compared to only 10 bits per second that humans can achieve when typing. He advocated a cyborg future for the human race, suggesting that “some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence.” Musk proposes a new layer of brain that could tap into AI and quickly access information; humans becoming cyborgs in order to keep up with the AI and robots that could soon be taking over our jobs.

Weighing up the pros and cons, Musk said that in terms of AI development, “The most near-term impact from a technology standpoint is autonomous cars … That is going to happen much faster than people realize and it’s going to be a great convenience,”. However, there is a price to pay for convenience, and that price is job disruption: “there are many people whose jobs are to drive. In fact I think it might be the single largest employer of people … Driving in various forms. So we need to figure out new roles for what do those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick.” Musk theorised in his speech that over the next 20 years, AI driven cars will push 12 to 15 percent of the global workforce into unemployment, and that in just 10 years, all new cars will have self-driving capabilities.

Despite this, Tesla are currently developing their own driverless electric cars. Many of Musk’s business pursuits centre around sustainable energy production as well as development of AI, and a plan to begin colonising Mars in 2020. Musk believes that both AI and space technology development should be done by a multinational community rather than a single private company, in order that the technological development remains transparent to the public.

Musk also mentioned his fear of “deep AI” which would be what he referred to as “artificial general intelligence”, rather than AI designed for a specific task, such as driving cars. He said that this kind of AI would be “smarter than the smartest human on earth” and would result in a “dangerous situation”– traditionally the stuff of sci-fi thrillers, Musk thinks this type of AI may not be too many years away.

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