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Are humans at risk of becoming second-class citizens to our smarter AI brothers and sisters?

It’s not every day you get to put to someone this statement:

One day human beings will become one with technology. We will merge with machines.

But, on 13 November 2017, at the Creative Innovation Global Conference 2017, I got to do just that.

I put the above proposition to Raymond McCauley, the co-founder of BioCurious and Chair of Digital Biology at Singularity University (see the full video below).

He responded with:

I think we have already gotten a good head start on it.

“Because for maybe – 100 years? – it has been hard to separate humans from technology. We went through this machine age, you know – industrial steam power. Without electricity where would we be? We would be naked savages. Maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way.

“But for sure. I think [back to] 2006 [with] the advent of the glass phone…. I like to think we talk about our brains having the reptilian complex, the cortex, the neocortex … and then the new version – the new layer – is the internet! Bought to us by these little glass phones.”

Mr McCauley suggests that widespread access to internet technology means we are already part way towards merging with the technology itself. He uses this example:

“Any time your phone runs out of battery, [or] you are cut off from your data, or you can’t get a good signal – you feel 50% dumber. You can’t figure out where to go or how to navigate. It’s not just a safety net – it’s a new part of our being able to perform.”

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Mr McCauley says that, in the same way we have been upgrading from one iPhone to the next, pretty soon we will be upgrading from one implant to the next.

This could even involve an interface where biosensors and computers live inside us. Which, accordingly to him, will happen in the next 5 years – and to a significant portion of our population.

Will this give rise to another species of human who are “Digital Citizens”?

I asked Mr McCauley about the legal and ethical implications of this evolution. Does he think humans are ready to extend the definition of “Humanity” to beings in digital form?

His response was:

“I like to think we will be. I like to think that we will say ‘here is a thinking creature even if it runs on a different substrate’. I think though we will end up having second class digital citizens – and even more afraid that we will have second class biological citizens as the digital citizens kind of take-off, and are able to do more and more.

“Think about one of the big qualitative differences: [if] somebody can scan someone in – say you did it yourself – and you chose to make a copy of yourself so you could multitask and divide some tasks that you have. One of you is working on half, and the other one is working on half – you compete it in half the time – you could just continue to do that more and more. Who could compete with that?”

Yeah. I know right?!

I really wasn’t expecting to go down that rabbit hole either. But, to be fair, humanity already has. It’s well and truly down the rabbit hole.

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Arguably, a computer program claimed to have passed the famous Turing Test in 2014. The Turing Test was designed by famous computer science pioneer, Alan Turing, to see if a computer could be mistaken for a human during a series of keyboard conversations.

Digital biology is advancing at an exponential rate. We could recoil and deride it as unconscionable. Or we could consider how we can make it work for the benefit of all humanity.

Not only should our policy-makers, governments, companies – and, quite frankly, all of us citizens – be seriously considering the rights we confer onto digital beings – but we should do so with respect to how they relate to the rights of biological humans.

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We are entering an age where thinking creatures can come in many forms – both biological and digital.

The time has come to question our fundamental identity as human beings.

What does it mean to be “human”?

What does it mean to be “alive”?

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What does it mean to be “natural”?

Where do we stop … and technology starts?

WHAT exactly differentiates US from MACHINES?

If a human and a machine can both think, feel, act on choices and (*gulp*) make mistakes – why then is the human special and the machine deemed … not?

On 15 November 2017, this article released by the MIT Technology Review suggests AI can be made legally accountable for its decisions. It starts out by saying:

“Artificial intelligence is set to play a significantly greater role in society. And that raises the issue of accountability. If we rely on machines to make increasingly important decisions, we will need to have mechanisms of redress should the results turn out to be unacceptable or difficult to understand.”

Science fiction is now science fact.

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These ideas and more are explored in depth during our live interview at the Creative Innovation Global conference 2017 with the provocative polymath, Raymond McCauley. Check it out here:

"One day we will all merge with our technology" – with Chair of Digital Biology at Singularity University, cofounder of BioCurious, Raymond McCauley #ciglobal (Tania de Jong AM)

Posted by Ideapod on Sunday, November 12, 2017


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Written by Kat Dunn

I like to connect Ideas & people. I talk about discomfort & inspiring failures. I'm trying to sleep more and shift to a growth mindset.

Former lawbot, pilot & leader in finance. Founder of F-OFF: Fear of Failure Forum & working with Ideapod to help companies leverage our collective intelligence & achieve breakthrough thinking.

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