Cyborg Transition: Staying Ahead of AI
First We Learn to Understand the Brain
Three tech pioneers whose work can bring about the age of human cyborgs:
Tech Pioneer #1: Jeff Hawkins
Jeff Hawkins founded Palm Computing, and is currently involved with his cognitive science company Numenta — attempting to decipher the inner secrets of how human intelligence works. Insights from Hawkins’ research should help to design more intelligent machines — and better neuroprosthetic devices and brain machine interfaces. Here is a brief introduction to some of his early insights:
Hawkins’ List of the Functional Components of Intelligence
1) Networks of neurons that learn and recall sequences (required)
– Continuous learning, not batch (required) – Many simultaneous predictions (required)
– Robust (required)
HTM: active dendrites, synaptogenesis, no spikes
2) Regions that use sequence memory for:
– sensory inference (required)
– sensory-motor inference (required)
– motor generation (required)
3) Hierarchy of regions (required)
– number of regions (parameter)
– size of regions (parameter)
– connectivity graph (parameter)
4) Embodiment (required)
– sensors (parameter)
– built-in behaviors (parameter)
– emotions/motivations (parameter)
– episodic/spatial memory (parameter)
Understanding the intricate interplay of cortical and subcortical regions will give us a foundation for developing smoothly working neuroprosthetics and brain machine interfaces. Neuroprosthetics will replace lost functions in the disabled, and will enhance normal function for ordinary brains. Brain machine interfaces will allow humans to interact with machines and cyborgs both near and far.
Becoming Digital: Techno-Evolution for the Human Brain
Tech Pioneer #2: Bryan Johnson
Johnson, who made his fortune selling his payments company Braintree to PayPal for $800 million in 2013, doesn’t have past experience in neuroscience. He is, however, riding a new wave of interest from Silicon Valley. There is a growing fear, among some futurists and other Silicon Valley elite, that humans will develop a crippling dependence on machines and software that continue to rapidly accelerate beyond our capabilities and understanding. This is a fear not necessarily shared by the neuroscience community, which is less focused on enhancing human intelligence, at least right now, than they are on treating people with Alzheimer’s and helping paraplegics regain movement.
Yet the goal of Kernel, ultimately, is to allow humans to outcompete or at least co-evolve alongside machines — by becoming a little digital themselves. ___ http://www.theverge.com/2017/2/22/14631122/kernel-neuroscience-bryan-johnson-human-intelligence-ai-startup
Basic Brain Machine Interface Concepts
Early neuroprosthetics will help the blind see, the cripple walk, the dumb to talk and the deaf to hear. As the devices become more sophisticated, they will help the forgetful to remember, help ordinary people to learn and create, and serve to keep humans relevant in the age of rapidly advancing machine intelligence — according to tech megamillionaire and neuroprosthetic researcher Bryan Johnson. Advanced future neuroprostheses will help balance your moods, your sleep-wake cycles, and give you supercalifragilistic orgasms. 😉
The Neural Lace Neuroprosthetic Device
Tech Pioneer #3: Elon Musk
Elon Musk made his early killing with Paypal. He has since progressed to SpaceX, and plans to develop a human colony on Mars [and perhaps also the moon]. But Musk is very concerned about the potential for artificial intelligence to make humans obsolete. To prevent this, he has discussed an idea for developing a “neural lace” neuroprosthetic for sophisticated brain-machine interfacing.
Effectively merging in a symbiotic way with digital intelligence revolves around eliminating the I/O constraint, which would be some sort of direct cortical interface […] a neural lace. __ https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/25/elon-musk-could-soon-share-more-on-his-plan-to-help-humans-keep-up-with-ai/
The brain grows literally throughout the neural lace. When it’s injected, this two-dimensional mesh ends up being like a cylinder that’s still a mesh, and it gets filled with the tissue. In some process, we don’t understand all the details, there’s obviously some regrowth, and some remodeling of the tissue refills this space where the needle initially moved all the tissue out of the way. Then you’re left with something where it’s interpenetrating between this roughly cylindrical structure of the mesh. You could envision co-injecting this network, the mesh or lace, with stem cells and literally regrowing damaged tissue. Using some stimulation and stuff, you could help to rewire this in the way you want—somewhat science fiction, but also not totally crazy. It’s certainly in the realm of what’s physically possible. __ Real World Neural Lace
The neural lace in the image was placed inside the skull of a mouse by the team of Harvard researcher Charles Lieber, interviewed in the article excerpted above. According to Lieber the device performed beyond his expectations.
Of course there is a big difference between placing a neural lace directly on the brain of a mouse, and doing the same thing for a living human brain. But these things must be done delicately, with baby steps.
What Does It All Mean?
On the one hand, the urgency to stay ahead of AI that is being displayed by Musk and Johnson could be dismissed as a form of Singularitarian “magical rationalism.”
This particular Singularitarian strain of magical rationalism could be glimpsed in Elon Musk’s widely reported recent comments at a conference in Dubai. Humans, he insisted, would need to merge with machines in order to avoid becoming obsolete. “It’s mostly about the bandwidth,” he explained; computers were capable of processing information at a trillion bits per second, while we humans could input data into our devices at a mere ten bits per second, or thereabouts.
But there is a lot more going on here than an unrealistic existential human angst at being replaced by our machine creations. We truly would like to be able to repair damage to our senses, and augment our cognitive and neural/motor skills at least as well as we can repair broken bones, torn muscles, or blockages in blood vessels. It is not difficult to see how neuroprosthetics and brain machine interfaces could augment our abilities to perform basic functions despite the ravages of time, and better meet our goals in the face of a wide array of challenges — including more sophisticated machines.
We don’t just want to hold onto our jobs against a flood of intelligent machines. We want to be able to devise and perform ever more sophisticated and potent tasks for ourselves — relegating even the brightest machines to subservient tasks where their lack of boredom and insensitivity to exhaustion make them ideal menial workers in courts, operating rooms, press conferences, and administrative centres. Augmented humans will have more important things to do in the larger world.
That is the hope, anyway. In the real world, any tool that gives elites in the ruling classes more control over those lower down in the power strata will be seized upon by the same people who use the “climate apocalypse cult” and other manipulations of media, academia, and bureaucracies of all kinds to keep the people in their place.
The threat of a more competent, creative, and aware populace can keep even the most assured elitist up late at night.
Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst
It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.