In a previous blog, I described how current technology adoption is transforming us into cyborgs. In this blog, I want to show how AI will accelerate and reinforce cyborgization and why this matters. Much has been said about the emergence of AI as the fearsome “other” that is coming to challenge humanity. A much more pressing conversation is how AI will redefine humanity. It is not the robot against us but the robot in us that we need to think about. That is why it is important to understand how AI will accelerate the march toward cyborgization.
Enabling Better Interfaces
AI technologies will speed up the march towards cyborgization by enabling more human-friendly interfaces. This is difficult to imagine now when our users experience is tied to a “QWERTY” keyboard. Also, voice recognition is still at its beginning stages (hence, why I keep on having arguments with Siri because she does not understand what I am saying). Yet, it is not a leap to imagine a world in which we do not type but speak to devices. This is only possible if these machines can hear and understand us. It is only safe if they can recognize who we are either by voice of vision. Last week, Apple launched Iphone X with a visual recognition feature that allows you to unlock the phone by simply looking at the screen. This is a breakthrough step in face recognition. Also, as Amazon, Google and Apple race to develop the leading voice-assistant, speaking to our devices will become more common. As AI improves so will our ability to interact with machines in more human-like manners. This will transform how we use these devices allowing them to play a larger role in our daily lives.
Bringing Order to Digital Chaos
Interfaces are not the only areas enhanced by AI. Another notable area is AI’s ability to bring order to our current digital experience. To illustrate this concept, just think about what would be like to connect your brain directly to your Facebook or Twitter feed. It would result in a major headache driven a by a jumble of unrelated topics, pictures, comments, flashing through your mind. Needless to say that It would be disorienting. This is the state of social media delivery and why extended uses of it can be harmful to our mental health. Now imagine if our digital experience could be organized and filtered by an intelligent agent. Let say, there was an AI-enabled app that could automatically filter and organize what you see based on who you are, your mood and time of day. Wouldn’t that transform your digital experience? This way, AI would not only allow easier interface with devices but also enhance the experience with these devices through learning about us as individuals. It is a daunting to imagine that devices could know our thoughts and feelings but this is no longer a far-fetched idea. We are surely giving away enough data about ourselves so they can do just that. As these devices “know” us better we will also be more willing to use, wear or embed them in our bodies.
Facilitating Life Extension
The third area in which AI will impact the march is life extension. This is possibly the most controversial and promising area that AI technologies can impact us. While on paternity leave in the last five weeks, I had the chance to observe our current healthcare system. I am grateful for the care we received through medical interventions and advice as we welcome our son to the world. Yet, it was also clear how rudimentary our health care is. We currently rely on painfully invasive tests, disconnected systems, fragmented knowledge and healthcare worker memories for our medical data. No wonder we are running into so many problems in this area. If we could just improve how we collect, store and analyze health data we could advance the quality of care significantly. To do that would require wearing or embedding sensors in our body for live monitoring and data collection. AI models could analyze the data coming from these sensors and translate them into individualized care plans. That is, medical care that is tailored to your bodies specific genetic and real-time conditions. Moreover, it allows for building predictive models to estimate lifespan. The hope is that those models would not only tell us how long we will live but also uncover ways we can prolong that lifespan.
How Will These Advances Move Us Toward Cyborgization?
If it becomes easier to communicate with devices, it is also easier to involve them in all aspects of our lives. The movie Her explores this trend by imagining a world where humans develop romantic relationships with their digital assistants. Here, I want to suggest it could also lead to making these devices indispensable to our bodies. In short, they would culminate into full-blown auxiliary brains. That is, currently from what we know, our brain has no “hard drive” that stores memories. The brain structure itself is the “memories”. However, if as interface advances from hearing our voice to actually to hearing our thoughts, then it could become an embedded hard drive. This hard drive then could store all the information coming from our senses. With the technology already being developed in intelligent agents, these auxiliary brains would not only store data but also organize, filter and prompt it based on what it learns from us. Moreover, it would benefit from body sensors and connection to advanced medical data to possibly extend our lifespans. Sci-fi literature already explores scenarios with these possibilities. For now, it suffice it to say that our mobile phones are the first generation of our auxiliary brains.
Are we ready to move into enhanced humanity? With the acceleration made possible by Artificial Intelligence, this reality may be here sooner than you think. It would be naive to simply embrace it uncritically or reject it outrightly. The main issue is not IF but HOW this will happen.
Are we willing to embrace the opportunity while also recognizing the dangers of an enhanced humanity?
Are we ready to become responsible cyborgs?