On Monday at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Elon Musk suggested that humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) age. Musk said, "Over time, I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence. In an age when AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless, so there's a need to merge with machines,” according to Musk. He described his concern of "deep AI" which reaches far beyond driverless cars in what he called "artificial general intelligence". This is when AI becomes "smarter than the smartest human on earth" and he called it a "dangerous situation".
Does that mean we will eventually need to become a cybernetic organism like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie, Terminator? I think that is a stretch, however, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities.
While I would be the first to say that I’m fascinated by the advances in technology, I also temper that excitement when I consider the societal implications. Musk’s statements are not a grandiose prophesy when you consider one real world example that could represent the first step in this evolution. Think about the modern day cell phone that has sadly become an extension of how we survive.
I have my own prediction. The cell phone will eventually become obsolete. That’s right, you will no longer need a cell phone given the rapid growth in technology. Am I crazy? Maybe. So, how will we continue to function in our daily lives? Let me outline my theory. I think there is a strong likelihood this will become a reality if technology continues to mature at its current rate and if there is greater convergence in the following 6 technologies:
Cloud Computing: This might be the most obvious technology that will continue to advance. Amazon AWS is leading the charge in creating sophisticated processing networks to power the next generation of cloud computing. Of course, this is resulting in less of a reliance on devices because this level of computing power will become ubiquitous.
Microprocessing: Moore’s law has taught us that microchips will continue to improve exponentially. This has held true since his prediction was made in 1965. Devices are getting smaller, faster and overall better. We will continue to see these improvements in virtually every device that we own. This can’t be much of a surprise when we consider innovation with consumer products like televisions and cell phones just over the past 15 years.
Wearables: Just in the past 2 years, we have brand new entrants infiltrating the market. This includes devices like the Apple Watch and AirPods. These technologies will continue to evolve and offer more complementary features to extend what currently exists. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple (or another manufacturer) creates an auditory device to augment sound that is compact enough to become invisible to the naked eye.
Natural Language: The traditional user interface is quickly moving in a new direction. Yes, our ability to engage with technology will only become easier as advances continue to evolve, from Siri to Google Home, etc. This is clearly a game changer because it will only accelerate your ability to access what you want quicker than a keystroke.
Ocular Devices: Advances in visual technologies will continue to expand. We are all familiar with Google Glass. While it was a bust, I think it was entirely due to bad timing. There is no question Google will reintroduce Google Glass, but also take it one step further. In fact, Google is currently experimenting right now with contact lenses that continuously monitor glucose levels.
Augmented Reality: We are going to see a rapid expansion in this area. Right now, it’s a all about Pokémon GO. We will soon have the capability to view directions in the corner of your eye while driving, reading a virtual book by accessing it out of thin air...literally, or having a face to face conversation, in real time, with a 3D representation of someone located halfway around the world.
So, would you still need your cell phone if these other technologies continued to evolve and converge with one another? More importantly, could this be the first step in becoming… a cyborg? If Elon Musk is right, we will eventually need to compete on a whole new paradigm - humans against the machine. What does that mean for human evolution if biological intelligence and digital intelligence eventually merge? Surely that means we'll only get smarter, right? Consider this irony in what Albert Einstein once said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”