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Our imagination often gives us clues as to what the future might look like.
Everyone remembers the future of the human race in the terminator series. Robots, almost indistinguishable from humans, roaming the world and destroying any human life they can find. Besides indicating what might be the case, science fiction has also shaped the narrative that robots will eventually replace humans.
In an alternate ending, we might find ourselves stuck: AI becomes an artifact of the past, a cautionary tale told to generations of human ancestors of how autonomous machines attempted to take over the universe but failed. been thwarted by humanity and have been completely banned.
But amidst all this confusion, one key question remains: how will emerging technology change our understanding of what it means to be human?
From antiquity to contemporary thinkers, the definition of what makes humanity unique has varied. But as AI, bioinformatics, and Web3 advance, the lines between machines and humans are becoming increasingly blurred. Many experts, optimistic or not, fear that these tools will modify essential elements of the human being.
What does it mean to be human in the age of hybrid intelligence, blockchain and machine learning? Let’s dive deeper into recent technological advancements and what the shift to hybrid intelligence means for traditional concepts of humanity.
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The intersection of bioinformatics and AI
Bioinformatics is a field of study that uses molecules of biological origin, such as DNA or proteins, to perform computational tasks. Emulating the genius of nature can completely change the paradigm of understanding when it comes to computing and storing data. The field has shown promise in cryptography and drug discovery. However, biocomputers are still limited compared to non-biocomputers, as they are not good at cooling down and doing more than two things simultaneously.
Advances in AI, however, have exploded. Since 2012, interest in AI, particularly machine learning, has been renewed, resulting in a dramatic increase in funding and investment. Machine learning models ingest large amounts of data and infer patterns from it.
More recently, generative AI has become extremely popular with the release of great AI models such as MidJourney, ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion. Generative AI is a class of AI algorithms that generate new data or content that is extremely similar to existing data, nearly identical to human-created data.
But AI has its limits. Most generative models can only process one type of data: text, images, or sounds. Although the multimodal GPT-4 was released in mid-March, there is still a long way to go to combine AI with multiple modalities.
AI has given bioinformatics the potential to unlock new insights into complex biological systems and accelerate scientific discovery. For example, AI can analyze large genomic datasets to identify genetic variations associated with specific diseases. AI can also be used in drug discovery by predicting the properties of new molecules or optimizing existing ones.
On the way to augmented reality
Another area that has benefited from advances is augmented reality (AR). AR systems incorporate three basic functionalities: a combination of real and virtual worlds, real-time interaction, and accurate 3D recording of virtual and real objects.
AR often requires virtual reality (VR) tools, such as large headsets. Headsets, while advancing in software, are limited by their hardware. Users have nausea issues and wear the helmets too long. This is far from the reality envisaged with Skynet as the leader.
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The emergence of web3
The rise of Web 3.0 is also likely to play an important role in the convergence of these technologies. Web3 is the next evolution of the internet, based on a different way of architecting the internet using blockchain, which provides an open, transparent and decentralized way to interact online.
Web3 has the potential to take power away from big tech companies by returning ownership of data to individual Internet users. It could defuse big data and solve data privacy issues.
Web3 also enables new interactions between humans and machines. For example, Web3 could enable secure, decentralized marketplaces for AI networks owned and controlled by those who use it.
All of these technologies are developing in a vacuum at the moment. Eventually, a combination of hybrid human and machine intelligence will emerge.
The concept of humanity in an artificial age
Hybrid intelligence combines human intelligence and artificial intelligence, resulting in more capable operations than the two alone, effectively dissolving the boundaries between biology and technology.
But what does this fading distinction mean for humanity?
In ancient philosophy, the concept of humanity centered on the idea of a soul. Plato, Greek philosopher, student of Socrates and one of the most important figures in Western philosophy, created a myth to describe the structure of the human soul in dialogue Phaedrus.
According to myth, the human soul resembles a chariot pulled by two horses – one is white, representing fiery, and the other black, representing desire. The horses are attached to a chariot, on top of which sits a rider. The horseman represents reason. Humans are often pulled in opposite directions by our ardor (courage, pride and honor) and our desire or appetite (lust, hunger or thirst.) The task of the charioteer is to guide the whole by reason, which creates internal conflict.
The human soul is made of desire and spirit guided by our reason. But machines already reason much better than most humans. If machines are beginning to experience emotions, desires and empathy, what makes them different from us?
AI, the sun and the electric sheep
Kazuo Ishiguro writes on both sides of man and machine in Clara and the sun. Klara is an AI-powered robot bought by Josie, a young girl who suffers the life-threatening side effects of being genetically modified to improve her academic performance.
Although Klara is made of artificial materials, it paradoxically feeds on nature, on the sun. At one point, Josie’s mother pays for a “portrait” of Josie, a robotic replica of Josie. If Josie dies, she plans to transfer Klara’s consciousness to Josie’s robotic replica. Indeed, Klara would go on to live on as Josie.
Philip K. Dick explores similar themes in Do androids dream of electric sheep?. In this post-apocalyptic world, androids are nearly indistinguishable from humans. Rick Deckard is tasked with tracking down and “removing” rogue androids. As he completes his mission, Deckard begins to question the morality of his actions and whether the androids are truly “alive”.
Although human-like androids are a far cry from the current state of technology, these stories highlight a struggle we are approaching in the age of hybrid intelligence.
Some philosophers argue that even now we should view electronic devices, such as smartphones, as an extension of our minds. The momentum of technology pushes us towards internal conflict and confusion about what is human and what simply seems human.
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To infinity and beyond
Collaboration between humans and machines can greatly improve our quality of life. We are already approaching a world where we can work alongside intelligent machines to solve complex problems, create new works of art and explore uncharted territories. Imagine personalized medical treatments tailored to an individual’s unique genetic makeup.
The emergence of hybrid intelligence speaks to our ability as humans to push the boundaries of what is possible. As we explore the possibilities of bioinformatics, AI and augmented reality, we must be open to the idea that humanity may soon no longer be confined to mere biology. And that’s the promise of hybrid intelligence, a future that’s both exhilarating and frightening.