Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Human 2.0

I just watched a pretty interesting episode of Horizon, on the future of humanity and technology. It seems you can currently watch the whole programme here (until 31st Oct).

There was some very interesting stuff about possibilities of what we may be able to do in the future. Back in the 1960s they'd been able to stop a charging bull with a device connected to its brain, and now they have remote control rats - apparently they can turn the rat by stimulating its whiskers and, while it still has a choice, they reward it following their suggestions by hitting the pleasure button.

Animals aside, it's predicted that we'll understand the human brain, and produce as powerful computers, around the year 2029, which creates the possibility of 'uploads', although they didn't go into this so much. They did describe how a computer had been able to read a monkey's brainwaves, and move a robotic arm exactly as the monkey moved its own arm while playing a computer game. Even more amazingly, the monkey realised what was going on and stopped moving its own arm - realising it could play the game just by thinking! Such technology is already being tested on humans, because they had an example of a paralysed boy who by thinking sounds could speak via computer reading his brain.

It's all very exciting - and potentially scary - stuff. That was the one area I felt was a bit of a let down. They had people both for and against these advances, but didn't really present any ethical arguments - it just seemed like irrational optimists versus irrational pessimists. That's the kind of stuff for the likes of Nick Bostrum and the Future of Humanities Institute.



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