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Culture Blog - Oct 4, 2017

The arising awareness around Artificial Intelligence

When minds like Russian President Vladimir Putin, activist entrepreneur Elon Musk and many others, agree on the same prediction of our future history’s threats & opportunities, it may be advisable to listen carefully


What is it we are talking about? “AI” Neural Networks & machine learning, are computers that mimic the human brain using data to learn like we do. As we discuss in this article, It appears AI will soon supercharge our brains disrupting human2human & human2machine interaction, to the point where it will enable us to share thoughts and emotions making not only languages but possibly even words and much more, obsolete. This technology could enable humans to have quicker reactions to events, taking much faster and informed decisions, essentially turning people into super humans.

Russian president Vladimir Putin in an interview with Associated Press. has publicly endorsed the international race to develop artificial intelligence.

“Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind”…“It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Putin predicted that future wars would be fought by countries using drones.

“When one party’s drones are destroyed by drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender.”

The development of artificial intelligence has increasingly become a national security concern in recent years. It is China and the US (not Russia) which are seen as the two frontrunners, with China recently announcing its ambition to become the global leader in AI research by 2030.

Many analysts warn that America is in danger of falling behind, especially as the Trump administration prepares to cut funding for basic science and technology research.

Although it’s thought that artificial intelligence will help boost countries’ economies in a number of areas, from heavy industry to medical research, AI technology will also be useful in warfare. Artificial intelligence can be used to develop cyber weapons, and control autonomous tools like drone swarms — fleets of low-cost quadcopters with a shared ‘brain’ that can be used for surveillance as well as attacking opponents.

Putin noted that Russia did not want to see any one country “monopolize” the field, and said instead:

“If we become leaders in this area, we will share this know-how with entire world, the same way we share our nuclear technologies today.”

Recently, Elon Musk and 116 other technology leaders sent a petition to the United Nations calling for new regulations on how such AI weapons are developed. The group stated that the introduction of autonomous technology would be tantamount to a “third revolution in warfare,” following the development of gunpowder and nuclear weapons.

In March 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk had launched a company through which computers could merge with human brains, Neuralink which was registered in California as a “medical research” company last July.

In an interview with Wait But Why, Musk has revealed details about his latest venture, he plans on funding it mostly by himself and has confirmed he will be the CEO, he spoke about the need for humans to become cyborgs so to survive the rise of artificial intelligence,

“Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence”..“the firm’s goal is to turn cloud-based AI into an extension of the human brain.”

Musk, as with most of his ventures, is tapping into an incredibly timely and topical technology that is already being worked on by researchers across the globe, but in his own unique and business-savvy way. SpaceX was not the first private space company, but it was the first that set out with a plan to create affordable, reusable rockets, before scaling up to Mars missions. With Neuralink, he appears to be doing the same thing, taking on the more seemingly realistic and profitable challenge of symptom control, before venturing into total man-machine brain merger. It’s Product, which will be developed within the next four years will eventually lead humans to be able to “engage in consensual telepathy”; according to Musk,

“There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing”, “If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person.”

Wait But Why online tech journal editor and Musk’s dear friend, Tim Urban, wrote an insightful article called “Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future “; below you will find a few interesting extracts from the article.

When I interviewed Elon in 2015, I asked him if he would ever join the effort to build superintelligent AI. He said:

“My honest opinion is that we shouldn’t build it.”

And when I later commented that building something smarter than yourself did seem like a basic Darwinian error (a phrase I stole from Nick Bostrom), Elon responded,

We’re gonna win the Darwin Award, collectively.

Now, two years later, here’s what he says:

I was trying to really sound the alarm on the AI front for quite a while, but it was clearly having no impact (laughs) so I was like, oh fine, okay, then we’ll have to try to help develop it in a way that’s good.”… “The collective will is not attuned to the danger of AI.” … Essentially, if everyone’s from planet Krypton, that’s great. But if only one of them is Superman and Superman also has the personality of Hitler, then we’ve got a problem.

When I asked Elon about his timeline, he replied:

I think we are about 8 to 10 years away from this being usable by people with no disability … It is important to note that this depends heavily on regulatory approval timing and how well our devices work on people with disabilities.

In the interview Musk talked about the rapid progress made by Google’s game-playing AI:

“I mean, you’ve got these two things where AlphaGo crushes these human players head-on-head, beats Lee Sedol 4 out of 5 games and now it will beat a human every game all the time, while playing the 50 best players, and beating them always, all the time. You know, that’s like one year later.”


“And it’s on a harmless thing like AlphaGo right now. But the degrees of freedom at which the AI can win are increasing. So, Go has many more degrees of freedom than Chess, but if you take something like one of the real-time strategy competitive games like League of Legends or Dota 2, that has vastly more degrees of freedom than Go, so it can’t win at that yet. But it will be able to. And then there’s reality, which has the ultimate number of degrees of freedom.”

And for reasons discussed above, that kind of thing worries him:

“What I came to realize in recent years—the last couple years—is that AI is obviously going to surpass human intelligence by a lot. … There’s some risk at that point that something bad happens, something that we can’t control, that humanity can’t control after that point—either a small group of people monopolize AI power, or the AI goes rogue, or something like that. It may not, but it could.”



It really may be that the second major era of communication—the 100,000-year Era of Indirect Communication—is in its very last moments. If we zoom out on the timeline, it’s possible the entire last 150 years, during which we’ve suddenly been rapidly improving our communication media, will look to far-future humans like one concept: the transition from Era 2 to Era 3. We might be living on the line that divides timeline sections.