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Shang-Yi Ch’en Professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology; Founder, AQT/INQNET
Towards The Emergence Of Hybrid Human-Machine Chimeras


The so-called Artificial Intelligence, appearing as a form of emulation of Human Intelligence is just beginning to emerge based on the technology advancements and the study of the human complexity. The former includes high performance computing systems tooled with intelligent agile software including machine learning, deep learning and the like, and the connection of many such systems in self-organized autonomous optimized ways. The latter refers to the study of the human brain and body via neuroscience, genomics and cross-disciplinary emerging fields. 

A few important considerations and indisputable facts regarding the "thinking machine" include the following:

1) The thinking machine is not and cannot be a copy of the human; the advanced fundamental computation needed to engineer a thinking machine (both hardware and software) are neither copying, nor emulating the human brain. This is because we cannot claim to know the works of the human brain—not yet.

2) The thinking machine considered to be a species developed as a product of the advanced human logic, science and technology will, no doubt, be able to beat the human capacity in many functions. With its huge memory and data storage it will also be able to process all knowledge. Tooled impeccably with its data driven discovery methodologies it will detect unusual patterns in the data and learn from it. It will compile it all surely—but to what end? The human intelligence, hard to define really, is based on knowledge that produces intuition, hunches, passion and dare when it comes down to survival, conquering new grounds and attacking the unknown. An almost poetic adventure for advancement, innovation and creativity emerges from the thinking, feeling, dreaming, daring, indomitable, fearless, highly sociable, interacting, independent and proud human being. Can we code the complex superposition of these attributes to give the thinking machine a fair head-start for its evolution from where we stand today? Indeed the one that we humans have, is by now an evolved organic complex intelligence. 

In recent times there is a lot of technopanic regarding machines who think from very thoughtful and otherwise fearless and passionate human brains/beings so everyone is forced to pay attention. I for one, am more concerned about humans who drop thinking or are brainwashed, than smart thinking machines taking over. Mainly because "machine thinking" cannot fully substitute the full human thinking, production and operation cycle. Even assuming the Cylon sci-fi case with immortal knowledge and consciousness base (brain) that has a sensory system and a powerful memory the problem remains: the human intelligence (brain, senses, emotions) is complex intelligence. It masters the complex world with tools that connect disparate facts and it does so very efficiently by dropping most information! Even as we prepare the machine learning algorithms and try to mimic the brain with deep neural networks in all domain sciences, we remain puzzled on the mode of connected knowledge and intuition, imaginary and organic reasoning tools that the mind possesses. This is difficult, perhaps impossible to replicate on a machine. Infinite unconnected clusters of knowledge will remain sadly useless and dumb. When a machine starts remembering a fact (on its own time and initiative, spontaneous and untriggered) and when it produces and uses an idea not because it was in the algorithm of the human that programmed it but because it connected to other facts and ideas—beyond its "training" samples or its "utility function"—I will start becoming hopeful that humans can manufacture a totally new branch of artificial species—self-sustainable and with independent thinking—in the course of their evolution.

In the meantime I foresee the emergence of hybrid human-machine chimeras: human-born beings augmented with new machine abilities that enhance all or most of their human capacities, pleasures and psychological needs. To the point that thinking might be rendered irrelevant and strictly speaking unnecessary. That might provide the ordinary thinking humans a better set of servants they have been looking for in machines.