Thursday, 20 June 2013
Just in Case the World Doesn’t End By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
Just in case the world doesn’t end on Friday, there are still some exciting things to look forward to.
Do you plan to live up to the year 2045? That is 33 years from now. If yes, then you better listen to what a man called Ray Karzweil says. He has pushed Singularity theory back to 2045.
You have to suspend belief if you want to understand Karzweil’s projections. He believes that the human brain can be engineered in the reverse. In effect, by 2045, machine and man will become one.
Ok. It sounds crazy already. But this is just the beginning.
The best computer that MIT professors had some 33 years ago is less sophisticated than the phone a Kenyan Masai is using today in the valley of Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. In fact, it is universally acknowledged that the phone that a bus conductor in Ajegunle, Lagos, is using today gives him access to more information than the information that was available to President Bill Clinton some 16 years when he was the president of the United States.
In another 35 years, technology would have surpassed its present level by a square of what it is today. The way dialup internet disappeared when broadband emerged, so will the current wireless we use be abandoned. Already scientists at CERN have developed the grid that will make today’s internet 10,000 times faster. Gadgets like the phone will be smaller and a lot more powerful.
The advancement of technology means that what is possible for man is increasing exponentially. The blind is seeing with the help of chips fitted in his head. The dumb is talking with the help of the computer. And the mind is acting as the computer mouse, controlling the cursor.
Chips are being installed in humans to store data and to communicate with the brain. In researches on what to do about memory losses, scientists are closing in on installing chips in humans that will back up the brain. So, very soon, you can store things you know in an implanted gigabyte SMC. You can recall them whenever you want. Men will no longer forget their wedding anniversaries or what their spouses wore on their first date.
Scientists are optimistic that, soon, one can actually transfer knowledge through a port on human body– the same way computers now transfer information. So a surgeon can download in minutes all he knows to another person who wants to be a surgeon.
I know. You think there is no way. That possibility scares you. The tons of knowledge that we bury when someone dies can now be stored safely. And, if need be, can be transferred to another person who will perfectly carry on with the life of the person who had the original knowledge.
So, instead of spending 8 years in a medical school, a young man will just download the knowledge needed to become a doctor. That is where the world is headed to. Goodbye books. Goodbye teachers.
This is not a script of a Hollywood science-fiction movie. This is real life coming your way. The proponents of this idea called transhumanism have some accomplishments under their belt. They have imitated the natural structure of the brain to produce computer programs that can learn. The brain, the original wifi, is getting connected to the other wifi the computer speaks to.
The nanotechnology is one hell of scientific advancement with potentials that boggle the mind. Studies in the field of brain implants and genetic modification are going on. So are cloning, stem cell research, vaccinations, artificial intelligence and various forms of human genetic engineering. Machines are expected to reach human intelligence level in a few years. There is now a machine that can make a video of what a cat is seeing by looking at the cat’s brain.
This is the future. If you plan to be here when it comes, be prepared to delete all that you think you know about this life.
For those of you who are not sure of how in the world the fax machine picks up a copy of a paper sent thousands of miles away, or how the TV transmits images, well, imagine how old you will look when someone starts hacking into your brain to steal whatever thought is still left in your mind.
Those who say access to information does not imply intelligence must explain how an IBM Deep Blue computer defeated Garry Kasparor, the best chess champion in the world, in 1997. Recently, a computer also beat Jeopardy’s best players. When a large amount of data moves, it creates possibilities. A chip with all the phone numbers of New York City is just a digital phone book. But when the chip can recite someone’s number, when last the number made a call, and what number it called, then, the chip is more than a digital phone book.
Some of you may dismiss this with just a wave of a hand. Some will default to the mantra: Jesus/Mohammed is the answer. Yes, Jesus/Mohammed is a convenient answer. Science is not. While the rest of us say that the Kingdom of God is near, Ray Karzweil says that Singularity is near. Karzweil is foreseeing the age of spiritual machines. His latest book is on how the mind works and how to build one.
Humans are taking over control of their evolution. It is as if they are saying to God, thank you for taking us this far -we can take it from here. This path will end natural selection as we know it. Some say that the posthuman era has started. You bet that Albert Einstein will be jealous of what scientists of today are capable of doing.
No doubt, there are risks associated with this extrapolation of modern science. But I’m sure that even the skeptic is quietly saying in his mind that, if scientists can do this, maybe they can finally achieve the bald hair replacement challenge and the penis enhancement promise.
Those will be good tidings.
One side note: When Ray Karzweil dies, he wants his body frozen in liquid nitrogen at Alcor Life Extension Foundation facility. He hopes that in the future medical technology will revive him.
So just in case the world doesn’t end on Friday, there are still some exciting things to look forward to.