Our earlier article on artificial intelligence ("Trying to Be Clever", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2002) spoke about electronic networks and their prospects, and about the possibility of hyperintelligence on their basis in the not too distant future.
One of our readers, Pavel Bulykov of Cheboksary, has sent us a letter. Enlarging on the subject, he is out to prove that man, by improving the available computer technologies, is bound to design a supercomputer system, of which he will become a part someday.
Says our reader: sooner or later qualitative changes will take place in this field. All computers will be hooked into one giant thinking complex run from a single center. An era of the brain will begin, with computers replacing brain cells, and electric circuits, radio waves and emissions taking on the functions of neurons. The volume of information handled by such a supersystem at a terrific pace will be unlimited in practical terms. Equipped with the electronic sense organs, more accurate than the natural ones, the hyperbrain will be getting desired information.
Could we call this thinking complex a bioorganism? Let's recall that contemporary science defines life as a form of the existence of complex systems capable of self-organization and self-reproduction. Artificial intelligence has other characteristics of animate matter too. The American physicist F. Tipler points to data coding preserved by natural selection.
As a new instrument of data processing, the future electronic system will have all that. It will not depend on food, water, air and other essentials for existence. It will have a different quality of time needed only for changing the duration of particular processes.
Now, what will be man's role in this supersystem? Will it need him, or will it jettison him like a spent stage of a rocket? We cannot tell yet. In all likelihood, mankind will be in for dramatic changes before that. Human life is a form of being proper to the organic world that, through the senses, perceives events and processes occurring in the ambient environment, and that handles the data thus perceived and reacts accordingly. Even today computer users have a chance to "live" in a virtual world and, if they like it, can take part in motor races, space flights and so forth. The time is not far off when human beings will be getting a major part of information on their environment through electronic chips implanted in their brain and react the same way as they do when unaided.
In other words. Homo sapiens will be evolving into a cyborg, or a manlike robot. His real world will concur with a virtual one, with his organs replaced by electronic substitutes. And considering the fantastic rate of computer miniaturization, it will be no stretch to say: he, the Homo novus, will tend to shrink to a pellet in size. That is to say, human beings are to become an element (biocomputer) of giant intelligence made up of so many individuals and electronic devices. Such kind of supersystem might turn then into one person, a post-human ofsorts. If so, the civilizational conflicts and other problems besetting humankind will fade away, and man will gain immortality. Something conceived by the Maker from the very outset?
Prepared by Igor GORYUNOV