A professor of religion at Columbia University writes, “I do not think human beings are the last stage in the evolutionary process.”
Whatever comes next will be neither simply organic nor simply machinic but will be the result of the increasingly symbiotic relationship between human beings and technology. Bound together as parasite/host, neither people nor technologies can exist apart from the other because they are constitutive prostheses of each other… So-called “artificial” intelligence is the latest extension of the emergent process through which life takes ever more diverse and complex forms.
The article lists “four trajectories that will be increasingly important for the symbiotic relationship between humans and machines.”
– Writing about neuroprosthetics, the professor argues that “Increasing possibilities for symbiotic relations between computers and brains will lead to alternative forms of intelligence that are neither human nor machinic, but something in between.”
– Then there’s biobots. The article argues that with nanotechnology, “it will be increasingly difficult to distinguish the natural from the artificial.”
But there’s also an interesting discussion about synthetic biology. “Michael Levin and his colleagues at the Allen Discovery Center of Tufts University — biologists, computer scientists and engineers — have created “xenobots,” which are “biological robots” that were produced from embryonic skin and muscle cells from an African clawed frog.”
As Levin and his colleagues wrote in 2020…
Here we show a scalable pipeline for creating functional novel lifeforms: AI methods automatically design diverse candidate lifeforms in silico to perform some desired function, and transferable designs are then created using a cell-based construction toolkit to realize living systems with predicted behavior. Although some steps in this pipeline still require manual intervention, complete automation in the future would pave the way for designing and deploying living systems for a wide range of functions.
And the article concludes with a discussion of organic-relational AI:
While Levin uses computational technology to create and modify biological organisms, the German neurobiologist Peter Robin Hiesinger uses biological organisms to model computational processes by creating algorithms that evolve. This work involves nothing less than developing a new form of “artificial” intelligence… Non-anthropocentric AI would not be merely an imitation of human intelligence, but would be as different from our thinking as fungi, dog and crow cognition is from human cognition.
Machines are becoming more like people and people are becoming more like machines. Organism and machine? Organism or machine? Neither organism nor machine? Evolution is not over; something new, something different, perhaps infinitely and qualitatively different, is emerging.
Who would want the future to be the endless repetition of the past?
Weekends were made for programming.
– Karl Lehenbauer