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Weekly commentaries on current issues. Commentaries are posted every Monday, in English and Spanish. Please, read our previous commentaries in the Archive section.
A few days ago, a fried, a man already looking to retiring after many years of a difficult life, suddenly told me, “I am afraid of technology. Very afraid.”
Because I know him for several years and we talk from time to time, I thought it was proper to let him know I am afraid of technology too. I explained to him that some recent technological advancements are both amazing and worrisome, because, at least in part, when what was just science fictions becomes real then the subtle line between reality and fantasy totally vanishes.
For example, I told my friend, I read last week somewhere online that the U.S. Army Research Lab can now connect a human brain with a neural network (a kind of artificial intelligence) so intelligent robots can learn how to shoot certain weapons analyzing the human brain waves of expert shooters.
It seems, according to the story, that humans are faster than robots in selecting the proper target to be shot, while robots are faster that humans pulling the trigger. Therefore, it is mutually advantageous to combine both abilities, thus creating a new kind of human-robotic killing intelligence.
And talking about artificial intelligence, the very famous scientist Stephen Hawking warned again that artificial intelligence, global overpopulation, climate change, and new diseases could mean the end of humankind in around 1000 years.
For that reason, Hawking said, that’s the maximum time we have to develop new technologies to travel and colonize space. In fact, it seems that Hawking believes that a millennium from now the Moon and Mars will be better places for humans than Earth.
In that context, I said that my friend that we shouldn’t forget about SpaceX, of Elon Musk, working to send humans to Mars within a decade. So, the technological progress for space colonization has begun and it will take probably a significantly shorter time than Hawking anticipated.
And talking Elon Musk, Musk recently said that in the near future artificial intelligence will be able to create a new kind of computers, so advance that it will surpass human intelligence and, therefore, we won’t be able to understand it unless we connect our brains directly with the computers.
Obviously, I told my friend, there are many other new technologies that, for good or bad reasons, look scary, such as the growing use of intelligent robots and drones for agricultural tasks, replacing and displacing millions of workers all over the world. At the same time, with robots, food of better quality can be produced faster and cheaper.
I began to talk about how, according to Ray Kurzweil and others, humans could become immortal before 2050, but he interrupted me.
“I have no idea what you are talking about”, he said. “I understood nothing. I am afraid of technology because for the first time in my life I have a smartphone and I don’t know how to use it. And my boss is now asking me to learn how to use a computer”.