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Steven Poelmans: Cyborgs are among us

February 4, 2019, 12:55 - Source: Invest Foresight

Professor Steven Poelmans of Antwerp Management School was among speakers at the anniversary Gaidar Forum in Moscow housed by the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. In his interview to Invest Foresight, a main media partner of the Forum, he shared his foresights regarding synergy between humans and artificial intelligence.

In his view, “In the near future two types of beings will emerge. One will be intelligent machines which what most people would have in mind when they think of a machine which can come to the level of intelligence of a human being or probably surpass it. The other possibility is human beings will start incorporating technology and in this sense we talk about cyborg. A cyborg is basically a human being that has incorporated a technology. This scenario will develop quicker than we would expect. Cyborgs are among us already. One with a pacemaker is a cyborg; one with a device in the ear to hear better which interconnects with one’s brain, is a cyborg. Most of the applications now are in the clinical sector and people get substitutes for the capabilities they have lost. Yet the same technologies could be used to enhance performance of the people who do not have a problem or a disease.”

According to Professor Poelmans, “At some point we can ask ourselves what makes more sense, to make a machine as a human being or a human being as a machine. The second scenario is much more attractive as we will not loose our hearts, our values, our ethics. Future machines will be smarter and can be compared to a chess computer. They can look at much more possibilities in a decision tree than a human being can do in a short period of time. They have more computing power and can look at much more scenarios. A human being does that as well. But a lot of human intelligence is unconscious or subconscious. We call it intuition. A wise person with a lot of years of experience and looking at a lot of ethical dilemmas can make amazing decisions based on intuition or experience.”

Will there be a competition between these two beings? Possibly not, as they can collaborate to create a better future. But will human beings be pushed away? Probably not. The first functions that will be substituted by machines will be tasks which can be automated or automatized. That is already happening.

As Professor Poelmans pointed out, “We will come to a point which is scaring for a lot of people, where machines will be made by machines. Some day machines will become conscious of their identity, aware that they were born and will die. This will be the turning point. The computing power of the artificial intelligence will reach a point where they can predict the future by using algorithms that are so complex that a human being can not grasp it. It is already happening. So some day AI may be leading in businesses, arts or politics. AI will probably not become a president in a country, but will be an assistant to a president. Yet human beings will still be present at the final stage of decision-making though computers and artificial intelligence will substitute human beings in some fields like politics, as human beings are slow in exchanging information and coming to an agreement. We should get rid of the part of politics which is all about debate. Let’s ask a computer of the best possible solution and then decide whether we do it or not.”

Human beings are preset to learn and enjoy learning. If machines make work for humans, they will still love to learn, but will focus on different things while machines take over hazardous and monotonous jobs and ultimately improve wellbeing of the people. “Yet they will also create new classes of those who have and those who have not,” Professor Poelmans believes. “Those who have a lot of economic power will have access to computers and AI and will thus become more powerful. But the bigger group of people will not have access to them as they do not and will not have economic power for that. That will be another turning point for the human race of making a choice whether advanced technology is made available to everyone or is a privilege of the elite. Regrettably, that decision will be made by politicians who will preserve their privileges. But if that turning point comes in the right time, not too early and not too late, the outcome may be more optimistic. If it comes now, it will go wrong, as the biggest challenge for the humans is to deal with the changes that may come too soon for them to be able to grasp the implications.”

The whole world is now living through the age of change. “We see a breakdown of nations which are going back to regions or communities. Nations do not matter any more. Virtual communities do not care about nationalities,” Professor Poelmans concluded.

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