With a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface, we can actually go along for the ride. We can have the option of merging with AI.” ~Elon Musk
This quote by Elon Musk encapsulates what could be the most significant predicament that humanity will ever face: To merge or not to merge with AI?. A definitive answer to this question is by no means an easy one. However, Evaluating the possibilities and impacts of such a merger is crucial given the rapid progress in AI research and Innovation. One approach that has been proposed for this merger is Hybrid Intelligence. Hybrid Intelligence is defined as the combination of human and machine intelligence, augmenting human intellect and capabilities instead of replacing them, to make meaningful decisions, perform appropriate actions, and achieve goals that were unreachable by either humans or machines alone. In this article, we map out the various phases that this merger will go through and its impact on society. We believe that broadly there will be three phases of the merge with AI:
- narrow merge: AI assisting us in optimizing and analytics
- broad merge: Physical merge with AI (intelligent prosthetics)
- complete merge: merge of the human mind with AI
We believe that the net effect will be positive and eventually lead to the next step in human evolution. We present arguments for why the merge of human and machine intelligence is better and explore how it positively impacts society in all the phases.
Currently, we are at a stage where there is a narrow merge with AI. If you think about it, AI is all around us today. It is so ubiquitous that we can not even go a minute without it. We consciously or unconsciously use AI in one way or another in our daily lives. It has become an extension of ourselves, helping us to efficiently process the ever-growing flood of information in the digital world we live in today. To make things more concrete, think of the age of hunter-gatherers. In this case, man hunted large animals using tools that he made himself. The tools are an extension of himself in response to an environment that rewarded hunting, much like AI is now an extension of man in response to an environment that rewards efficient information processing. AI today is mostly powered by black block algorithms based on machine learning that can only learn to detect patterns from data but aren’t sophisticated enough to do human-level tasks like planning or reasoning. This limits the use of AI to narrow tasks such as recommendation engines for example the Netflix recommendation algorithm, predictive analytics for weather or financial forecasting, monitoring health through smart wearables, drug discovery as done by alpha fold algorithm by deep mind and face recognition to name a few. Even though AI is being applied in a limited fashion it seems to be having great benefits in the industry it’s being used in. Humans augmented with AI technology are making business companies efficient and productive. It is helping in the fight against climate change. However, the use of AI in these situations isn’t without pitfalls with major concerns being privacy and bias in model or data. These issues are directly being tackled Google introduced a new privacy-preserving paradigm: Federated Learning to train models on encrypted user data. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam have proposed a new benchmark image dataset PASS which strictly follows the GDPR data regulations and gives the same results as training on imagenet the de-facto image dataset rife with distressing biases.
The broad merge with AI will look to connect the human body with a machine. A machine, in this case, could be a bioprosthetic body part or chip implant that is essentially an extension of the body and could enhance some human capabilities. The most promising technology that could enable this enhancement is called a Brain-Machine Interface, or BMI. BMIs are devices that translate neural information into commands that can control external software or hardware such as a computer or robotic arm. They could solve the low-bandwidth problem faced by smartphones and smart wearables of today. An AI company named Neuralink is already researching to cure brain injuries and diseases using AI. A man that is paralyzed from the neck down has already been able to eat and drink using his hand with the technology of Neuralink. This is possible because of implemented electrodes that recognize thoughts and send impulses to specific parts of his body to trigger movements. Elon Musk, who took over Neuralink, is not done here and also pursues the urge to enhance the human body similarly. Furthermore, as BMI technology keeps getting better our understanding of the working of the brain and cognition is bound to get better too due to access to more rich neuronal information. However, a major concern with this technology is the potential threat of the implants getting hacked or losing autonomy to a third party, getting hacked could expose personal data such as memories or thoughts of a person. Although we aren’t anywhere near the point where these situations may play out, there must be some government regulation and policies around the development of the technology. Another field that could help circumvent these problems is cyber-security.
What the future of hybrid intelligence will look like is impossible to predict, however, certain terms such as collective intelligence and superintelligence are expected to become reality. Collective intelligence allows human intelligence and AI to be connected and become more intelligent than any person could ever be. Psycho-pass is a Japanese anime set in a world where most decisions relating to society are made by a collective intelligence of people who have the best interests for society. Super intelligence is similar in the sense that both imply more intelligence than any person could have, however, super intelligence does not reach this intelligence through connection. The emergence of such forms of intelligence could lead to unprecedented benefits for humanity, solving most of our problems and presenting a utopian future. It could enable rapid discoveries in fields known and unknown to mankind. It could also act as a fail-safe option in case AI becomes self-aware, echoing Elon Musk’s advice “if you can’t beat them join them”. A question that the critics raise about the merge is whether we will cease to be human. The answer to the question is yes we will but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Humans evolved from primates and went on to accomplish great things similarly the merge with AI will usher in a new form of a human more suited to tackle problems of the near future.
Hybrid intelligence an evolutionary perspective
Humans have always had an evolutionary urge to improve themselves and become better versions of themselves. This could be achieved in numerous ways, for example by becoming stronger, faster or more intelligent. The most recent evolutionary steps taken by humans were dominantly by technological development resulting from humans becoming more intelligent. As seen in the narrow merge section we are already influenced heavily by AI, it assists us in decision making and is deeply integrated into our lives. In the future, this influence will only continue to increase as described in the broad merge section. AI will not only assist us but will become a part of us as hybrid intelligence, the broad merge section is expected to become reality soon. The hybrid intelligence will then improve the physical aspects of humans either by curing brain injuries and diseases or through bioprosthetic body parts that could potentially enhance physical features such as speed or strength. These improvements are indisputable evolutionary steps facilitated by hybrid intelligence. The complete merge section describes a possible scenario further in the future where the human mind could merge with AI. This is a more futuristic form of hybrid intelligence that could make humans significantly more intelligent through collective intelligence and super intelligence. As Alexander Pisarchik, Vladimir Maksimenko and Alexander Hramov state: “We believe that future communication technologies will be based on brain-computer interfaces that will read brain signals and translate them to messages, which then will be sent to mobile or other devices.” When collective intelligence and super intelligence become reality, endless possibilities are created and numerous discoveries will be made. This would be a giant evolutionary step for mankind.
Hybrid intelligence is a good thing
Hybrid intelligence will be a good thing, people often fear AI and its consequences however the good outweighs the bad significantly in the case of hybrid intelligence. Firstly, hybrid intelligence will eliminate redundant jobs and therefore give people more spare time to focus on more important matters. A common counterargument for this is unemployment and the loss of purpose for people that may lose their jobs because of AI. However hybrid intelligence will not only eliminate redundant jobs but will also create many new and more useful jobs so that loss of purpose and unemployment are no longer issues. These new jobs discussed by James Wilson, Paul Daugherty and Nicola Morini-Bianzino have 3 categories. These categories are trainers that will train AI to function properly, explainers that will bridge the gap between technologists and business leaders and sustainers that ensure the AI’s will continue to function properly. Secondly, hybrid intelligence will prevent people from ever suffering from brain injuries and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This would be possible through implants in the brain similar to the already working electrode implants that Neuralink developed and are already shown to allow a paralyzed person to move its arm as previously mentioned. These implants and the ability to merge the human mind with artificial intelligence raises many regulatory and ethical issues. However, these issues can be solved when regulated properly and the possibilities with these techniques could bring endless new possibilities. Finally, the combination of super intelligence, collective intelligence and the elimination of redundant jobs almost guarantee a large amount of new and exciting discoveries. Whether it is space exploration, new better functioning medical treatments and medicine or solutions for a more sustainable life. An issue with new scientific discoveries is described by the law of unintended consequences. This law states that while most discoveries are meant to improve life, they can also have unintended consequences that could be potentially disastrous such as nuclear weapons. However, the intended positive outcomes of discoveries come with all discoveries where only a select group of discoveries results in unintended negative consequences. Additionally, these negative consequences can be regulated to reduce the impact of these consequences significantly if not removing them completely. Altogether hybrid intelligence brings three main benefits, these benefits are the elimination of redundant jobs, the ability to treat brain injuries and diseases and a large number of discoveries. These benefits could also possibly have negative consequences, however, in the grand scheme of things and with the long term future of humanity in mind, the good outweighs the bad significantly and therefore hybrid intelligence is a good thing.
Hybrid intelligence is the combination of human and machine intelligence that augments human intelligence and capabilities rather than replacing them. Currently, there already exists a narrow merge between humans and AI since AI is already integrated into our lives. The influence of AI will only continue to grow and hybrid intelligence will be the next step in human evolution. After that the human mind could potentially merge with AI, this would allow for collective intelligence and super intelligence through the connection of the human mind with machines. People often fear the capabilities of AI and what effect it may have in the future; this stems from human nature to be fearful in the face of uncertainty, however, hybrid intelligence will benefit humans in the future. Hybrid intelligence will eliminate redundant jobs while creating new and more exciting jobs. Additionally, it will cure brain injuries and diseases and enhance physical aspects of the human body through bio-prosthetics. Hybrid intelligence will also lead to many exciting discoveries that we can all benefit from. Hybrid intelligence is the next evolutionary step and we will benefit from it so do not fear the future of hybrid intelligence but be ready to accept it into our lives.