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Professor of Cybernetics
Q: Where do you think your field we might have got to by 2100?
A: I think by 2100 we're going to see people able to communicate between each other by thought signals alone, so no more need for telephones, old fashioned signalling, we'll be able to think to each other via implants.
Undoubtedly we're going to see machines, computers that are more intelligent than we are perhaps by 2030, 2050 - how are we going to cope with that? If we don't do something, if it is just humans versus machines, it is a very dangerous scenario. Well, one possibility is to link humans with machines to create cyborgs, part human, part machine.
That's a possible way forward for the next century. What I'll be doing next year is linking myself up via an implant to a computer, my nervous system, electronic signals connected to the electronic signals in the computer - effectively mentally becoming one with the computer.
This will mean movement type signals and emotional type signals can transmit from my body to the computer, but also the other way. The computer will be able to affect me emotionally, perhaps cheer me up when I'm depressed or cause me to move when I didn't think about moving.
It opens all sorts of other possibilities; the computer will be able to send down other information ultrasonic or infrared information on my nervous system to my brain. I will effectively have extra sensory perception and will be able to look at the world in new ways than I could do before.
Q: In your worst nightmares, what is the alternative to keeping up with t he machine?
A: If we have machines more intelligent than we are by say 2050, then what we'll see is the machines dictating our lives. Just as we treat creatures less intelligent than ourselves now, so we'll see machines treating us, perhaps having humans in farms, humans in zoos and if we're lucky human pets, but that's the best we're going to hope for.
I honestly believe that intelligent machines in this century are going to outstrip humans in many ways and take over from us effectively. But the mid ground, the cyborg ground, part human, part machine, appears to be a possible way forward for humans to evolve.
Q: What are your big transforming predictions for the next century?
A: What is commonly thought of as telepathy will, I have no doubt, be achieved this century. Instead of communicating by speech as we do presently, we'll be able to think to each other, simply by implants connected to our nervous system linking our brains electronically together, possibly even over the internet.
That will completely change what it means to be human. We won't need the languages that we presently do, we'll need a new language of ideas and concepts in order to communicate thoughts from brain to brain.
Q: Where will the ordinary bio chemical non-wired up ordinary mortals be left by the lifetime of our grandchildren?
A: I think the future for ordinary humans by 2100 is pretty dire. We're going to see intelligent machines, robots if you like, we're going to see cyborgs from which humans will have evolved. It will be down to the robots and the cyborgs as to what happens to the ordinary humans as we know them today. I don't think that's going to be too positive. The way we communicate is very slow, the way we think is very slow, very primitive. We will effectively be the savages of the future.
Q: What are the stages in this transformation of mankind?
A: In the first part of this century, we're going to see a particular case where a machine makes a conscious decision that directly affects innocent humans. Perhaps a town is destroyed or a large number of people are injured, not because of a human decision, but because of a machine decision.
That is going to be a big turning point for humans. If we then say 'that's too far, we're not going any further', then maybe we can hold things off for a bit longer. But if we don't do anything about it, if we say 'yes, this is a great machine, let's get it to do other things', then we're just going to progress ourselves into oblivion.
It won't be long after that before the intelligent machines, we won't be able to switch them off at all, we won't be able to stop them. They will be making the choices as to whether they switch humans off, as to how they stop humans.
Q: And do you predict as a reaction to this, it is presumably inevitable people will crusade against this future?
A: I think we've got to have a rebellion against machines if there is to be anything stopping them at all, intelligent machines, robots that is. Whether we leave it too late is the question, and too late would be when the intelligent machines are too intelligent for us to do anything about it and have the power to stop us.
Q: How intelligent are the most intelligent robots now? How quickly is the pace of change for them or for artificial intelligence generally?
A: Our robots typically are about as intelligent as a slug or at most you're looking at a bee or a wasp, a few hundred or a few thousand brain cells. In Japan it is claimed that they have a brain, an artificial brain about as intelligent as a cat, so you're looking at several million brain cells.
Humans have something like 100 billion, so in terms of individual machines, there's still some way to go. It is probably going to be about a decade before we get machines with the same potential, the same brain power as humans, but of course machines are going to go on and on from there. In 20 or 30 years time we're going to see machines with far more brain power than humans can ever hope to have.