The Future of Humans and Artificial Intelligence. An Existential Meditation.

From a neurological perspective, I can’t help but wonder about the future of humanity and the human brain in the setting of an increasingly technological world. While technology and the advancements in artificial intelligence expand all around us, we humans still maintain the same biological and neurological tendencies. The more that I recognize the potential that AI holds and its ability to likely (it’s just a matter of time) outcompete human neuronal capabilities, the more I recognize how limited in capacity our own brains are. Yes, we are complicated creatures, and the evolution of the neocortex allows us much advantage over our ancestors and apes. However, it is very evident that our limbic system (that neuronal circuitry which determines our emotions) still holds the power in our lives (which is not necessarily a bad thing). The absolute best possibility of outcome for a human is that his/her neocortex is able to work in a symbiotic relationship with the limbic system. This, in my opinion, this allows the human to achieve his/her maximal potential because that symbiotic relationship allows for higher level thinking, introspection, self-actualization, sublimation, understanding of culture, etc. This beautiful dance between the limbic system and the neocortex is what actually creates the human perceptions of beauty, ugliness, etc. But the misbalance that can (and often) arises from the lack of symbiosis is what also creates bad outcomes (evil, ignorance, mental illness, etc).

The expansion of AI worries me, because I recognize that it will likely be created to mirror the neural structure of the brain, but could potentially be preprogrammed with certain features that may either be used for good or for evil. And given that AI’s creator is the human, there is a possibility that the first sentient AI will be used for evil (i.e., warfare). If this happens, by the time humans recognize that this creation was a terrible decision, it will have been too late.

Of course, there is also the possibility that humans create a sentient AI that has a total symbiotic balance between the cortico-limbic networks and also has larger and faster bandwidth and greater ‘neocortical’ control than their human counterpart. But at this point, what will be the role of the human race? We will have directly led to our own futility.

The absolute best possibility of our future with AI is if humans develop a symbiosis with it. AI can thus be used to enhance the neuronal capabilities of the human so that the human has the option to become a ‘super human’ – enlightened, brilliant, some might say perfect. This is of course, the best scenario. Apparently, there are endeavors to make this latter possibility a reality. Those who recognize the potential for the destruction of humanity are on the quest to identify the first brain-computer interface to create the ‘super human.’. Elon Musk, who has warned the public and the US government about the potential dangers of AI, has created an effort named ‘Neuralink.’ The details behind Neurolink are unclear, however the overarching goal appears to be to improve the ‘bandwidth’ – in other words, the communication speed – between machine and the brain. When I heard about this concept, I immediately thought of a scenario strangely reminiscent of super hero comic books in which the human race would be split between the humans and the mutants who carried super human powers.

There is something bitter sweet about a change to a world where we humans are no longer the biological selves that we have evolved to become-or perhaps we are, but in this case we have become outdated, like a VHS cassette. We are entering a new evolutionary age that is not dependent upon biology or genetics, but rather computerized technology. Will we lose the human qualities that have historically made us lovable, reprehensible, vulnerable, and emotionally and physically connected to our earth? Will we lose the culture we have attained, and the deep appreciation for exquisite food, art, and symbolism?

Please share your thoughts.