Despite common belief, the concept of integrating with machinery isn't new. In fact, one of the most notorious personalities of the Renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci, attempted to create a machine-like night operating on pure mechanics. With modern machinery and computer capability, today’s designs have brought us closer to the concept of the standard “Cyborg” than ever before. Due to recent advancements in artificial intelligence and medical technology, new movements have emerged within the art, technology, and medical sectors.
Not So Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is defined by the Oxford dictionary as:
“the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”
As we learn more about human intelligence and consciousness, we are able to breakdown our decision-making and intellect into biological algorithms based on our experiences and inherent nature. Consequently, in the modern-day, we have begun to utilize self-learning and teaching algorithms that are currently operating all over the web. From the Youtube recommendation algorithm to document filtering algorithms, concepts of machine learning are becoming a big part of our world and taking on roles humans occupied in the past; to think these first algorithms were only introduced a little over two decades ago is astonishing!
Cyborg Integration- Art or Human Enhancement
Cyborg integration as art, or simply cyborgism, began as a movement in the United Kingdom in the mid-2000s. Many artists believed that the meeting point between machinery and human capability brought about new and enhanced capabilities to their work and everyday life. A man who can feel ultraviolet light, a human with fins capable of perceiving atmospheric pressure, being able to feel the quality of air around you- these are not sci-fi fantasies but direct instances of cyborgism amongst self-professed cyborgs- Alex Garcia, Pau Prats, and Manel De Aguas. These superpowers are derived through direct integration with cybernetic implants. These implants integrate machinery into the human nervous system. Cybernetic implants have also been proposed to the everyday individual by Elon Musk’s startup company- Neuralink.
Neuralink is a device that will be surgically implanted into your brain and with it, you’ll be able to communicate with machines and even control them. It will also help study the electrical signals in the brain and arrive at solutions that can help cure various medical problems.
That’s right — we may all become apart of the Cyborg movement in the near future.
Cyborg Machinery in Medicine
The coronavirus pandemic, economical depression, and great advancements in the area of prosthetics are all products of the 2020 calendar year. Arguably the best advancement in human prosthetics thus far are Consciously controlled limbs. These limbs, currently at the beginning of their development cycle, connect the human brain directly to the prosthetic limb. Another prosthetic advancement in the modern day is the bionic arm technology- “By utilizing electricity and robotics to create movement, bionic arms seem to be something we can only dream of in the future, but they’re already being created today. The state-of-the-art prosthetics use muscle sensors connected to the skin, allowing the user to operate the limb effectively” (fishInsurance). Although these advancements are equally impressive and astonishing, prosthetics are much more widely accepted than technologies like Neurolink. Yet again, if we take your average 60’s Beatles-loving hippie and throw them in a time machine into the modern-day, imagine what they would think of our attachment to our cellular devices — which many will argue is an extension of our memory and capability in the modern day. That being said, the types of activities that humans will engage in within the next century are unknown at this point.
Monsters or Machines?
As we embark on this new journey of technological advancements dealing with artificial intelligence, programmers will be forced to question the efficacy and ethics related to their programs to ensure that they are not creating monsters. In the modern-day, the Youtube recommendation algorithm has been attributed to the political polarization of many individuals who fall down recommendation rabbit holes. It starts with one concept that is reasonable and understandable and within the hour, you find yourself watching a conspiracy theory on pizza gate and the satanic elite. The main issue here is that programmers are inherently flawed when it comes to testing their own machine learning algorithms as they are incapable of truly pushing its boundaries and edge cases. Luckily, initiatives such as the Aies Conference have been set forth to discuss the matters of artificial intelligence and ethics — but the real question is: are we too late?
It’s undoubtedly true that artificial intelligence, machine learning, and technological advancement will play a key role in our future as a species. From enhancements to the human physical body to the first-ever “free will” robot, engineers will be the determining factor of the ethics, functionality, and side-effects of their creations.