General Question

troubleinharlem's avatar

Are you nervous about this theory that humans will be merged with robots in 2045? Why or why not?

Asked by troubleinharlem (7978points) February 17th, 2011

Ignore the number of responses!

So… in the Time magazine we got today, this article was right in front. I read through it with this sort of creepy feeling (accompanied by this song by Zager and Evans) and it just blew my mind.

Do you think that in the future we will be one with these machines?

Is this a possibility that you could see yourself being a part of?

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54 Answers

janbb's avatar

Luckily, I’ll be dead by then, but I also think we don’t know what will be coming down the pike by 2045 and there’s much more urgent things to worry about.

mattbrowne's avatar

Kurzweil suggested this many years ago and his main justification is accelerating change.

The process of merging machines with humans has already begun. There are pacemakers and cochlear implants. There are even chips being implanted into the brains of paralyzed people acting as a remote control for tv sets triggered by a simple thought.

But we still haven’t succeeded in reverse engineering the human brain. We still don’t understand the language of this wondrous organ. And it might be trickier than Kurzweil expects.

Researchers have tried for decades to manufacture DNA and proteins using only the needed elements as input such as H, C, N, O and P. They are still failing in the year 2011. So even with accelerated change over the past 50 years not much has happened since Miller–Urey experiment.

Am I nervous? No, because we humans are in control how we want to use and limit technology. We might choose to not do everything that is possible. When we learn how to clone humans the vast majority of people will probably choose not to use the technology.

syz's avatar

I rarely worry about nebulous threats in the distant future.

coffeenut's avatar

Lol….The fist computer was what…..75yrs ago…1936? and very few are just getting to AI status (Watson) that needs a cooled large room to operate in and with our PC/MACs nowhere near that level of computing power…. Getting Watson to the general public ie: size/price (like current computers) will take a long time…..Than getting it from it’s current level to Human brain AI level will take even longer. I think Neither will happen by 2045. Let alone be able to incorporate a Human mind into the computer….

Spreader's avatar

When we talk of man’s way to something else, the question arises, Can there be any other kind of rule over the whole earth than man’s rule? The evolutionist and the materialist will emphatically answer No! But they stubbornly blind themselves to the facts of history. Man is certainly not ruling the rest of the visible, tangible universe, even by means of his rockets and spacecraft. The Creator of the universe, God Almighty, does that. He rules all the rest of the universe, so why not also the earth? It is impossible to stop him from doing so.. God never gave up his Creator’s ownership of the earth and his right to rule it and its inhabitants. He was ruling the earth when he created man and gave man a perfect start in earthly life. Was there anything wrong or bad about God’s rule then? No. Only perfect conditions would be suitable for his perfect human creatures. A paradise of Eden, a garden of pleasure! In proof that God’s rule is good for its subjects, Genesis 2:8–15. Man did not want God’s rule and that is why we are where we are today.
Gods purpose hasn’t changed. If he wanted robots to rule the earth, he would have created them in the beginning.

ragingloli's avatar

This not a threat, but an opportunity.
I look forward to it.

filmfann's avatar

Integrating machine and man in a way where the machine has any measure of control is probably 100 years away. I am not worried. Maybe I would be if Watson was sentient.

@mattbrowne said: __Kurzweil suggested this many years ago__

At first I thought you meant the Amazing Criswell and I have been laughing ever since.

Crisweil in action

Coloma's avatar

I don’t project into the future and besides, I’ll be 85 in 2045 so I might be dead already anyway. lol

I seriously doubt this will ever come to pass, maybe, but nothing I am going to lose any sleep over.

aprilsimnel's avatar

2045? I’m going to assume that I’ll still be alive then. Eh, it’s no big deal. Adopt, adapt and improve.

mattbrowne's avatar

@filmfann – It got started by him in 1990

and the Singularity is Near was published in 2005.

kevbo's avatar

If it’s true then there seems to be little need to wring our hands over looming issues such as global warming and peak energy. Surely, we’ll have plenty of technology at our disposal to regulate those imagined problems.

Blackberry's avatar

I’m excited to see how the future in general turns out. I’m a little skeptical, of course.

erichw1504's avatar

Not that soon, but it is inevitable.

marinelife's avatar

I think it is one possible scenario. You don’t know what will happen. A group of people could rebel at the thought of impure humans and the trend could be reversed.

I certainly don’t think it is anything to worry about.

Nullo's avatar

I don’t expect that it’ll be mandatory.

bob_'s avatar


I’m very brave.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Scooby's avatar

Nope, not nervous….
I guess I could have a built in remote to control all the technology in the house, then at least I’d know where the hell it was!! The remote that is…… :-/

Cruiser's avatar

@coffeenut If you think about how the first real computer was ENIIAC in 1946 and took up 1,800 square feet and a mere 30 years later we had our first desktop PC and today my DROID phone can do everything and more than my desk top I bought just 4 years ago and it fits in my shirt pocket. I really think Ray is spot on here with his predictions.

john65pennington's avatar

I will not be here, either.

I will say that this theory may have some merit, for this reason:

Man is curretnly replacing human limbs with artificial limbs. Hearts are being replaced with mechnical parts. About the only part left is the human brain.

God gave us a brain to use as we see fit.

Combining a human brain with a robot, crosses the line and is only good in the movies.

Cruiser's avatar

@john65pennington I agree with you but do envision how computer assistance either remotely or as implants will help disabled people, see, hear, walk, think and feel again will be small miracles for sure. But I also envision people even countries using this computer technology in an attempt to rule and or destroy. That will then be TEOTWAWKI.

Soubresaut's avatar

I can see the idea of robots and humans, but separate. (most) Everyone (in tech-savvy places) finds having a computer, cell phone—and usually some sort of mp3 player—normal technology; so I can see how robots will become another technology. A little electronic buddy following us around everywhere. (Hey, that might actually be a little fun!)

Whether or not the robots we create question what life is, I don’t know. I guess it depends on how we make them. And I’m still struggling with defining consciousness for myself, so I don’t know whether or not I’d consider robots conscious.

One thing I don’t believe is that downloading our thoughts into machines will make us immortal. Our thoughts, yes, but not us. I think we’d still be in our bodies (why? how? I don’t know, I just don’t think data transfer would send consciousness as well, whatever it is). So the idea that people are excited and looking forward to and planning this artificial sort of immortality scares me a bit. I guess in short—yes, I’m nervous about the theory.

As to everyone saying they’re not worried because it’s not possible… like what @Cruiser said, in just 30 years impossible became possible with computers, the large bulky monstrosities became desk-sized, and about 30 years after that we’ve got cellphone-computers we stick in our pockets and take with us everywhere.
Before that it was things like planes flying: previously considered impossible. And now we look back at past humans and think ‘wow, were they silly, of course it’s possible.’

I guess I just don’t buy the “it’s not possible, period” concept. Maybe not today, tomorrow, but humans seem to have a very ingenuitive side to them.
I’m not saying I’m not a little skeptical, I am, about a lot of things. But the thing I’m most skeptical about is absolutes one way or another. (I don’t buy into a lot of things, but I don’t buy into not considering them, either.)
And I’m not saying it will be possible in the exact way we imagine it—rarely things are, are they? But if people have a goal in mind and want to get to that goal, they will find a way to at least somewhat get there.

Just personally, though, I think the idea of putting human consciousness into a machine or database is a rather bad goal to reach for.

Fyrius's avatar

I just hope the people building the first general artificial intelligences will know what they’re doing. The Singularity will be the sort of turning point that could have exceptionally nasty consequences if it isn’t done right.
Nasty consequences along the lines of all of humanity being killed off and made into paperclips.

Creating an artificial intelligence is not remotely the same thing as reverse-engineering a human brain, even if the human brain is currently our only reference for what intelligence looks like.
The human brain is a relatively sloppy contraption, clumsily adapted to the task of staying alive on a savannah by an inanimate process that doesn’t even care whether something is good as long as it works. If we’re going to engineer an intelligence ourselves, we will have different goals to adapt it to and use much more efficient methods than evolution. We’d be better off starting from scratch.

Also, why are you talking about DNA and synthetic proteins?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Here’s a more recent article about

I never said I shared all of Kurzweil’s predictions although I find all of them very fascinating. In fact I used the DNA and protein example to show that steady progress can sometimes get interrupted quite dramatically. Biochemists can’t create DNA and protein in a test tube from scratch. We even don’t know how nature did it, although there are a couple of good hypotheses. Maybe the same applies to reverse engineering the brain. Maybe there’s more progress, but at some point we get stuck. Another good example is fusion on Earth.

So simple mergers of humans with technology are feasible but really complex ones might not be. Like replacing head-mounted displays for virtual reality with cables directly linking with our visual cortex bypassing our eyes. Though I think that virtual sex enthusiasts can’t wait for this. Having sex with a computer who directly stimulates their brains.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Fyrius's avatar

(Incidentally, @troubleinharlem, why should we ignore the number of responses?)

6rant6's avatar

Fusion of man and machine is already well underway.

Mostly the add-ons are detachable – ipods, phones, cars, etc. They define who we are, what we do, how long it takes to do it. We make choices to exclude activities where our add-ons would be problematic.

And there are nondetachable technology, too – artificial hearts, hearing implants, ocular implants, timed drug-injecting devices. Really, is it such a stretch to say it’s inevitable that we are going to soon have information rich add-ons that are not detachable?

We are in the era of living long enough to go from “Can’t even imagine that” to “Can’t live without that” in a single lifetime – over and over. Buckle up!

Odysseus's avatar

Getting a virus in 2045 will have a hole new meaning.
Backdoor trojans making people vote in Bush the 3rd. Oh what a mess.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Blackberry's avatar

I think this is somewhat relevant, and really badass. If we can do this, plus a lot of other things, it is possible.

peridot's avatar

I’ll be among the dead at that point, too. Even if I weren’t, I wouldn’t be too fussed about it; we’re already on that path. And there will be other important aspects of life for those living in 2045 aside from this, over which we mortals here and now are speculating madly. Sorry, not much new for me to add.

Except this—I’d worry more about who was determining what components became part of me. At some point just beyond the one where machine/man fusion becomes a fact of daily life, some governing body somewhere will very likely start dictating what you have to/ cannot have incorporated. It’ll be determined by either that or one’s economic standing.

crazyivan's avatar

(sorry, didn’t read all the responses so my apologies if I’m being redundant here)

I agree that this is in our future and I’m excited about it. I don’t think it’s realistic to suggest it will happen so soon since there are major technological hurdles we have no idea how we’ll overcome. Much in the same way that most futurists of 50 years ago assumed we’d have cancer licked by now, I think many of us will be disappointed if we expect to see this in 2045.

Ray Kurzweil is something of an enigmatic lunatic. I’ll grant that he’s brilliant, but he also has a bad habit of not recognizing when he’s talking well outside of his realm of expertise. There are serious problems with his theories that he refuses to address. There are also rumors that he takes several hundred unproven supplements every day and that screams “raging looney” to me…

Still, regardless of the time frame, the question is just as important. I think it is the next logical step in evolution and I welcome it. My fear is that when it comes it will only come to the wealthy and the gap between the haves and have nots will be so significant that the have-nots might just die out altogether…

YARNLADY's avatar

Oh, that would be wonderful, it would come just in time for me, because that’s about all the time I probably have allotted to me. Getting robot body parts would keep me going a lot longer.

Mariah's avatar

Logically, I like this idea. When struggling with certain rebellious body parts, at times I have wished that my consciousness could somehow exist uninhibited by a malfunctioning, needy physical body. The next best thing would be to put consciousness into something mechanical – something that can be repaired and that doesn’t require so much input in order to function.
But at a fundamental, instinctive level, this idea feels very very wrong. I guess I need to do more research on the specific implications here but I find the idea of messing with mortality to this extent very disturbing and very, well, inhuman.

LostInParadise's avatar

It is a direction we are headed in, whether or not it occurs in 2045. I think there is a lot that can go wrong. What will happen when people and machines can be fused together through a combination of electrical and genetic engineering? What happens when we can mass produce sentient robots? What then will be the value of one person’s life?

jerv's avatar

I have read more than enough cyberpunk and seen enough of the other stuff therein come to pass already that I see it as inevitable.

One thing I think I should share here for people to get a look at is the Shadowrun RPG timeline and a more recent bullet-point version of it. They place the first fully functional cyberlimb at 2019, and by 2045, it is not uncommon to see people with a datajack, though stuff like Wired Reflexes is still out of the ordinary and often restricted to law enforcement and the military.

There are all sorts of other things from sci-fi that we have. Space flight, Watson, tiny handheld computers, a camera that plugs into the visual centers of a person’s brain allowing a blind man to see (experimental, but real), and many other things that people thought would remain fantasy. BTW, Shadowrun places commercially available enhancement biotechnology at 2052.

The future ain’t what it used to be, and we ain’t seen nothing yet!

wundayatta's avatar

I hope so. I’d love to rejuvenate my body. Oh man! The things I could do with a twenty year old body!

I think that the brain will turn out to be much more complex than Kurzweil estimates. I also think that the role that the body plays in us being who we are is vastly underestimated by him. He’s an egghead. I’m not sure he truly appreciates his body.

But I’m cool with science fictional futures. I’ll be surprised if the information singularity happens when he says it will. I am also skeptical about machine intelligence, again, in part, because we don’t appreciate the role that a body plays in being human.

RocketGuy's avatar

You will be assimilated!

gorillapaws's avatar

The idea of robotic limbs and sensors to help the blind see and the deaf hear are really positive outcomes of these technologies that I look forward to seeing advance.

As far as IBM’s Watson computer, I think it’s more of an evolutionary step forward. I would be much more impressed if they could figure out how to generate a truly random number in code. That to me would make me reconsider my stance that computers will never be sentient, and will always be pattern recognizers/analyzers.

LostInParadise's avatar

@gorillapaws , Why do you make the generation of a random number your criterion for sentience? People can’t generate truly random numbers either. If you asked a person to write down random numbers, an algorithm could be used to show that they are not really random.

6rant6's avatar

I had a close friend in college with whom I shared this conversation:

Give me a random number!
Give me another random number!

I’m sure you had to be there. But it makes me smile even now.

gorillapaws's avatar

@LostInParadise random number generation isn’t sufficient for sentience, but I believe it would indicate that computers are capable of originating something instead of simply re-arranging/manipulating inputs. I believe truly random number generation would be the simplest form of the behavior necessary for being able to generate ideas, to actually will some bits into existence instead of “mindlessly” following instructions.

Soubresaut's avatar

I’m not understanding. Computers can’t choose randomly? That isn’t what shuffle on mp3s is doing? (I dunno much about the inner “thinking” of computers so it seems random to me).
Isn’t any random anything a re-arranging—of sorts—of previously held knowledge? We “generate” numbers in the sense that we make them up? Again, just don’t understand..?

Nullo's avatar

@DancingMind ‘Random’ numbers and playlists are generated by a formula. Collecting numbers that you encounter throughout the day and assembling them in that order would be closer to true randomness. As @6rant6‘s joke points out, randomness could turn up any number – even repetition.
Make a short playlist sometime, and set it to ‘random’. Count the number of times that songs appear in the same order.

ragingloli's avatar

Computers can not generate random numbers. Everything a computer does is based on mathematics, has a predefined basis to calculate from. Every “random” number generated, including “shuffled” playlists, are called pseudorandom

Soubresaut's avatar

@Nullo and @ragingloli: oh okay—understand it now—interesting—thanks

Fyrius's avatar

“I believe truly random number generation would be the simplest form of the behavior necessary for being able to generate ideas, to actually will some bits into existence instead of “mindlessly” following instructions.”
If that’s part of your criterion for sentience, I think you’re overestimating the sentient. It’s no secret that we utterly suck at randomness. If you walk up to a passer-by and ask them to say something completely random, I think you can bet money that it’s going to have “monkey”, “ninja”, “pirate” or a reference to sex in it.
We don’t have randomness, we have associations.

When it comes to “generating original ideas” with randomness, what you need is a system that reasonably randomly rearranges data and a filter system that identifies and stores useful ideas and discards the incoherent noise. Right?
Well, for that to work, you just need a randomness generator that’s random enough not to be so biased it doesn’t work any more. Anything that gives a roughly even coverage of all the possible configurations will do.

But in any form, a system like that would be slow and inefficient compared to the way we think. We follow learned patterns. We think inside the box. It saves us a lot of time and effort.

I suspect you’re confusing sentience with unpredictability. Don’t do that. Humans are predictable, all right. We predict each other all the time and think nothing of it.
“I better get back to work, or my boss will give me a hard time about it. He’s usually grumpy on Fridays. I bet my co-worker didn’t leave me any coffee again. It would be a cold day in hell before he cleans up his desk. He’ll ignore me if I ask him to. My roommate probably isn’t home yet. My neighbours don’t mind if I play loud music.”

jerv's avatar

@Fyrius “We don’t have randomness, we have associations.”
Yes, but some of us associate things differently and are accused of being random as a result. Most people think inside the box, but I prefer to think inside a Ziploc bag. You may predict people all the time and think nothing of it, but for some of us, that sort of thing actually does require conscious effort.
I agree that sentience is more rule-based than random, and I think we can agree that computers are great at rule-based behavior. All I am saying is that you can be sentient without behaving in teh way you seem to think humans do. I mean, I don’t think like you describe, yet I am human…. I think.

Fyrius's avatar

On predicting people:
Is that so? But don’t we all expect other people to become aggravated when they step into dog poo, or happy when you give them a present? If I sneak up on someone and blast an air horn into their ear, wouldn’t you expect them to be startled? When you’re buying groceries, don’t you expect the employee to scan all your groceries and give you back your change and a receipt – as opposed to, say, getting up and dancing her personal interpretation of the Swan Lake?
I think we all have expectations about how people will react to certain things. Most of the time, it’s so obvious we hardly even notice we’re actually successfully predicting the choices of a being that’s supposed to have free will.

Well, either way, it doesn’t matter a whole lot. As long as some people can predict people, that means people are essentially predictable.
For the record, I am in no way a genius at predicting people.

My sincerest apologies if I unwittingly accused you of being an alien.
What particular parts of what I described do not match the ways you think your brain works?

LostInParadise's avatar

This Atlantic Monthly article by Michael Sandel does a good job of presenting the case against the singularity.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I do not see it happening, overall I think mankind is far too narcissistic to believe machines will be a better replacement them themselves, even the fat people who could by way of a surrogate automaton live a life where they can actually run upstairs or hop fences if they needed, all the while enjoying their eat whatever, sedimentary lifestyle. I see machine enhancements has a more viable future, being able to put in a Nano chip in a port surgically implanted that will enable you to learn anything without having to sweat years away in college. Or implants that will give you heat seeking or night vision in the dark so you can see that deer 100s of yards off before it is in your headlights, or if there is a person lurking around your property making that strange noise. Maybe some biometric prosthesis to replace a missing limb like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader had.

janbb's avatar

I’ll be dead by then so I’m not worried.

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