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Almost human

india Updated: Sep 23, 2007 22:57 IST
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It’s no longer man and the machine. It’s man or the machine. Artificial intelligence (AI) experts at a conference recently predicted that AI would one day leave humans behind on the evolutionary ladder, changing the very definition of what it means to be human. They caution for ethical guidelines to be in place so these tech advances would help, rather than harm, mankind.

Computing has galloped since 1965, when Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that the computer chip’s capacity would double every two years. In contrast, the evolution of modern humans from primates has only seen a three-fold increase in brain capacity. The cortex, for instance, accommodates a billion bits of retrievable information that computers transfer from one electromagnetic memory to another in seconds. AI performs tasks that require thinking skills similar to human intelligence. As biotechnology, quantum computing and nanotechnologies organise AI along biological lines, it will some day even have sexual identities, personalities and ‘feelings’. Bio-engineers have already created bionic chips: human cells with layers of silicon, incorporating live cells in an electrical circuit — a man-machine interface where neurons and integrated circuits hum with synchronised electrical fidelity.

But many scientists believe AI would never pass the Turing Test, a guiding principle for AI research. Devised in 1950 by Alan M. Turing, it declares that AI is achieved only when a machine behaves so much like a person that it’s impossible to tell the difference. Well, we know of several human abilities that even the fastest computers will probably never emulate. Write a boring column on AI, for instance :-).