Computers are already such a normal, everyday fact of life, you may wonder why I even bothered to make a section on my site about them. Everyone has a computer; in fact you are using a computer to read this right now. Whether it’s in the form of a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, these are all computing devices.
Computers have changed just about every aspect of human life. Many of these changes are invisible to most of us, such as the way that computers are saving us energy or helping to solve tough medical and scientific problems. Computers are certainly one of the most powerful tools that humanity has ever created, but what’s their connection to the transhumanist agenda?
Why Do Transhumanists Care?
Computer technology is key to just about every development that transhumanists hope will come about one day. It represents the first time that we have been able to create tools that also have some of the aspects that have made human beings so successful – learning and intelligence.
Early computers were little more than glorified calculators, but once the technology started rolling it quickly and exponentially increased in power. Today a typical smartphone or tablet is just as fast as a multi-million dollar supercomputer from the late 80s or early 90s. Modern supercomputers are now so fast that they can accurately simulate incredibly complex natural systems, including parts of the human brain.
Computing technology is getting smarter all the time. They’ve been able to beat grandmasters at chess for decades now, and recently they’ve also taken down the best players of the much more complex game of “Go”. Very recently, IBM’s Watson supercomputer beat top human contestants at one of the toughest language games of all – Jeopardy.
It’s clear that computers are going to get a lot smarter still, but we don’t really know how much smarter. Many transhumanists believe that when we see “strong AI” that at least matches human-level intelligence, there will be an “intelligence explosion”, where artificial intelligences rapidly upgrade themselves until they become virtually godlike. At that point just about everything will become possible and the secrets of the universe may finally reveal themselves.
Not bad for the distant descendant of your laptop.
A Cozy New Home
Transhumanists are also reliant on computers for a hypothetical future technique known as mind-uploading. The idea is to upload a copy of our consciousness and memories into a computer system, so that we can live on without the risks and weaknesses of our flesh. Today’s computers are nowhere near to the power level needed to make this possible, even in principle. In fact, we aren’t even sure how we would do it or how much power we would need. Still, with every new generation of computer technology, it’s a dream that seems more and more within reach.
It’s not just our minds themselves that these future computers will have to house. We also need somewhere to live. For an uploaded mind or a computer-connected brain, that means a simulated world in which we can explore and spend our time. Today we have some pretty good virtual reality, but going further toward telling the difference between what’s real and what’s virtual may very well be an impossible task.
What’s in the Computer Technology Section?
On this part of my site you’ll find a number of articles that outline in much more detail the role that computer technology will play in our future. We look at what life in a simulation could actually be like and chart our where our virtual realities are today and where they may be going. It’s also the place where I discuss Artificial Intelligence and how it will fit into the bigger picture. If you want a good place to start, have a look at my piece on the difference between “strong” and “weak” artificial intelligence.
So please, go ahead and explore this section with interest! You may be living in a computer one day, so it will pay to be familiar with the neighborhood.