Futurists are making bold predictions again. The kind that are both exciting and unsettling at the same time.
The basic prediction is that all of us could have a digital double that talks to people on our behalf, learns what it can about who we are and what we are like and, in one of the strangest uses yet, can mimic us to the point that we could live on for our loved ones after we are gone. Hearing “The Twilight Zone” theme yet?
In a recent article in The Daily Mail, it predicts this kind of move by 2020. It notes that we already have computers that can trace where we are and know where we need to be and how to get there. These computers can also anticipate what we need and provide it for us.
Further, some of these futurists are predicting that we will be able to upload our consciousness by as soon as 2030, achieving what has only been dreamed up on the big screen to this point, Singularity.
One of the biggest things I think about at moments like this is the thought, “Should we?” Kind of like the moment in “Jurassic Park” where Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) says of what is happening at the park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop and think if they should.”
That is where I wonder if we go off course here. Computers are becoming more and more sophisticated, but they need not be anything more than a machine that is made to serve us. If we take these next steps, then the machines could become us. Imagine being able to talk to someone that has been dead for many years. We couldn’t experience it ourselves, but our children might be able to talk to us, or someone programmed to be just like us, long after we are gone. Is that not the least bit, dehumanizing?
I am not one that is afraid of technology. I use computers every single day of my life and have done so for many years now. Still, there needs to be a sense of morality beyond just creating the next big breakthrough. Some of those breakthroughs are fantastic like the smartphone. Some of them could change the playing field forever and we need to be wary of such changes and what they will do to humanity as a whole.
(accompanying photo by flickr user Jose Camoes Silva, license here)