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More on our collision path with the future


(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

If we take an MRI image of our brain, we can compare it with other similar brain images. By comparing human attributes tied to one brain scan with a similar list of traits and attributes from a second, we can begin to build a set of assumptions.

By pattern matching brains we can begin to see which brains have the propensity to excel at math, linguistics, gymnastics or three-dimensional design.

As we move further up the food chain in computational power, speed, precision and awareness, our pattern-matching becomes exponentially more refined.

One example would be to uncover which people have some sort of deviant gene and are more likely to become criminals. But we’ll not be able to uncover only those with criminal propensities;t we’ll be able to zero in on those most likely to be repeat offenders.

Similarly, by comparing professional qualities, this type of pattern matching will be able to uncover those with plumbing skills versus those with mechanical engineering skills versus those with psychoanalytical skills.

Just as the “quantified self” is able to measure in precise ways the quality of all inputs and outputs of the human body, the “quantified brain” promises to accurately assess a person's thinking and reasoning ability though a myriad of micro-brain analytical comparisons.

To be sure, this will not only be done with MRIs, but also countless forms of testing, imaging and digitally dissecting the core reasoning and cognitive junctures of the greater human nervous system.

Out of a compendium filled with billions of scans will come a trillion assumptions that can be refined and improved over time.

The Ultimate Music Player Example

Perhaps the best way to explain the capturing of real human intelligence involves the music player of the future. Since music is a very integral part of our lives, we can all relate to the power of listening to the right song at just the right time. But, for each of us, the “right song” is a very different song.

So let’s imagine a music player that only played the “right songs”. One great song followed by another great song, followed by another.

The ultimate music player will do just this. It will be able to assess our mood, our likes and dislikes, whether we're doing something that requires us to be physically active or just sitting comfortably in a chair, it will read our response to the music. The ultimate music player will measure our heartbeat, brainwaves, biorhythms, stress levels, circadian rhythms and a few other sensory inputs that haven't been invented yet, and it will only serve up songs that our body has a positive reaction to. 

This kind of technology will take our mind and mental clarity to a whole new level. It will energize us and at the same time, relax us. It will give us motivation, endurance and determination. If done correctly, it will give us a reason to bound out of bed every morning to tackle a shining new day.

Macro Human Intelligence

Google’s largest computer data centers are built around thousands and thousands of flawed machines that individually fail time and again. With systems for circumventing failures when they occur, the overall machine, in its entirety is more than a little impressive.

People are very similar. We are all flawed individuals, mired in an ocean of personal chaos. But the same imperfections we see on the micro scale change dramatically when we transcend to look at humanity on a macro scale.

In much the same way that Google operates a massively complex machine by changing out individual units on the fly, we will eventually be able to create superhuman intelligence by connecting our own individually flawed brains with a massively coupled super brain.

Final Thoughts

Does a machine have a vested interest in improving the lot of other machines?

In the new television series “Almost Human,” set in the year 2048, Dorian, the humanoid robot referred to in the show as a “synthetic,” comes across another identical-looking synthetic that has not done well in his career, and he decides to come to the rescue. 

Adding human-like emotion and sentiment to a machine makes for a good story line, but it’s far too early to know if it will ever becomes a valid issue. 

What’s clear, however, is that we are just scratching the surface of knowing where all this is going. New forms of intelligence are continually being developed and we are baby-stepping our way to worlds unknown.

As I’ve said before, seeing into the future is like walking through a dark forest with a flashlight that illuminates but a short distance ahead. Each step forward gives us a new perspective, adding light to what was previously dark. The people of tomorrow will simply need a better flashlight.

In the end, we create the future, and then the future creates us!

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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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