In 1998 Kevin Warwick put a silicon chip in his left arm, enabling the computer of the University of Reading, where he teaches, to track him down, open doors and switch on the light for him. His next experiment will involve a chip which is connected to his nervous system, a radical step toward linking the brain and the body.
The Future entering us:
- genetically modified food.
- implanted devices beyond a heart pacemaker.
- artificial human skin and bones.
- intelligent prosthetics (retinal implants restoring vision in damaged eyes).
Some researchers believe that Cyborgs will be possible in about 50 years.
Do we assimilate machines or do they assimilate us?
Under the title 'The Future doesn't need us' Bill Joy, chief scientist at Sun Microsystems, described advances in three fields: genetic engineering, nanotechnology and robotics. All three of them bearing great dangers as well as huge profits for the human race.
- genetic engineering: gene therapy (cure cancer).
- creation of novel plants and new viruses.
- intelligent self replicating machines.
All three of them are based on the continued growth of computing power enabling us in 10 years to calculate tasks that take a lifetime today to be carried out in half an our.
The problem is that technology advances faster as the human race can adapt to the new situation ending in a technological Armageddon if we don't slow down technical progress or speed up our development. Imagine nanotechnological viruses that wipe clean the planet or self replicating robots that displace human beings.
But to think 50 years ahead is too much in today's quick progress, so if someone is concerned that Frankensteins monster is programmed somewhere on this earth, this concern is probably misplaced, ends Joy.
2001: Why HAL never happened
When it comes to a single machine mastering dozens of humanlike capabilities the picture of artificial intelligence was overdone but today we are surrounded by a wide range of artificial interactive connected intelligent computers.
There was always a mark by which it was decided if a computer was intelligent or not the famous Turing Test:
A human talks to two unknown entities one of which is a human and the other one a computer. If the computer would leave the human unsure which of the two is the machine and which is a human being it would have passed the test. HAL the famous computer out of 2001 Space Odyssey could carry on a conversation for years, in reality no computer is able to do that today.
The big surprise is that what we once thought was hard turned out to be easy to be implemented in a program and what we thought to be easy is nearly impossible.
e.g.: mathematical problems or playing chess are an easy job for computers but when it comes to carrying on conversation or taking the subway is somehow impossible for computers.
The most interesting things the brain does are subconscious, says Danny Hillis (former MIT AI wizard).
Instead of trying to programm an intelligent computer, scientists today try to implement routines that make the computer develop skills by itself thus being the ultimate way to artificial intelligence in their eyes. Surely they start by trying to imitate the "intelligence" of very small insects or even single celled organisms.
So why didn't HAL come to reality. Most probably because the story was written in those ancient times when computers filled whole rooms and the achievements of personal computing and portable devices weren't nearly doubtable. The second reason is the rise of the internet. Why rely on the weather forecast of one HAL-like device when you can log on and get the wisdom of a dozen of weathercasters?
The missing 'W' on the Web
The major of all internet traffic is generatet in the U.S. and most of the online shoppers buy in American e-shops. E-commerce brought up more than $110 billion worldwide 75% of that involved people out of the U.S. But an end is near: according to the Computer Industry Almanac, only a third of Internet users will be American by 2002. Chinese web users are doubling in number every six month. One reason for the current American web domination could be the Silicon Valley work ethic: Working all day and night.
The chance of Europe might be in wireless communication, because the U.S. isn't as quick as us in developing new ways and infrastructure. One reason for the big telecommunication boom in Europe could be the Telephone companies. They still charge per minute and where too slow in introducing new broad-band ways for communication like ADSL or Cable, making it very expensive and slow to be on the Internet.
The death of privacy?
Information technology can be a threat as well as a blessing. Today's online world enables everybody with enough knowledge to find out private things about us from everywhere around the planet. The decisions about online security we take today could determine whether the next generations live in a world enhanced by modern information technology or if they feel themselves victims of it. The fact that information is worldwide available makes it open to interpretation without firsthand knowing of the individuals involved.
How personal data is used on the Internet:
- shopping sites give us offerings depending on our usual buying behaviour.
- They also use data about us to determine our "price flexibility" (maximum amount we might pay for an item).
- web sites could display customized ads to us depending on the sites we usually surf to.
One problem of the loss of privacy is that the Internet spans over the whole world, so what use does it have to make a law against the misuse of information in America if a company can simply switch it's server to Uganda because there is no such law there?
The Cyber Nomads
The first big wave on the net was content,
the second was commerce,
now is the time of service.
- Beerud Shet, cofounder of eLance.com
Freelancers are the Nomads of the 21st century they affect every part in worlds economy and the Internet helps to hire them and it also enables people from Bulgaria to work for a project in the U.S.A. without even going away from their desk.
There are multiple sites where you can post your projects and hundreds of registered e-lancers will apply for it, you will only have to pick out the best one.
But how to understand this new form of worldwide project based economy?
e.g.: The best analogy is the movie industry. If you want to make a movie you put together a team of scriptwriters, actors, musicians, lightning technicians, makeup artists. When the project is finished, the people who made it go back on the open market, being available again to join new projects.
One problem of this globalisation is that it gets harder for new talents to get a job because they don't have so much experience to show, but on the other hand they might be cheaper. So the task is to find cheap workers without sacrificing quality.