There is a lot of press coverage at the moment on the subject of intelligent robots and their potential replacement of human intelligence. Are we indeed creating a robotic species which will become more powerful than ourselves?
It is a consideration which is both exciting and scary at the same time. History has shown us that inventions can be used or abused. Tools are there for deployment but until now humans have made the decisions around how they are to be used. But what if the advance of artificial intelligence created entities that could ignore human direction and simply decide for themselves? What if future robots had no regard for the survival of humanity and took it on themselves instead to focus their intelligence on the survival of their own species?
Whilst it would be crazy to say “never” it is a prospect that is a lot further away than most literature suggests. These prophecies of doom are largely predicated on the premise that artificial intelligence will advance to such a level of sophistication that it will replace the human brain, as witnessed, for example, by well-known successes of AI machines over global chess masters. The reality, however, is that this is only one part of the story. The real issue is that the human brain does not exist in isolation from the wider human intelligence system. AI itself may to some degree eventually be able to match the logical circuitry of the brain but human intelligence is so much more.
To understand this better we need to refer to the “triune brain”. This is the term used by neuroscience to reflect the fact that the human brain has evolved through three distinct evolutionary stages.
Human logical capability resides in the cortex, the outer and youngest region of the brain. It is the area where we have taken our thinking ability well beyond the levels of other living species. It is also the area which lends itself most to AI replication as it operates fundamentally on digital principles. Yet only 20% of human intelligence resides at this level: the rest sits at the unconscious level, and this covers both the limbic and basal regions of the brain.
The limbic region, often referred to as the mammalian brain, is wrapped in the centre of the brain and works on analogue principles. This means that it is state sensitive and the essential ingredient is energy. As humans we can sense each other’s energy without any involvement from the logical brain. This limbic interchange is an essential part of human interaction, mutual understanding and social cooperation. So, robots of the future will not only need to possess logical capability, they will also need to be energetically sensitive.
And the challenge goes further. The limbic system of the brain has critical neural connections to the heart. The heart itself operates its own neurological system and is a vital partner to the brain in the conduct and experience of our lives. So, to really replace us, robots will need hearts as well as brains! (makes me think of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz!).
Then we have the basal layer of the brain, the oldest region, often called the reptilian brain. This is located just above the brain stem and is where our instincts reside. Our instincts are derived from our genetic programming, in essence our DNA. Our DNA is nature’s means of passing on through the generations the survival and development lessons learned by our predecessors. They form a critical part of our intelligence system and our response to our environment. So now, to truly take up the banner of human replacement, robots with not only need to have hearts but also an evolutionary DNA which enables hereditary learning!
I don’t think we need to worry too much for the moment…