Artificial Intelligence (AI) and climate change were two main subjects at WEF 2019. Regarding AI, I had interesting encounters, amongst others with Sebastian Thrun, AI professor at Stanford University, with lots of new insights. In my annual letter 2019 to partners and business associates, I had already written the following words on this topic:
In his best-selling book Homo Deus, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari impressively sets out evidence to show that the new religion of the 21st century is the pursuit of infinite happiness and eternal life (for more insights, please also watch his speech at University of California).
In an information age of rapidly evolving technology, many things are possible and the race to achieve them is in full swing in several arenas, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and the control and use of “global data”, including the personal data we generate with our iPhones, fitness trackers and other devices.Thanks to miniaturized computer technology, these devices are interconnected and so can learn not just from us but from each other. Our digital helpers are thus getting much faster and much more intelligent.
Brain scientists tell us that we can soon expect to see a successful simulation of a fully functioning human brain. Google Brain and many others are working on it. In bioengineering, efforts are under way to optimize our DNA, our hormonal system and our brain structure.This work will open up new and undreamed-of ways for us to think, feel, and act. Finally, the optimized organic body may be mutated by the addition of non-organic components to become a cyborg connected to the whole world.
Some will think that this is all still a long way off, or that I am barking up the wrong tree, but modern biotechnology is making impressive advances. People are already living with technical enhancements, such as pacemakers, artificial limbs, complex prostheses, and eye and ear implants. Around 10% of the US population can already be classed as cyborgs in the technical sense – combinations of human and machine.
Some people worry that such developments mean that artificial intelligence could ultimately be used to upgrade humans into a superior inorganic being that will one day face us as an enemy. The trouble is, you think you have time. Our species stands at the beginning of a new chapter, and it’s up to us to determine who and what we are. The opportunities seem to me to be breathtaking.