Monday, May 23, 2005

Oh, dear, no, this is too much


With the BBC journalists on strike, it's left to others to produce stories, and inevitably some silly stuff comes out. AFP reports that computer technology may soon become so sophisticated that it will be possible to download the entire contents of someone's brain and re-upload them after the person dies - in effect, making death redundant. AFP credits the story to the Observer, but I can't find it on their website.

Anyway, the pronouncement comes from someone called Ian Pearson who is supposed to be head of the 'futurology unit' at BT. Now, I know BT is potty enough to have something like a 'futurology unit', so let's assume this is not a prank. Here's the World According to Pearson:

While the predictions might sound outlandish, they were merely the product of extrapolations drawn from the current rate at which computers are evolving, Pearson said in an interview with the newspaper.
"If you draw the timelines, realistically by 2050 we would expect to be able to download your mind into a machine, so when you die it's not a major career problem," he said.
"If you're rich enough then by 2050 it's feasible. If you're poor you'll probably have to wait until 2075 or 2080 when it's routine.
"We are very serious about it. That's how fast this technology is moving: 45 years is a hell of a long time in IT."
As an example of the advances being made, Pearson noted that Sony's new PlayStation 3 computer games console is 35 times as powerful as the model it replaced, and in terms of processing is "one percent as powerful as a human brain".
In views which those of a religious persuasion might find hard to handle, Pearson said the next computing goal would be to replicate consciousness.
"Consciousness is just another sense, effectively, and that's what we're trying to design on a computer," he said.
"Not everyone agrees, but it's my conclusion that it's possible to make a conscious computer with superhuman levels of intelligence before 2020."
One of the "primary reasons" for such work would be to give computers emotions, Pearson said.
"If I'm on an aeroplane I want the computer to be more terrified of crashing than I am so it does everything to stay in the air until it's supposed to be on the ground."

Well, I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to be travelling in is a scared aeroplane. If they could program an aeroplane to refuse to travel if global carbon emissions have exceeded a certain level in the previous 24 hours, that'd be more like it.

Will we be able to handle this (literally) mind-blowing technology when it comes upon us?


Post a Comment

<< Home