I have invested considerable time exploring the tipping points in human history. When I say tipping point, I mean a fundamental change in the nature of being human. As described in my Post on the topic, there were two main tipping points in human history: from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, and agriculture to our industrial society.
Today, several drivers are converging to create the possibility of a third. It is through the Growth of knowledge that we advanced our human development for centuries. Our connectedness has accelerated that growth in remarkable ways. As artificial intelligence advances, our base of knowledge expands in ways we don’t yet understand. It is knowledge that drives invention, and we are likely headed towards the greatest period of invention the world has ever known (surpassing the Great Inventions of the second industrial revolution).
With it comes the expansion of machines, new computing paradigms, and biotechnology. It is growth in these areas that leads us towards a third tipping point. A great example of invention in motion is the advancement of brain science. In this recent Article, AJ Dellinger describes Elon Musk’s vision expressed through his company Neuralink. Musk has long been a proponent of merging the human brain with machines. Want to stream music right into your brain – no problem. Want to cure OCD – check. Want to retrain that part of the brain responsible for causing addiction or depression – covered. When asked if his vision for Neuralink addresses these afflictions and more, Musk answers in the affirmative.
Each advancement meets a crossroad at some point: constructive applications that address grand world challenges (e.g., the article referenced above states that Neuralink might provide a legitimate treatment for neurologic conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s), and/or unintended consequences that diminish our humanity (e.g., autonomous weapons).
When viewed through the lens of human development, it is difficult to envision a scenario where society slows this advancement. Opportunity for the paralyzed or disabled to communicate directly with devices like phones and computers are well worth pursuing. However, the ultimate goal for Musk and Neuralink is the chance for humans to merge with artificial intelligence. Do possible unintended consequences take us to that crossroad? The skeptics will say that this is all science fiction. Two examples provided through videos below speak to the rapid progress already made in these areas. A third tipping point indeed. The question is: how far on the visual above does the tip go?