The current exponential expansion of the power and efficiency of computers, robotics and artificial intelligence is allowing machines based on these advances to increasingly take over large numbers of jobs that humans used to do albeit much less efficiently. With the advent of “Big Blue” which recently won at Jeopardy, it seems that such machines it seems that the machines now have the capability of learning large amounts of new information and ultimately beating humans at any game we might devise. “Big Blue” can fight our best chess masters to a draw and beat them if they are not on their game. And, I mean beat them all the time. The machines do not get tired. They do not need a break to eat or a drink of water or time to exercise. They do not need a salary or insurance or retirement benefits. They will simply work out all the problems they are assigned to work out.
These are intelligent robots and will learn from their early mistakes. We can always expect early versions to improve, to get better and better with time. This will be true for every kind of human endeavor imaginable. If you set up a competition between the machine and humans. Self-improvement if not self-awareness can be programmed into these smart systems. In time, we may even build in desired behaviors so that humans become more and more comfortable interacting — or perhaps one should say interfacing — with them. In time, such machines may even be programmed to sense a reward through the responses it “experiences” toward the humans with which it interacts.
This is not to say that machines will have feelings, but likely at least can be programmed to have and to show both positive and negative responses and to build on the former and to avoid the latter, but to build on both while it learns. In time it may be hard to distinguish the responses our robotic machines will make of their experience from those of most fellow humans . Although we may program a satisfactory kind of rudimentary emotional development into our self-learning smart robotic machines, they are likely to remain different in substantive ways from the decisions our own brains may make given similar learning challenges.
Aside from the possibility of developing semi-autonomous smart machines that are mostly independent, we will likely also increase and make for effective use of smart machines to interface with us directly. The age of bionic assistance to human survival has actually been with us for some time in the form of devices as simple as a heart pacemaker or as complex as an implantable artificial heart. However, current advances are such that we may soon begin to see new devices that will interface with humans in a manner that is indistinguishable from magic, particularly as we build more and more power and capability into smaller and smaller devices. We are rapidly moving past small implantable sensors and electrodes that may extend our ability to reconnect vital systems that have become disconnected; to make limbs and other defective elements of the body work well again.
With extended bionic interfaces problems due to stroke, loss-of-vision, amputated limbs, and even some serious spinal cord injuries may be assisted or even controlled and improved in a natural way with what amounts to methodical information exchange between residual human body parts and smart implantable machine-like systems such that a single functioning bionic interface develops.
In the beginning this may be similar to building complex electronic-robotic artificially intelligent system with the capacity to learn and adjust its self-reprogrammable interface. The machine will learn from what it finds and optimize the broken down cellular structures while potentially, in longer term, using its own programming to supplement cellular functions that are no longer viable. Sometimes our smart system robotic interfaces will quickly restore some functions, but time may show us that some other functions are no longer retrievable. But with additional electronic supplementation, the former part defective, part functioning human system may be restored with a unique bionic interface.