Will humankind’s evolution merge with strong artificially intelligent machines (SAMs)? While no one really knows the answer to this question, many who are engaged in the development of artificial intelligence assert the merger will occur. Let’s understand what this means and why it is likely to occur.

While humans have used artificial parts for centuries (such as wooden legs), generally they still consider themselves human. The reason is simple: Their brains remain human. Our human brains qualify us as human beings. However,  by 2099 most humans will have strong-AI brain implants and interface telepathically with SAMs. This means the distinction between SAMs and humans with strong-AI brain implants, or what is termed “strong artificially intelligent humans” (i.e., SAH cyborgs), will blur. There is a strong probability, when this occurs, humans with strong-AI brain implants will identify their essence with SAMs. These cyborgs (strong-AI humans with cybernetically enhanced bodies), SAH cyborgs, represent a potential threat to humanity, which we’ll discuss below. It is unlikely that organic humans will be able to intellectually comprehend this new relationship and interface meaningfully (i.e., engage in dialogue) with either SAMs or SAHs.

Let us try to understand the potential threats and benefits related to what becoming a SAH cyborg represents. In essence, the threats are the potential extinction of organic humans, slavery of organic humans, and loss of humanity (strong-AI brain implants may cause SAHs to identify with intelligent machines, not organic humans, as mentioned above). Impossible? Unlikely? Science fiction? No! Let understand first why organic humans may choose to become SAH cyborgs.

There are significant benefits to becoming a SAH cyborg, including:

  • Enhanced intelligence: Imagine knowing all that is known and being able to think and communicate at the speed of SAMs. Imagine a life of leisure, where robots do “work,” and you spend your time interfacing telepathically with other SAHs and SAMs.
  • Immortality: Imagine becoming immortal, with every part of your physical existence fortified, replaced, or augmented by strong-AI artificial parts, or having yourself (your human brain) uploaded to a SAM. Imagine being able to manifest yourself physically at will via foglets (tiny robots that are able to assemble themselves to replicate physical structures). In my book, The Artificial Intelligent Revolution, I delineate the technology trends that suggests by the 2040s humans will develop the means to instantly create new portions of ourselves, either biological or non-biological, so that people can have a physical body at one time and not at another, as they choose.

To date, predictions regarding regarding most of humankind becoming SAH cyborgs by 2099 is on track to becoming a reality. An interesting 2013 article by Bryan Nelson, “7 Real-Life Human Cyborgs” (www.mnn.com/leaderboard/stories/7-real-life-human-cyborgs), demonstrates this point. The article provides seven examples of living people with significant strong-AI enhancements to their bodies who are legitimately categorized as cyborgs. In addition, in 2011 author Pagan Kennedy wrote an insightful article in The New York Times Magazine, “The Cyborg in Us All” that states: “Thousands of people have become cyborgs, of a sort, for medical reasons: cochlear implants augment hearing and deep-brain stimulators treat Parkinson’s. But within the next decade, we are likely to see a new kind of implant, designed for healthy people who want to merge with machines.”

Based on all available information, the question is not whether humans will become cyborgs but rather when a significant number of humans will become SAH cyborgs. Again, based on all available information, I believe this will begin to significantly occur the 2040. I am not saying that in 2040 all humans will become SAH cyborgs but that a significant number will qualify as SAH cyborgs. I do predict, along with other AI futurists, that by 2099 most humans in technologically advanced nations will become SAH cyborgs. I also predict the leaders of many of those nations will be SAH cyborgs. The reasoning behind my last prediction is simple. SAH cyborgs will be intellectually and physically superior to organic humans in every regard. In effect, they will be the most qualified to assume leadership positions.

The quest for immortality appears to be an innate human longing and may be the strongest motivation for becoming a SAH cyborg. In 2010 cyborg activist and artist Neil Harbisson and his longtime partner, choreographer Moon Ribas, established the Cyborg Foundation, the world’s first international organization to help humans become cyborgs. They state they formed the Cyborg Foundation in response to letters and e-mails from people around the world who were interested in becoming a cyborg. In 2011 the vice president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, announced that the Ecuadorian government would collaborate with the Cyborg Foundation to create sensory extensions and electronic eyes. In 2012 Spanish film director Rafel Duran Torrent made a short documentary about the Cyborg Foundation. In 2013 the documentary won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival’s Focus Forward Filmmakers Competition and was awarded $100,000.

At this point you may think that being a SAH cyborg makes logical sense and is the next step in humankind’s evolution. This may be the case, but humankind has no idea how taking that step may affect what is best in humanity, for example, love, courage, and sacrifice. My view, based on how quickly new life-extending medical technology is accepted, is that humankind will take that step. Will it serve us? I have strong reservations, but I leave it to your judgment to answer that question.