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Artificial intelligence, bionic men and human consciousness

To what extent are we becoming or could become ‘transhumans’? And to what extent can human-designed devices become more human, and even think like or better than humans – beating the ‘Turing test’, long thought to distinguish humans from computers?


In 2002 Professor Kevin Warwick embarked on a ground breaking experiment Cyborg Project 2.0, in which a one hundred-electrode array was surgically implanted into his own left wrist, connecting his nervous system and an external ‘gauntlet’ housing supporting electronics. The purpose of this experiment was to send signals back and forth between Professor Warwick’s nervous system and a computer via the internet, and most notably, to communicate with his wife Irena who also had an array implanted in her arm. This was noted as the first direct electronic communication between the nervous systems of two humans. In May 2011, ‘Milo’, a Serbian living in Austria, volunteered to have his hand amputated so he could be fitted with a bionic limb connecting to and controlled by the nerve signals in his arm, which had been paralysed in a motorcycle accident, and already partly repaired using nerves from his leg. Meanwhile, developments in stem cell science and synthetic biology have brought the prospect of replacing flesh with ‘synthetic’ flesh a whole lot closer, raising further questions about where man ends and machine begins.

Robots, the 2005 computer-animated comedy film, reflects a real intellectual tension between a relatively fixed, physiologically-based conception of humanity and the increasingly sophisticated world of computer-based devices with human characteristics. It seems we are blurring the distinction between the human form we were born with and the modified form increasing numbers of us now have through medical intervention, as well as sophisticated technologies that interface with our physiology.

To what extent are we becoming or could become ‘transhumans’? And to what extent can human-designed devices become more human, and even think like or better than humans – beating the ‘Turing test’, long thought to distinguish humans from computers? Will it become possible to download and store human knowledge from our brains, and upload to the next generation, potentially speeding the process of advancing human capabilities? And what about the exciting prospects offered by biologically-based computing - imagined and designed by humans, but with unpredictable potential, far beyond the human-scripted programmes associated with existing computing? Could human consciousness really be superseded by our own creations?


Speaker(s):

Prof Raymond Tallis | talks | www
Dr Kathleen Richardson | talks
Professor Kevin Warwick | talks
Stuart Derbyshire | talks

 

Date and Time:

25 October 2011 at 6:30 pm

Duration:

1 hour 30 minutes

 

Venue:

John Rylands Library
150 Deansgate
Manchester
M3 3EH


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Organised by:

Institute of Ideas
See other talks organised by Institute of Ideas...

 

Tickets:

Free

Available from:

Advanced booking required. Please email Manchester Salon to reserve a place.
www.manchestersalon.org.uk/

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