Artificial intelligence is getting smarter every day. While we have a long way to go before robots become self-aware, any robot that comes to know it's a robot could kick off the machine uprising that so many science-fiction dystopias warn about. Fortunately, there might be another way — at least according to renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.
My Heart Is Human, My Blood Is Boiling, My Brain I.B.M.
"Robots are pretty stupid now. However, eventually they'll be as smart as a mouse, then a rat, then a rabbit, then a cat, then a dog. By the end of the century, they may be as smart as a monkey," Michio Kaku told us on the Curiosity Podcast. "But by end of the century, yeah, Elon Musk is right. They could become self-aware. At that point they're dangerous."
Dr. Kaku was referring to the alarming predictions about AI expressed by Elon Musk, who that feels artificially intelligent machines could threaten the human race in the future. Mark Zuckerberg, however, has differing views on AI. He's more optimistic, saying they'll be a boon for business in the near future. "I think both are right," Kaku offered. "I think Zuckerberg is right initially, in the short-term, because AI will give us prosperity, jobs, will reinvigorate the economy. In the long-term, however, we have to realize that we can't be naïve."
And if robots become self-aware in the next hundred years, as he predicts, then being naïve could make humans go the way of the dinosaurs (hint: they're extinct). Enter the future of the human race. "Let's take a look not at this century, but the next century, the 22nd century, when we do have self-aware robots," Kaku said. "Then what do we do? At that point in the 22nd century, I think we should merge with them."
Robots Can Be Sexy, Too
So what will our trans-human descendants look like? Will we have huge night-vision visors covering our eyes? Electrodes dangling from our heads? Don't worry. Future humans will make sure their Instagram selfies still look good.
"We're not going to have brains in a vat of liquid that simply think," Kaku said. "We have something that I call the 'caveman principle' — or the 'cavewoman principle.' Our emotions haven't changed for a hundred thousand years. After you have food and shelter and a mate, what do you want? You want to look good. You want to have the prestige of the opposite sex. You want to have admiration. That's what you want. You can't have admiration if you look like a brain in a vat of liquid or electrodes dangling from your head like a freak."
It makes sense that when we merge with robots, we'll still pretty much look like we do today. We just might have superhuman powers. Researchers are already working on developing super-strong synthetic muscles, a bionic lens that could give you superhuman vision, and a brain implant that could let you translate thoughts into computer code. And once the Human Connectome Project maps the human brain in its entirety, Kaku predicts we may be able to transfer our entire consciousness into powerful mechanical avatars.
If you think this all sounds like science fiction, then Kaku agrees with you. "However, we will have this technology in a hundred years," he says. And even if we don't have that technology quite yet, he's pretty confident that aliens already do. Just remember to steal something if you get abducted by them.
Hear more futuristic wisdom from Dr. Michio Kaku, including his thoughts on interstellar travel, artificial intelligence, human immortality, and alien contact, on the Curiosity Podcast. Stream or download using the player below, or find the episode everywhere podcasts are found, including iTunes, Stitcher, and Gretta.