What we see today is a profusion of technologies designed to increase intelligence. But whose intelligence is it, that of humans or that of machines increasingly designed to hybridize with the intelligence of humans? What is the project of this immense technological deployment?
Sculpture by Ossip Zadkine "Homo Sapiens" 1933/1935
RUNNING WITH INTELLIGENCE is "inextinguishable" in machines, to use the words of the German philosopher Günther Anders. The exponential growth of means of calculation, which Moore's law predicted, is verified every day. Memory capacities have made dizzying leaps, as has miniaturization. Quantum computers have moved beyond the prototype stage. So-called biological or DNA computers are expected to become operational in about ten years' time.
We are in the rising part of an extremely rapid development curve that affects not only computers, but a considerable number of objects that will become increasingly intelligent and connected to each other. The law of development for these machines is to break down the boundary between human intelligence and artificial intelligence.
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One of the references on the subject, Ray Kurzweil... (1), now prefers to speak of "increased intelligence" to clearly mark the inevitable fusion between men and machines. Artificial Intelligence is based on the modelling of living organisms to reproduce their functions. This requires considerable computing power, which is possible today and will be even more so tomorrow. (2) . Hans Moravec, one of the fathers of intelligent robotics, believes that we are engaged in an evolutionary mutation (3) . A metatransition caused by the exponential explosion of computing power at the service of hyper-informational objects. Moravec speaks of "singularity", i.e. a zero point from which a completely new universe will emerge, where Homo sapiens 2.0 will appear.
The symbiosis that occurs between human organisms and artificial entities metamorphoses utopias or the beginnings of collective intelligence into very concrete and immediate prospects of increased intelligence. This opens up a radically new field in the history of mankind. The hyper-informational force that they have liberated and made their daily life their own is now entering the micro-worlds of biology and matter. A phenomenon of immeasurable scope then takes place: intelligence penetrates fields that were previously inert or inaccessible, thus producing a new form of hybridization in which man is at once the producer, the subject and the object.
Every day, the tintammaresque news informs us of a new technological breakthrough in a previously forbidden territory: the gene itself. Genetic engineering, with its restriction enzymes, ligases and transfer vectors, is discovering the language of molecular programming, transforming biology into the "science of biological information processing".(4) .
The micro-worlds of biology are becoming the models for the new alchemists of matter. By observing the structure of molecular membranes more closely (5)Inspired by this, engineers are creating "intelligent materials", implantable biotech chips, molecular machines capable of machining nanometric materials, proteins, the DNA itself, the micromotors at the heart of cells, microtubules and flagella. They now know how to direct human cells, especially nerve cells, so that they repair themselves in the event of injury, and how to implant miniaturized reservoirs of drug substances delivered when and where they are needed in the human body.
The techniques of the 21st century possess the secret of combining the living and the artificial. They know how to place, at the heart of our most banal machines, molecular microcomponents, hybrids made up of silicon and living cells, neuro-chips that cultivate living neurons in their silicon support, biotransistors with a computing capacity that is out of all proportion to their simply electronic predecessors, which can be controlled and piloted remotely. They can link the computer directly to the living world by installing bioelectronic interfaces between man and machine, thus producing links of intelligence in which both are hybridized.
These "exploits" are not futuristic fantasies, they are the results of work currently being carried out all over the world by a host of researchers whose genius is in constant demand as a result of economic competition and memory selection. This research, designed to infuse hyperinformation into all the workings of matter and life, is increasingly revealing its impact on our daily lives, now or in the very near future.
(1) Ray KURZWEIL, The Age of Spiritual Machines, Penguin Books, 1999
(2) Examples of the successful synthesis of simple DNA such as that of the polio virus already show the way: scanning and digitizing living organisms to recreate artificial equivalents capable of interfacing with them. Cf: Jean-Paul BAQUIAST, op.cit.
(3) Hans Moravec, Robot, Oxford University Press, 1999.
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(4) Joël de ROSNAY, De la biologie moléculaire à la biotique : l'essor des bio-, info- et nanotechnologies, in Cellular and Molecular Biology, n° 47, 2001, pp. 7-16.
(5) Thanks in particular to "scanning tunneling microscopes".
To go further : Homo sapiens 2.0" book - Max Milo Editions