I started by claiming that there is a fuzzy area around “intelligence” making it difficult to define and agree on the degree of intelligence demonstrated by a machine. As a second step I pointed out that several criteria we associate with intelligence are step by step fulfilled by machines and there is a clear trend pointing to more and more of these criteria being met in the near future.
Moreover, the decrease in cost of several enabling technologies and their increasing pervasiveness is resulting in a growing number of “things” assuming an intelligent behavior to the point that it is becoming natural to see an object interacting, in an intelligent way with us. Artificial intelligence is not just coming to compare evenly with natural intelligence, it is becoming “natural”.
In turns this is opening up the door to an unexplored domain that we are just starting to consider.
There is another step in the way ahead.
“Our” natural intelligence is on a path that will lead to “our” artificial intelligence (with even bigger issues to confront with).
Take the example of Nucleus 6 by Cochlear. It is an advanced hearing aid working both as a sound amplifier and as a sound transducer that interact with the auditory nerves through a cochlear implant.
It has processing and software that can make a sense of the environment in order to sort out the various ambient sounds and pick up those that really matter to that person at that particular time.
This would give a much better “soundscape” to a person with a hearing deficit.
At the same time, it does not take too much imagination, that same implant can provide “superhuman hearing” to a normal hearing person by selecting certain sounds that cannot be heard by our earing system and converting them into signals that can be perceived. It can, as an example, pick up tiny vibration in an engine and provide a blue collar worker with the capability of diagnosing problems as he could have never done before. I make this just as an example, an easy one to understand, but it is easy to notice that by just providing us with extra-sensorial (or augmented sensorial) capabilities makes us better than others who do not have this capability.
And this is augmentation 1.0! What is it going to happen when more complex information can be delivered directly to the brain or its stimulation can improve the brain processing capabilities? I am not talking science fiction. There are already several lab experiments in this area.
This path from artificial to natural to artificial is exciting in many ways, as well as frightening in many other ways, as anything that we are facing for the very first time with no support from our millions of years of evolution.