Recently Geologists have declared that the era of Holocene has ended with the simultaneous start of a new epoch- the Anthropocene.
Anthropocene era is said to have begun when humans started to significantly affect the ecosystems of the globe. We can say that, it began when man started to completely dominate other species and started to affect the climate and geology on a global scale. Many scientists believe that the development of nuclear weapons around 1940 and their first test-called the Manhattan project, symbolically marks the start of the Anthropocene era.
Era of Machines
The day when the Anthropocene era gets ‘terminated’ and machines start dominating the planet, is not very far away. With the exponential advances in technologies like IT, Robotics, nano technology that the world is witnessing and the increasing acceptance of intelligent machines by people as part of their daily lives, is going to fundamentally affect every aspect of the way we live and the way our future generations would live.
In the last two years there has been an explosion in the market of wearable gadgets. Robots are steadily sneaking their way on to our bodies, in to our living rooms and in to our work place as assistants. The most interesting aspect is people’s adaptation of this new reality. They are wearing miniature computers on their heads, between their ears and on their wrists as well. With this gathering pace, the day when we start embedding nano robots and computers inside our bodies to function more efficiently will become a reality soon. With people already entrusting and putting all their data in the cloud which is basically feeding all our information to machines remotely located half way across the planet, machines probably know more about us than we do ourselves. The dependency that humans come to have on machines, even in this short span of time-fifty years or so, is mind boggling. They are now an inevitable part of our lives. Man is taking the ‘help’ of machines at every step of his daily routine-from being reminded about meetings, knowing about weather and traffic, complex algorithms fixing his appointments, letting them decide what information he comes across on the web and with whom do we meet and share online
Controlling of the lives of humans, who were the undisputed dominant species till now, by machines is already underway. The advances in artificial intelligence is only going to speedup this process.
Elon Musk of Tesla fame and Stephen Hawking, the world renowned physicist have recently warned that the rise of machines through the advances in artificial intelligence technologies could spell the death knell to human kind. Though man thinks of himself as very intelligent, there are several limits to our intelligence and to our ‘way of thinking’. With our limited intelligence we have spawned machines that can now ‘think’-these are replacing men from work as they are more efficient and can work at lightening speed. Scientists worry that this artificial intelligence that is being created by man, may in turn develop a ‘super intelligent’ being on their own. This SI is something which we would not have conceived as possible and because of our limited intelligence we might not have been able to create it ourselves without the help of machines. Because of this, we will not be able to counter or control SI if they go rogue. Also the masters of SI will not be man as they are not developed by humans. These super intelligent beings might regard humans as waste of resources and might decide to eliminate us, becoming an existential threat to mankind.
If that day comes, we may not be in a position to even name the new era, it would probably be named by computers in a weird machine language that we would not even be able to decipher. The biggest reason for this pessimism is that Man in more intelligent than he is wise. Even after knowing the possible harmful effects of our actions we did them so merrily in the past. And there is no guarantee that we would not be repeating similar mistakes in the future as we tend to focus on short term gains and losing sight of long term threats.