There is no shortage of theories or perspectives on the ever-approaching post-singularity future. While we're slowly but surely adapting to the presence of robots and artificial intelligence in our everyday lives, the big questions of the world that the next generation will inherit – where self-aware robots may not only be a reality but a normality – have already begun to surface.
Popular futurist commentator and professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York, Michio Kaku, recently commented on the potential state of the human condition in a post-singularity world on the Curiosity Podcast and talked about the possibility of merging with robots to form evolved super-human fusions of man and machine over the course of the next century.
"Well, let's take a look at not this century, but the next century, the 22nd century. When we do have self-aware robots. Robots that can remove that chip in their brain that is a fail-safe system. Then, what do we do? At that point in the 22nd century, I think we should merge with them."
Cody Gough: "Merge with robots?"
Michio Kaku: "That's right…I think in the future when we merge with robots, we'll still pretty much look like us except we'll have superhuman powers. For example, we can have an avatar – a mechanical avatar, not an imaginary one – and our conciseness could be downloaded into a mechanical avatar, which has superhuman powers. We could explore the universe as a robot."
This concept is not one unfamiliar to the sci-fi universe, bearing some similarity to everyone's favourite James Cameron movie that isn't about boats. The idea of a superhuman synthesis of man and machine offers great potential for exploring ideas that we never dared gave any thought to before due to our physical limitations. As Kaku rightly suggested,
"We could explore the universe as a robot"
And in a world that is witnessing the consequences of global warming and entertaining the notion of our planet being unfit for our succeeding generation, this carries significant weight. Kaku suggests that the singularity, and developments leading up to it, may be the sole evolution that saves humanity.
However, while the potential for progression for humankind in a post-singularity world is seemingly endless, the sceptic in me cannot help but draw parallels to the ideas of the Übermensch (think Superman but as an aristocratic and pseudo-fascist God replacement) and eugenics-based ideas that dominated the late 19th and early 20th century. While the idea of the evolution of the human condition to grow beyond our physical limits is tempting, putting it into practice opens the door to a whole new wave of class-based struggles. The potential for a dystopian future where we are sorted by the scope of our superhuman ability (if any), and the idea of needing to pay up to avoid becoming effectively a second-class citizen, is pretty scary.
But hey, you won't be having kids with robots just yet.