HAL 9000        "Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended."
- Vernor Vinge, NASA Vision-21 Symposium, 1993

         Defined as, "the intelligence of a machine that can successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can," Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), or "Strong AI" has been the goal and dream of AI researchers since the mid 1950s. At that time, many researchers in the field believed that AGI would be realized within a few decades. By the 1970s it was recognized that they had grossly underestimated how difficult it would be to achieve this end. By the early 1980s, Japan's "fifth generation computer" project revived interest in Strong AI and set a ten year plan which, by the late '80s, for the second time, failed to achieve what it set out to accomplish.

         Most researchers today choose to focus on more manageable sub problems, also known as Weak AI, Narrow AI, or Applied AI, which they hope may eventually be combined to achieve Strong AI, using an integrated approach. Hans Moravec wrote in 1988 "I am confident that this bottom-up route to artificial intelligence will one day meet the traditional top-down route more than half way, ready to provide the real world competence and the commonsense knowledge that has been so frustratingly elusive in reasoning programs. Fully intelligent machines will result when the metaphorical golden spike is driven uniting the two efforts."

         Exponential growth in computing power (known as Moore's Law) is the driving force behind AGI. It is believed that a sufficiently powerful computer would be able to run a simulation (or emulation) of a human brain, built by scanning and mapping all regions/details of a biological brain. Near-future neuroimaging technologies should be able to scan the brain in sufficient detail as to create a functional equivalent brain simulation. The adult human brain has around 100 billion neurons, each having on average 7,000 synapses (connections) to other neurons. A three-year old child has around 1 quadrillion synapses, which decreases with age until it stabilizes by adulthood at between 100-500 trillion. Futurist, Ray Kurzweil estimates that 1000 quadrillion (1 quintillion) calculations per second (cps) would be required for such a simulation. In the book "The Singularity Is Near," Kurzweil predicts that the requisite computing power and a map of the human brain of sufficient detail will both become available at a similar timeframe (roughly 2015-2025.)



         Due, once again, to the exponential nature of technological acceleration, once achieved, AGI will rapidly evolve into a form that exceeds the intelligence of the smartest human being.



        The brain-computer interface (BCI), also called a brain-machine interface, or direct neural interface, will extend the capabilities of human beings, but it will also end our reign on planet earth as we apply our scientific knowledge to modify not only our environmnet, but also ourselves.

According to Justin Rattner; Intel's CTO,

"perhaps as early as 2012 we'll see the lines between human and machine intelligence begin to blur. Nanoscale chips or machines will move through our bodies, fixing deteriorating organs or unclogging arteries. Sensors will float around our internal systems monitoring our blood sugar levels and heart rates, and alerting doctors to potential health problems."

         Today people usually carry their technology (as discrete cell phones, GPS units, mp3 players, etc.) around with them. As these devices become more powerful and millions of times more compact than they are currently thanks to nanotechnology, it will become more desirable and practical to integrate them directly into the body. Strictly speaking, anyone with enhanced abilities due to integrated technologies can be considered a cybernetic organism, or cyborg. Ultimately all parts of the biological body could in theory be repaired, enhanced or even replaced entirely with nanotechnological parts. Such a person would then no longer be human, but rather transhuman or posthuman.

         Enhancing our intelligence via the integration of 3D nanocircuits that can both 'talk' to and 'listen' to the biological brain will cause drastic changes very rapidly. We are already consciously evolving our physical bodies far faster than evolution, and this situation is about to move into overdrive. In some sense we are engineering our species' own obsolescence/extinction while transforming into, or giving rise to, a new and hopefully improved one.

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