Twelve dead monkeys and a resurrected grandfather blur the boundaries of the self | Technology

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“I always wanted to tell you that I was very excited to attend your wedding.” In a lesson in sentimental pornography, a synthetic voice uttered this sentence to bring tears to the eyes of a woman who took part in experimenting with the program. The anthill. This voice, recreated with artificial intelligence from a real recording, simulated that of his grandfather, who died the day after this marriage. Some families already resuscitate their deceased with similar systems, it is an emerging market around mourning, but they do not record their spontaneous reaction to broadcast it on prime time.

Ten years ago, artificial intelligence was an academic matter, not the spearhead of geopolitics, technocapitalism and the Pablo Motos agenda. At that time, Google launched one of the largest efforts in this field: feeding a silicon brain made up of 16,000 processors with millions of YouTube videos. After all this enormous effort, a pattern emerged: kittens. The machine learned to recognize what a cat was. “How many cats does a child need to see to understand what a cat is?” First, we don’t know how he does it, but from just one example you can already recognize them,” Ramón López de Mántaras, a CSIC expert in this field, told me years ago.

Sam, 18 months old, during the experiment.Wai Keen Vong

Now, an experiment published in Science opens a worrying door: they fed a machine with the experiences of little Sam, who wore a helmet with a camera between 6 and 25 months. This program understood how a child acquires the word “cat” through the intersection of visual and verbal stimuli from their environment. And it aims to reproduce this learning, without millions of views, only with the same experiences as a child who faces the world from his first steps.

Let’s expand the experience. This machine that learned with Sam could learn much more if it continued to record its life, what it sees, what it hears, what it says and what it does. In the same way that they made the deceased grandfather speak, we were able to recreate a much more sophisticated Sam, with all his experiences, with all his voice patterns, but also behavior, capable of representing him. We carry our cell phones with us all the time, and soon they will be devices that also record images, like braces and glasses. This already exists on the market and, in the meantime, conversational artificial intelligence, chatgepetés, they are already capable of playing more and more specific roles. It is not difficult to imagine that in this way we will each have an avatar that speaks for us: he will chat with yours to see when we can meet, with my boss to ask for a day off and he will ask the no one from my mother how it what it does with the new medicine.

Sherry Turkle, an expert on our relationship with technology, has been warning for decades about how we lose empathy by introducing intermediaries with screens and distancing ourselves from real conversation. We no longer call our friends, we give them a as; we follow his life in his stories, as we do with famous people; We don’t have coffee, we let them see them on WhatsApp. In his 2015 book To defend the conversation (Attic), already warned that we treat machines almost as if they were human and people almost like machines, to which “we put break in the middle of a conversation to look at our phones. Since we don’t pay 100% attention to it because of cell phones, “interacting with machines doesn’t seem like a big loss.” He had earlier written: “Technology catalyzes changes not only in what we do, but also in the way we think. » He published it in 1984 in a book titled The second me.

Elon Musk during the presentation of his brain implant machine.Neural link (AFP)

40 years ago, you could not imagine the depth of change we are witnessing. On Tuesday, Elon Musk announced a new step on his path to the brain iPhone. His company, Neuralink, implanted a chip into a patient’s gray matter. It’s not even the first to do so: many have already been implanted and are used to experimentally treat Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, to improve speech or cognition. A man completely immobilized by ALS, who had never spoken to his four-year-old son, was able to suggest that they watch a Disney film together thanks to this neurotechnology. But Musk’s tweet (this is all the information we have) caused a lot of excitement: because we know that the scale of his ambitions is only comparable to those of his verbal diarrhea.

Musk doesn’t like to wait for the light to turn green: Neuralink carried out the implantation while he had a complaint on the table for the death of twelve monkeys during the experimental phase of these chips. Its first product, called Telepathy, is designed to allow people with disabilities to control devices with their minds. But its ambition encompasses deep integration between the human brain and artificial intelligence, connecting us to machines to improve our cognitive abilities, instantly accessing information and communicating through thought. Push the boundaries of the human experience.

Are we going to hand our brains over to Musk? The trajectory of any emerging technology always leans toward money. Artificial intelligence is already in the hands of technocapitalism, more concerned with making us waste time using its products than with improving humanity. Of the 30 largest neurotechnology companies in the world, all but one choose to share our brain data with other companies.

It is precisely for this reason that neuroscientists like Rafael Yuste, from Columbia University, have been promoting the promulgation of neurorights for years: because they know that with implants like Musk’s we can, already today today, read minds, modify behavior, alter perception. “We have a historic responsibility. “We are in a time where we can decide what kind of humanity we want,” he assured me as he launched his campaign. Today, he tells me during a video call, he continues to try to get countries to legislate “beyond declarations of intent,” like the one he promoted. Spain in the EU.

All this news shows that technology will extend our thoughts and our personality beyond our environment, beyond our life and even beyond our will. Did deceased grandparents want to go have fun The anthill? Will avatars grow up with the babies of the future? Has anyone thought about naked women and pornonifiedfrom Taylor Swift to Almendralejo, developing those apps?

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