Daren Ward, Executive Partner at Reply, discusses how AI is set to make the dream of superhuman abilities become reality.
Tales of humans with superhuman abilities have been with us since our earliest recorded stories. This continues today with the massive success of the Marvel franchise as a testament to our fascination with all things superhuman. Who hasn’t wished to have super strength, see through walls, run at superhuman speeds or have superintelligence?
As it turns out, we may not have to wish much longer. We are about to enter the era of superhuman capabilities. A time when we don’t just come equipped with technology, but where we can integrate it into the hardware of our minds and bodies.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the key driver of these advances. It enables us to take millions of pieces of data and organise it into coherent, real-time solutions, something our brains could never do. Yes, there are genuine concerns that AI will overtake us and that we’ll be competing with technology. But the more likely outcome is a collaboration, where technology will enhance and augment our human capabilities.
Following are a few examples of how this technology will, and in some cases already has impacted and improved our lives. Turning the human into the superhuman.
The human brain is the greatest supercomputer and our knowledge of how it works is notoriously limited. Yet, many scientists and technologist believe we are only beginning to tap into its potential. They are looking at ways to use AI to improve brain function.
Imagine being able to remember the name of every person you’ve ever met. Or being able to override impulse decisions that might not be in your best interest. In the future, AI-controlled brain implants will use machine-learning software to prod an individual’s brain into remembering things. It can also enhance cognitive skills such as judgement, reasoning and comprehension.
In addition, AI holds tremendous potential to help us deal with a myriad of diseases that affect the brain. For example, doctors are already using Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) technology to help epilepsy patients by reducing seizures which are not controlled with medication and where surgery isn’t possible. As time goes on, AI may be able to resolve diseases that we currently have no idea how to treat.
In addition to enhancing our minds, AI has the potential to upgrade our bodies. AI may one day be integrated at a fundamental level in our exoskeletons. Robotic prosthetics are already widely available, in some cases using bionics that can grow with the wearer over their lifetime.
AI also has a role to play in treating disease and injury. For example, Inova, a start-up run by Breed Reply, is currently developing a non-invasive, in-ear device that will measure key vital signs including core body temperature[SM1], heart rate and motion including fall detection. These are constantly measured and sent in real-time to the cloud. By analysing this data, we can increase the chance of early detection of disease or injury, resulting in a better prognosis.
Technology is also challenging the conventional wisdom towards disability. Physical impediments will no longer mean one group is disadvantaged over another. Individuals with hearing or sight loss, could use AI, in conjunction with hardware like smart glasses or bone conduction headphones and prosthetic ears to improve their senses. This also has huge implications for overcoming age-related decline. We could soon have better basic sight and hearing as well as new sense capabilities we have never had before.
Superhuman at work and at home
AI can also help remedy societal and domestic issues. Despite increased employment in the UK, the nation’s productivity has fallen for the third consecutive quarter. AI can help remedy this. It takes over mundane and time intensive tasks, allowing us to focus on more stimulating, challenging and productivity generating activities.
For example, Reply is currently developing intelligent automation systems which synthesise information and automate entire processes or workflows. These systems learn and adapt as they gain new information. We’re only just beginning to realise the applications and benefits of these systems. They have the potential to revolutionise our workforce and make us more efficient and creative in our work.
At home, we’re already integrating technology into our lives. Digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home are continuously learning and streamlining our lives. They can identify everything from who is speaking to where you left your keys. They can remind you to go to your doctor’s appointments, not to forget your child’s PE kit or alert you when those tickets you want go on sale. Having a digital assistant increases our efficiency. It frees up our minds to focus on other, more productive endeavours and is its own super power.
We are well on the way to becoming superhumans and fully integrated technology is within our sights. By intelligently embracing AI and the opportunities that it holds, we can improve our own lives and solve some of the big challenges facing the world today. Helping our own generation and future generations to thrive and become superhuman.
About the author
Daren Ward in an Executive Partner at Reply, a technology consultancy with operations focused in Europe. The company assists clients in exploiting relevant innovation driven by internet technologies and economic change. Daren has responsibility for the UK network.