Future of humanity depends on how people choose to use AI, biotechnology: bestseller historian

Updated 2017-01-24 15:57:39 Xinhua

What will happen if Artificial Intelligence (AI) knows us better than we do about ourselves?

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, shared his insight on how trends in science and technology may progress and influence human kind in a written interview with Xinhua.

Harari is recently making quite a splash in China with the launch of the Chinese version of his equally compelling new book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, in which he turns his focus on humanity's future and the quest to upgrade humans, as science, especially AI, advance rapidly nowadays.


According to Harari, people have already taken the first steps on the path of integration of humans and smart machines. People are already merging with their smartphones, and in the case of China, their Wechat accounts -- the intelligent devices and apps that constantly study us, adapt to our unique personality, and shape our worldview and innermost desires.

"In the coming decades, we are likely to proceed much faster along this path, by developing machine learning, biometric sensors and direct brain-computer interfaces. In 2050, it is likely that your smartphone will not be separate from you at all," said the bestseller author, who is also a historian, adding that AI will also detect diseases such as cancer when they are still in their early stages.

"It will be embedded in your body via biometric sensors, and it will monitor your heart rate, your blood pressure and your brain activity 24 hours a day. It will also have the computing power necessary to analyze the endless stream of biometric data coming from these sensors," said Harari.

"I think by 2100, humans and machines might merge so completely that humans will not be able to survive at all if they are disconnected from the network," he said.


An AI could know us better than we know ourselves by collecting and analyzing immense amounts of data about ourselves, and "this can give the corporation or government that controls AI the ability to understand my desires, predict my decisions, make choices for me, and manipulate me," predicted the author.

For example, "devices such as Amazon's Kindle are able to constantly collect data on their users while they are reading books ... If Kindle is upgraded with face recognition software and biometric sensors, it could know how each sentence you read influenced your heart rate and blood pressure. Soon, books will read you while you are reading them ... Such data should eventually enable Amazon to choose books for you with uncanny precision. It will also enable Amazon to know exactly who you are, and how to press your emotional buttons," said the author.

"Take this to its logical conclusion, and eventually people may give algorithms the authority to make the most important decisions in their lives, such as whom to marry," according to the author.

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