(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
The Real Breakthrough: Synthetic Biology
On the other hand, i have seen astonishing (quasi exponential) progress in Biotechnology, and therefore my estimate for when Biotech will be able to create an "artificial intelligence" is very different: it could already happen in one year. And my estimate of when Biotech might create a "superhuman" intelligence is also more optimistic: it could happen in a decade. I am simply basing my estimates on the progress that i have witnessed over the last 50 years; which might be misleading (again, most technologies eventually reach a plateau and then progress slows down), but at least this one has truly been "accelerating" progress. It would be interesting to discuss how Biotech might achieve this feat: will it be a new being created in the laboratory, or the intended or the accidental evolution of a being, or a cell by cell replica of the human body? But that's for another book.
The real deal is the digital to biological conversion that will increasingly allow biologists to create forms of life. That is indeed a "breakthrough". My guess is that machines will remain a tool (that every generation will brand "intelligent" and every generation will expect to get more "intelligent") but one of their applications, the biotech application, is likely to have the biggest impact on the future of life on this planet.
Biotechnology might even be better than A.I. for simulating and learning how the human brain works. For example, Madeline Lancaster at Cambridge University is using pluripotent human cells to grow three-dimensional tissues ("cerebral organoids") that she uses to model how the human brain develops ("Cerebral Organoids Model Human Brain Development And Microcephaly", 2013).
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