How far ahead can you think? A hundred years? A couple of hundred? Five hundred? A thousand? At which point, you probably agree, it starts to feel a little unrealistic. This future-blindness, as I call it, is perhaps an intrinsic part of human nature. We’ve evolved to think of life in terms of a human lifespan. Most of the human population, at any given time, would be hard pressed to trace their family history beyond a few generations.
So, what would life be like a thousand years from now? Of course, assuming we don’t blow ourselves up, and the planet doesn’t freeze over, or a comet doesn’t strike. How much farther would technology take us?
Machines would probably do most of our physical work, and possibly a great deal of what we consider mental work today. How far would artificial intelligence have developed? Would there be a difference between artificial and natural intelligence? Would machines have the ability to innovate and be creative?
Almost surely. Rise of the machines, if you think about it, is almost inevitable. Consider this case: Creativity, in a sense, is an unexpected interlinking of ideas to create a novel, hitherto non-existent system. What makes it rare is the very limited computing bandwidth of the human brain and a similarly limited memory. There is a fairly limited amount of information our brains can store, the contrast becoming clearer if you compare it with how much a single individual does not know. So, human creativity comes from using a limited amount of information and arriving at a novel pattern of interlinking them. While the first is a function of memory, and is quite certainly going to be sooner or later exceeded by artificial memory, the second, involving generation of patterns, is a function of computing power. The functioning of the human mind is still a long way from being understood, so it is hard to compare it with existing computing capabilities. But with progress in computing power following the exponential Moore’s Law the past few decades and which is expected to continue for a few more, doubtless, artificial computing power will start approaching that of a human brain.
With substantially larger memories and as much, if not more, computing power, future machines will inevitably be better at generating novel patterns. But the final step of the process still remains. How do you identify a creative pattern? In some cases, where problems are defined, and the properties of the solution can be derived, future machines would have all the resources to arrive at novel solutions satisfying the solution properties. But in the rest of the cases, where the objective of the creative process is simply to create, and not to satisfy predefined parameters, the question of how creativity will be identified still remains. Would such creativity, without human involvement, qualify as art?
The future, as it turns out, is not only hard to predict, but is even harder to fathom.