Neuroscience is grappling with the issue of consciousness: what is it, where is it located, how does it work? When they discover these answers, it may be possible to transfer your consciousness from your body to something else. Or maybe just a machine that has consciousness.
What would happen if we could do that? This thought experiment invites us to imagine a future where humans and machines are much more integrated – augmented each other and building a better world together (dystopian options are available, of course).
In next week’s episode, we’ll come back to current reality and think about what a bionic business might look like. You’ll need to be a member of my Futures Club to access that episode. Why not check the Futures Club out now and see the valuable resources there (no risk – money-back guarantee if it’s not for you)
All the different types of scientists who study the brain, the neurosciences, all reckon that one of the hardest issues they’re dealing with at the moment is understanding consciousness. Even defining consciousness is difficult, but let’s take it as our understanding of who we are, our sense of self, and our ability to see ourselves in the world. If that is a good enough definition of consciousness, well, where does it come from? Where does it reside? How does it work? We don’t know.
My name is Graeme Codrington. This is Throw Forward Thursday, So come with me to the future. I don’t know how far we’re going to have to go into the future where scientists have worked all of this out. I mean, they will. There’s no doubt at some stage that they will work out how consciousness emerges, how it develops, how it is controlled and maintained and preserved. And once we understand that there is a possibility sometime in the future that we will be able to transfer your consciousness from the biological body that it’s currently in into another device or machine or system that can mimic that and contain your consciousness, either making a copy or transferring it for you.
That means, well, now you understand why I called this episode of Throw Forward Thursday, Who Wants to Live Forever? Because at that point, we would have that potential, the potential to be able to not be subject to the degrading of the human body, and we’re sorting that out and slowing that down with science as well. But at the moment, we know that around a century is a good number for the biological body, but transfer that into a machine that degrades much slower and can be renewed. And if consciousness is who you are, well, then you can live forever.
At that point, we might realise that actually, the machines gained consciousness before our ability to do that. That would be quite a trick to transfer who you are, your person into another device. What’s more likely to happen is that we are going to see machines develop a form of consciousness again in the future. That’s the point of Throw Forward Thursday. Imagine what would happen if.
I don’t really know what to do with that information back here in the 2020s, where we find ourselves now. It’s an interesting thought experiment, it probably belongs more in a philosophy class than a science classroom at the moment. But what it asks us to do, what it invites us to do, is to imagine how humans and machines will get closer and closer together over the years. And that, I think, invites us to, well, I suppose you could see a dystopian future where humans and machines fight each other because, well, unfortunately, that’s often been what history tells us happens when two groups of conscious beings who are different encounter each other. Often war and conflict is what happens.
But of course, other options are available, and maybe this is what I want to leave with you this week. What happens if we could do all of this not just peacefully, but see it as not human automation, in other words, machines competing and taking over from humans, but rather human and machine augmentation, a bionic future where we embrace the upgrades that we can get from including machines in our own bodies and so on. And we’ve been doing that for many decades already, with everything from pacemakers to artificial hips and bones and eyes and ears and everything else. What happens if we could then also embrace us going the other way, where parts of who we are begin to infuse themselves into the machines?
It doesn’t have to be a competition. We can see, we can picture, we can imagine a bionic future where humans and machines merge together in the next stage of our development and evolution on this planet. Possible? Yes, definitely. In our lifetimes? Maybe. Let’s see.
Next week, we’re going to come back a little bit closer to current reality, and we’re going to pick up the story of what a bionic organisation might, in fact, look like and specifically focus on how you and your team, your organisation, your business will be able to use generative AI, especially video and audio, that is currently developing to mimic and create replicas of human beings. This has been our theme over the last two or three weeks, and we’re going to bring you some use cases both in current reality and in the near future of what that might mean for your business.
But that is only going to be available for the members of my Futures Club. If you’re not a member, you’ll just get a short little sample next week to remind you that the club is there and what we’re talking about. But you might want to already sign up for the Futures Club. Go to jointhefuturesclub.com, and you can have a look at all the various options there and sign up and get access to all of the members-only resources that are already available and waiting for you immediately in the archives. It’s a guaranteed no-risk offer because if you don’t like what you see, we’ll give you your money back, no questions asked.
So, it really is worth checking out. And if you are a member of my Futures Club, I’ll see you next week where we talk about how you use generative AI in your business. I’ll see you next week.
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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.