Artificial Intelligence AI its history, now & the future all you need to know

‘Alter’, a machine body with a human like face and hands is on display during a press preview for the exhibition ‘AI: More Than Human’ at the Barbican Centre Central London, Britain, 15 May 2019. The exhibit explores the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER

Dear All readers

“Even in a benign AI scenario we will be left behind. With a high bandwidth brain-machine interface we will go along with the ride, we will have the option of merging with AI”.

In July 2019, (hold your breath) South African export, tech entrepreneur, SpaceX founder and CEO, Tesla Inc. chief engineer/designer, co-founder and CEO, as well as occasional Twitter troll, Elon Musk, presented to the world the latest invention from his most recent artificial intelligence venture, Neuralink: a computer chip that can be stitched (with a hi-tech sewing machine) into the human brain.

The result? One small step for mankind, a giant leap for cyborgs.

In today’s newsletter, we talk about that not-so-far-ahead future when humans and machines become one.

“So, we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence… With artificial intelligence, we’re summoning the demon.” Elon Musk at the 2014 MIT AeroAstro Centennial Symposium

Electronic engineer Edward Newman in front of the prototype of the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), London, 29th November 1950. ACE is one of the first computers built in Britain. The machine was designed by Alan Turing. (Photo by Jimmy Sime/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Human-AI symbiosis

I need a history check. When did it start, that machine thing? It started with a paper (ironic, isn’t it?), titled Computing Machinery and Intelligence, written by a young genius mathematician, the man who helped decode the Enigma machine during WW II, Alan Turing.

What was it about? It asked one single question: “Can machines think?” and discussed digital computers and how we could test machines’ intelligence.

Quite the visionary! Yes, except that Turing’s ideas were on paper but he couldn’t experiment that much. While today you can get a basic MacBook Air for under R12,000, in the 1950s computers were leased for $200,000 (around R3-million) a month and were not nearly as powerful as today’s cellphones. That kinda limited the amount of opportunities to play with AI.

What happened next? The Logic Theorist, the first artificial intelligence program, engineered to mimic our problem-solving skills and created by Herbert Simon, Allen Newell and John Shaw.

The birth of AI? Indeed, and from then on it was the rush to beat humans at their own intelligence. Lines of programs were created, from ELIZA, a natural-language-processing computer program born in 1964, to IBM’s Deep Blue, which, in 1997, defeated the then-reigning world chess champion, grandmaster Gary Kasparov.

The man-versus-machine story… Exactly! And showing us the premise of our future: machines winning over men.

Phew. And now… We’ve found a way to prevent machines from winning over us, mere mortals – we’re merging with them.

For real? For real. We’ve started with the microchip, injected in the hand, and soon a computer chip stitched into your brain. Maverick Life’s Malibongwe Tyilo has got the full story about the Singularity, when humans and machine are one…

Image from Neuralink

Is it a thing? Brain-machine interface

Yes, absolutely! 

Brain-machine or brain-computer interface (BCI) is quite the thing lately. From Musk’s Neuralink to Braingate or Facebook Reality Labs, the world of startups that have brought together teams of neuroscientists and researchers to develop BCI technologies has expanded considerably.

The goal? First, to help people affected by neurologic disease, with some incredible results already. Then…

“To enhance your own brain; create a well-aligned future” (Neuralink)

 “[To] capture brain activity upon intent, creating a new operating system for computers” (Mindmaze)

“[To] decode the words you’ve already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain” (Facebook, which promised not to ever use what it reads in your brain for advertising purposes).

Modular platform for implants SIID (Image from

While you’re waiting for BCI… Human microchips

If you’re not entirely ready to merge your brain with some computer chip and few electrodes, maybe the microchip in one of your hands will do.

Thousands of Swedes have already done it (not that it is any argument for you to do the same), and are now swiping their hands to do what they would normally do with a chip or magnetic card: access their workplace, log-on to a computer, store medical information, etc.

The procedure seems fairly painless and can be done anywhere in less than five minutes. Read the full story and watch the video here.

AI: how free will you be?

This is still uncharted territory, and emotional, philosophical and ethical questions about the difference between brain and mind, to what degree a brain implant will be able to translate your intentions correctly, and “brainjacking” are popping up regularly.

Maverick Life’s Tyilo adds: “Worst-case scenarios range from information theft to tracking down human beings wherever they may be and hacking their private and personal information.” 

A few things to keep in mind:

AI is already in your life – from Gmail kindly sorting out your spam from your boss’s mails to YouTube’s algorithm choosing what video you should be wanting to watch, it’s right here.

Big Data is Big Brother – Big Data is a huge amount of data coming from all our interactions with a device, that may (or may not but probably will) “be analysed to reveal patterns, trends, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.” 

Microchips don’t have GPS – unlike those inserted in your pets, human microchips are not trackable. Yet. Maybe. We think so.

In numbers

18 March 1940 The Bombe, an electromechanical machine and the ancestor of AI, is created by already-mentioned brilliant mathematician, computer scientist and genius, Alan Turing.

Over 4,000 The number of Swedes who are already microchipped, happily swiping their hands to get into their office, the gym, pay at the till or control their home. Bye, Alexa.

Between $150 to $200 The cost to get a microchip implanted in your hand. And you too, you could say: Bye, Alexa.

Mighty words

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race… It would take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.” – Stephen Hawking.

“The purpose of humanity is not just to sit behind a counter and sell things.” – Bill Gates, casually chatting about AI taking over our jobs.

“The idea that there is going to be a general AI overlord that subjugates us or kills us all, I think, is not something to worry about. I think that is overhyped.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon overlord, doing his best to sound convincing

From the Daily Maverick

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