The technology associated with modern computers will continue to develop. Computers will get faster, storage will get larger, and the Internet will become more ubiquitous and available. But the current paradigms of technology, and the way computing currently operates has only a finite life. As with any other technology, there will be something to emerge to replace it. There are possibilities in technology that transcend the current transistor-based models of computing. From intelligent computers, to computers built from DNA, here is a look at some possibilities from the future of computing.
The fundamental currency of the modern day computer is the binary code. This series of ones and zeros gives rise to the complete spectrum of complex and varied tasks that computers can accomplish. An interesting parallel is that at the lowest level of biological life, there is also a very simple code. The four letter base pairs found in DNA offer an interesting possibility for becoming the new “binary” code for computers in the future. Here is a look at the current developments in manipulating DNA, and the current possibility of building a DNA based computer.
AI and Rational Agents
Artificial intelligence is widely discussed as one of the intriguing future possibilities in computing. But what is artificial intelligence, exactly? How does one distinguish a computer program that is merely sophisticated from one that is truly intelligent. Dr. Peter Norvig and Dr. Stuart Russell provide a framework for creating AI in their comprehensive textbook: Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. The concept of a rational agent both provides an overview of how an AI system works, but provides the framework of how to design an artificial intelligence program.
The Turing Test
How will we know when an AI has reached a human level of intelligence? This is a challenging question to answer, as the nature of out own intelligence as humans is difficult to quantify. Famous computer scientist Alan Turing looked to take on this problem, and the result of his effort was called the Turing Test. Is the Turing Test a meaningful measurement in artificial intelligence, and is it the ideal that AI designers should be building towards? I examine this important marker in the history of computer science in this article.
Kurzweil on Strong AI
Ray Kurzweil is another figure in computer science that has been highly influential on our visions of the future. In his own way, he took on the problem of human level artificial intelligence, a level many have termed “strong” AI. Kurzweil believes that computers can surpass the limitations of human intelligence along a number of different dimensions. It is these advantages that will eventually result in computers surpassing human intelligence, but perhaps not in the ways we might anticipate. However, once strong AI is achieved, there is the worrying possibility that the newly formed AI could begin a runaway process of self development.
The Law of Accelerating Returns
Kurzweil also notes that these developing new models of computing are arriving at an ever increasing rate. This increasing rate of development he termed the law of accelerating returns. This idea models technological development in an analogous way to that of biological evolution, a process by which the most complex organisms, humans, appeared only at the most recent moments of this long process. In the same way, Kurzweil predicts that technological evolution is nearing a grand inflection point, in which biology and technology will inter-mingle, and speed towards a shared reality in which the universe becomes saturated by intelligence. This inflection point has been called the singularity by Kurzweil. Here is a look at this intriguing theory and framework for thinking about the future of technology.