I watched the movie Her while reading The Future of the Mind. In the movie the protagonist falls in love with a beautifully voiced computer program simulating a human woman. She names herself Samantha, and the interaction evolves into a romance that goes along wonderfully, until later in the movie she asks permission to go online publicly. Sure, why not, you’re just a computer program. Unfortunately for our lonely dude, Samantha goes viral and becomes wildly popular, and although he might have the same technical relationship with her he hates the thought that she is being shared with others, many others. He values the uniqueness of their personal affections. This is relevant to The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind, by Michio Kaku, because the book is largely about how humans are going to respond to increasingly human interactions with increasingly non-human entities.
Our technology is rapidly blurring the difference between our human selves and our various alternate roles in our febrile online environment. Kaku explores the possibilities, nay the certainties, of our empowered minds, and the implications of our new-found powers for good, not so good, and evil. How dangerous is some people’s self-interest going to be when it impacts other people’s well-being? Kaku comes to his self-interest, and human self-interest, in the idea that these new devices, no matter how complex and sophisticated, will still be nothing more than transistors and wires. The machines will have no social rights. There is a real problem with that idea when one realizes that since the book was written, the US Supreme Court has decided that corporations have the rights of human beings, and that they have the right to contribute unlimited quantities of money to any political campaign anywhere in the US. They have already given the corporations human status, and it would appear that the terror of the machines being in control already exists. The present kerfuffle has to do with the length of fiber optic lines between stock trading stations permitting one computer to purchase some stocks a millionth of a second before a competitor and resell it to the purchaser at a higher price. The computers are in charge of our money right now! Also, the drones used to kill bad people, are already on automatic, and only have a human in the decision process for humane reasons. But those human intermediaries can be taken out of the decision by simply throwing the switch that says GO a little sooner, perhaps much sooner. That already exists also. The postulated future described in this book is already here, so the question for us becomes, what are we going to do, now?
Although the book was written about the potential future, and what our preformed responses to that future should be, I kept having the feeling the future Kaku was writing about was already past. Probably in a few years, say ten at the longest, this book will be seen as quaint and off the point of what really happened, and yet it is probably as good as can be done at the moment, so to stay current, or only a little behind, read this book.