Genetic Enhancement v. Artificial Intelligence

Will robots and artificial intelligences take human jobs? Perhaps but the nature of humanity is not carved in stone. Genetic enhancement (GE) is within a hairsbreadth of reality.

It's true that the practical applications of AI are moving faster than GE but GE has a head start of over a billion years. Moreover, although GE is still impractical, the costs of GE are falling fast. The costs of sequencing Cost_per_genome a genome (shown at right, click to enlarge), for example, are falling far faster than even Moore's Law would predict. Sequencing takes us only part of the way towards H+ but it's an important part.

Genetic engineering already works wonders, even when used haphazardly. My own efforts at GE (I had the help of a PhD microbiologist) have produced two promising NIs. When used in a more controlled manner the results of GE will be even better ("it's still us, only the best of us.")

I used to worry that religious objections would prevent the evolution of H to H+, especially in the United States. But should courage fail us, the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians or perhaps even the Singaporeans will move humanity forward. In this case, the slippery slope works in favor of progress: from avoiding genetic disease towards making improvements will prove irresistible. You can't keep a better man down.

The contrast of GE and AI in the title is meant to remind us that AI is not the only technology relevant to debates about future jobs but the opposition of GE and AI is obviously false. AI is helping to create GE, of course, but it's deeper than that. In the not so long run it's not about computers substituting for labor or even complementing labor, it's about designing labor to complement computers (and vice-versa). Think about how quickly the phone has migrated from the desk, to the hand, to the ear, to the ear canal. The technology to enhance humanity with access to the internet is literally burying itself into our heads, call it I-fi. There is more to come.

And now for some music.


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