Technology is moving faster than our ability to understand it, and there is no consensus on what is ethical. It isn’t just the lawmakers who are not well-informed, the originators of the technologies themselves don’t understand the full ramifications of what they are creating. They may take strong positions today based on their emotions and financial interests, but as they learn more, they too will change their views.
These findings from Yu and colleagues suggest that optimal intelligence may not reside exclusively in man or machine, but in the integration of the two. By harnessing the speed and logic of artificial computing systems, we may be able to augment the already remarkable cognitive abilities of biological neural systems, including the human brain. The prospect of computer-assisted human intelligence raises obvious concerns over the safety and ethics of their application. Are there conditions under which a human “cyborg” could put humans at risk? Is altering human behavior with a machine tantamount to “playing god” and a dangerous overreach of our powers?
Our electronic devices—or at least many of the processes that occur within them—are literally parts of our minds. And our consideration of Apple’s and the FBI’s arguments ought to flow from that fact.
This may sound ridiculous. But in an important co-authored essay and then in a book, the philosopher Andy Clark argued for something called the extended mind hypothesis. The basic idea was that we have no reason to treat the brain alone as the only place where mental processes can occur.