When OpenAI released ChatGPT to the public at the tail end of 2022, it marked a watershed moment.
Now, scientists and tech industry leaders, including high-level executives at Microsoft and Google, warned that artificial intelligence poses “the risk of extinction”.
AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war, said Sam Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI, and Geoffrey Hinton, a computer scientist known as the godfather of artificial intelligence, along with hundreds of other leading figures, in a statement posted on the Centre for AI Safety's website.
Between wearable technology and generative AI tools, our daily lives are already being changed regardless of the potential risks. Humans will generally plough ahead when given the chance to try something new and exciting, even if they admit otherwise. The concerns are more about access and knowledge than actual harm that might be caused. For example, pretty much everyone on Earth has a smartphone now.
Please note, ChatGPT/Bing helped me write this column. Also, there is the app Ultrahuman, which uses biofeedback and neuroscience to help users achieve peak performance in various domains such as fitness, meditation and productivity. During the past fortnight, I wore an Ultrahuman sensor on my arm, which measured my glucose levels, teaching me about which foods were healthiest and when was best to eat them. There are long-term health benefits from understanding my body better, and this kind of technology allowed me to get this information first hand.
The exercise is part of my two weeks as a cyborg. The term cyborg usually conjures up images of half-human, half-machine beings from science fiction movies or comic books. But what if I told you that we are already becoming cyborgs in our everyday lives, thanks to technology and AI?
I wanted to test this idea – and before you dismiss it as absurd or far-fetched, consider how much we rely on technology to enhance our capabilities, augment our reality, and improve our well-being. From smartphones and smartwatches to fitness trackers and health apps, we are constantly using devices and software that monitor our vital signs, track our activities, and provide us with feedback and guidance.
According to the World Economic Forum, AI and cyborg technology have the potential to create significant economic value and social impact. The Forum estimates that AI could add up to $15.7 trillion to the global GDP by 2030, and that cyborg technology could enhance human health, longevity and productivity.
We are also increasingly using technology to communicate with each other, learn new skills and access information. Whether it’s through social media, online courses, or search engines, we are constantly connected to a vast network of data and people that enrich our knowledge and expand our horizons.
These examples show how technology and AI are not only enhancing our human abilities but also creating new ones. We are becoming cyborgs in the sense that we are merging with machines that can extend our cognition, perception and expression.
I have found that generative AI such as ChatGPT has become like a second brain for me, helping me to generate ideas and write more efficiently. When my own brain is tired or preoccupied, or when there are too many tasks in a limited time frame, generative AI can fill the gaps and help me to keep up with my work. But this is only the beginning for AI. As technology continues to advance, the possibilities for AI are endless. Who knows what the future holds for this powerful tool?
Of course, this process of becoming cyborgs is not without its challenges and risks. We need to be aware of the ethical, social and psychological implications of using technology and AI in our lives, as the experts warn. We need to ask ourselves questions such as: how do we ensure that they serve our best interests and values? How do we protect our privacy and security in a digital world? How do we maintain our human dignity and identity in a hybrid reality?
These are not easy questions to answer, but they are essential ones if we want to embrace them as partners rather than enemies. We need to be mindful of how we use them, and how they affect us in return. We need to be responsible for our choices and actions as cyborgs.
We also need to be optimistic about their potential to improve our lives and society. Technology and AI are not inherently good or evil; they are tools that can be used for good or evil purposes. It is up to us to use them wisely and creatively.
We are living in an exciting time where these tools are transformative. We should not be afraid of this transformation but rather embrace it as an opportunity to explore new possibilities and express ourselves in new ways. We should not lose sight of our humanity but rather enhance it with the new means available to us.
“We are becoming cyborgs, but we are still humans at heart,” is the last line ChatGPT/Bing wrote for the column, which I had prompted it to write in the style of Mustafa Alrawi for The National. Frankly, at first I was insulted that the AI would think I would ever accept such a cliched sign-off to an article. The more I considered it, however, it became clearer to me that the truth was that the machine was exposing my own flawed process and I should strive to become better, thanks to technology.