alive, or a bionic implant that improves human strength or wit, or a true cyborg, a living brain in a mobile artificial body. But there is no doubt that existing technology will carry us further along these paths. At the physical level, the creation of walking robots has taught us a great deal about mechatronics and body construction. Devices for implementing artificial senses, from light and sound detectors to wire- less receivers, are also well developed and will only get better. Many issues about the physical capabilities of artificial beings—notably, how to extend their battery-powered lifetimes so that they don’t need frequent recharging—remain,but we do have clear directions for body improvement that apply known principles without having to invent new concepts.
Neither artificial bodies nor synthetic senses can work meaning- fully without guidance from a brain, a mind, or a developed cogni- tion. Here, too, progress will come through the refinement and evolution of the existing approach, which is to program digital com- puter chips to simulate what the brain does. Every increase in hard- ware speed and capacity, and in the cleverness of the software, makes artificial beings more effective, just as the addition of a third chip to Sony’s QRIO robot enormously enhanced its speech. But a deeper understanding of our own brains, leading to the construction of bet- ter synthetic ones, might be needed to bring those silicon brains to a new plane—truly high intelligence, and possibly silicon-based con- sciousness.
Human–machine connections have bright prospects as well.The potential medical benefits are clear.We will see rapid progress in this area, from improved cochlear implants for the deaf to more effective visual replacements for the blind and better BMI technology for the paralyzed, perhaps leading soon to direct neural control of an artificial limb.These achievements form a basis for the next level, which would go beyond healing to extend human mental and physical abilities— for instance, by connecting a human brain directly to the Internet or to a powerful computer, or permitting the brain to directly control a complex device such as a weapon or an artificial body. Because much of the current research in these areas is funded by the Department of