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Has Technology Ended Evolution?

Has Technology Ended Evolution?

“We’ve managed to slip evolution’s leash now, haven’t we? We can cure any disease, keep even the weakest of us alive, and one fine day perhaps we shall even resurrect the dead, call forth Lazarus from his cave. Do you know what that means? It means that we’re done, that this is as good as we’re going to get.”— Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), Westworld, Season 1: The Original

The founder of chip maker Arm, the star UK technology company acquired by SoftBank for $31 billion (£24 billion) in 2016, believes the latest technology in the world means that humans have almost certainly reached the end of our evolutionary path. Hermann Hauser is no technophobic doomsday nut. Quite the contrary – having invested in over 100 tech start-ups, the Arm founder is one of the UK’s most influential technology supporters. However, he does think that the way we are now able to harness technology to do things on our behalf, and even update our own bodies, our ‘hardware’, through biotechnology, means that the normal triggers that spur evolution will no longer exist.

Rather, we will engineer our own future evolution through gene therapy and working with intelligent machines:
“Humanity has a new partner in intelligent machines and the key thing for us to get right is how to co-evolve with them.”

Hauser believes the most valuable application of Artificial Intelligence technology is in the biotech sphere. He believes that is the only currently obvious ‘trillion-dollar industry’ for AI and where investors should be focusing their attention. He is convinced that the current rate of biotechnology progress means that humanity stands on the verge of being able to ‘eradicate disease’.

Arm, the company Hauser founded, makes the chips that power artificial intelligence. SoftBank’s motivation for buying the company was the impending boom in connected IoT devices, with Statista.com predicting over 75 billion worldwide by 2025. Connected devices will exponentially increase the amount of data that exists from all manner of sources. AI’s ability to process these vast amounts of data and find patterns in it is thought to hold the key to a huge number of future discoveries. Biological data gathered from wearable devices, blood testing and genomics is expected to mean rapid breakthroughs in biotech and gene therapy over coming years.

Hauser is also among the many voices calling for a rapid acceleration in addressing the legal and ethical frameworks they believe the swift progress in AI and biotech necessitates. Carolyn Herzog, General Counsel at Arm, the company built by Hauser, agrees. She believes ‘privacy by design’ should be at the core of AI regulation and practises:

“AI should be like the internet, which we can use across borders and across companies and countries to enhance our lives but that means we need to design with privacy and ethics in mind.”

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