Star Trek contributes heavily to the pantheon of science fiction. Throughout their screening history, they have converted many elements of sci-fi into non-fiction. Once considered outlandish technology is now a present reality, including a roster of Bluetooth headsets, Siri, flip phones, and iPads. Amongst many other inventions, Star Trek delved deep into positronic brains, replicating consciousness, rocking the fundamental core of humanity and what it means to be human. Since past trends are sometimes indicative of future events, it may not be too far inconceivable that positronic brains may become a reality, given advancements in AI technology and computing.
What Are Positronic Star Trek Brains?
Positronic brains are functional technological devices adapted by Star Trek, originally coined by the revered sci-fi writer, Isaac Asimov. The technicalities of the brain remain vague and elusive, however, it functions as a CPU for robots, equivalent to consciousness. They function using positrons, which are small particles equivalent to the antimatter equivalent of electrons, relaying cognitive impulses. Various characters on Star Trek are androids equipped with these positronic brains, such as the character ‘Data’.
Consciousness Of The Sci-fi Positronic Brain
Details of positronic brains remain an enigma, as the technicalities were not explained, however, it has been suggested that the device renders a certain consciousness recognizable to humans. Fundamentally, when talking about ‘consciousness’, the very definition arises a myriad of disputes and arguments. Consciousness is what makes us human, inherent to experience.
The feeling while watching a sunset, the passage of time when bored, the anxiety before hearing test results, the taste of chocolate, the state of being aware. If an artificial system was conscious, the software does indeed feel bad when the automated voice “We are sorry to keep you waiting” ensues. The organic biological foundation of consciousness has baffled neuroscientists for decades, however, computational ‘consciousness’ can be attributed to artificial general intelligence (AGI). AGI is the hypothetical intelligence of a computer, which can achieve the same cognitive abilities as humans, on a scale of ‘weak’ to ‘strong’ AI.
Will AI Technology Allow For Achieving Sci-fi Positronic Brain?
Although in its infancy, quantum computing alongside 5G lay foundations for achieving positronic brain consciousness and intellectual capacity, optimizing the perplexing realm of quantum mechanics. Quantum computing AI speeds up algorithm training times drastically, enabling more complex and refined neural networks, closer replicating human brain networks.
Brain Simulator II
On August 6th, 2020, Brain Simulator II overcame one billion neurons on its AI neural network. Although less than the 86 billion neurons in a typical human brain, the system processed three billion synapses per second. Charles Simon, CEO of FutureAI, said ”This machine exceeds the processing performance of the human neocortex”.
Positronic brains within Star Trek replicated humanistic behaviors, similar to what present technologies can achieve today. Affectiva algorithm, for example, can recognize human emotions better than humans can and Empath’s technology can replicate human voice emotional intonations.
AI Technology Dominaring Humanistic Creation
Furthermore, AI is slowly dominating the purest fields of humanistic creation, such as music and art, they are replacing human capacity for free-thinking. A computer program developed the painting “Edmond de Belamy”, selling for $432,500 in 2018, and AIVA (Artificial Intelligence Virtual Artist) is a well respected AI composer.
Computer scientist Thomas Strothotte said “simulating artistic techniques means also simulating human thinking and reasoning, especially creative thinking. This is impossible to do using algorithms or information processing systems.” This naturally addresses the dichotomy between intelligence and consciousness, as the replication of human emotional behavior is devoid of inner consciousness.
How Does Positronic Brain Connect To Elon Musk?
Furthermore, positronic brain implanting has seen parallels with Elon Musk’s recent venture, Neuralink. The Neuralink device is implanted into the brain, creating a machine brain interface, similar to the positronic brain.
AI Technology Creating The Sci-fi Positronic Brain Anytime Soon?
Although these technologies may appear to replicate a positronic brain, it does not address the artificial consciousness aspect. There is a dispute amongst lead scientists and engineers whether we are on the brink of artificial consciousness, or whether it’s a distant or even unrealistic possibility.
This is exacerbated by the absent biological explanation of human consciousness. Julian Togelius, AI research at New York University said “belief in AGI is like belief in magic. It is a way of abandoning rational thought and expressing hope/fear for something that cannot be understood”. Musk, however, claims that “it is going to be upon us very quickly”.
The field is purely speculative, but recent technological advancements may swing the pendulum towards the possibility. Over the decades, machine algorithms have bested humans at chess, poker, and Go, which slowly turned from comical novelty to genuine concern. The trajectory may eventually play out similar to Goethe’s sorcerer’s apprentice, ignorant of the power we are summoning and unable to contain it once unleashed.
With the ever-presence of machine learning and other technological advancements, positronic brains may be looming on the horizon, which would profoundly affect humankind. Maybe Star Trek cyborgs will walk the Earth alongside humans, behaving in ways indistinguishable to us, feeling the same emotions we do.