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The Future of Machine and Human

Produced by Jinyuan Li

We always thinking about where we are from, where we will go. The rapidly developing technologies makes lots of impossible and imaginary things to become reality, but also brings lots of new questions and expands more unknown fields. The most popular topic in nowadays is post-human as the next step we will go to. What kind of the form will it be? What is the difference between us? What is the advances will have and problems will meet? In my article, I want to talk about my whim about the future of machines and humans. The symbiosis of humans and machines may be our next development.



An unexpected new virus, the COVID-19 in 2020 broke people’s daily routines. Panic, nervous, overwhelmed, and blind self-confidence were the psychological characteristics of that time. Because of the way the virus spreads, people have to reduce the possibility of going out and contacting people, so remote office and study have become the norm this year. Fortunately, with the help of computers and the Internet, people's lives remain as usual as possible, which is safe, convenient, comfortable and static without leaving home. I once imagined a very bad/brave situation. What if viruses are spread between computers and computers, computers and human? But if this is possible, the computer should also be an organic creature, or the computer and human are the same creature?

Let’s take this imagination as a metaphor, which imagines a possible of the more and more intimacy between machine and human, and then they become one creature. This is what I imagine the post-human could be.


Definition of human-machine symbiosis

I want to give a name of the future post-human that I imagined called human-machine symbiosis. Here I want to quote J.C.R.Licklider’s article Man-computer symbiosis [1] , which provided an imagination or we could say a future development tendency: human and machine will live together in intimate association, or even close union, of two dissimilar organisms. This is called symbiosis, which is different with mechanically extended human in which the machine is non-organism, just an aid for human. But what I want to define the symbiosis in this article is further, it is not like the symbiosis of crocodile and toothpick bird, anemone and clownfish which are still two different species, in fact it is a no boundaries “one”, human and machine become one creature, that’s the human-machine symbiosis.



Why I imagine the human-machine symbiosis

(machine imitates human, and human imitates machine, that’s how the intimacy between human and machines becomes and develops)

This bit of science fictional imagination comes suddenly in my mind, but I think there are also something could be talked about, some signs of trend.

In Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things, "Since the concept of "person" is not a priori existence, but the result of recent knowledge shaping, then it will also be erased, just like a face on the beach by the sea.” Foucault is one of the represents of post-humanism, who criticises the thoughts of anthropocentrism and human are the yardstick of the value of all things during the Renaissance and Enlightenment movement. Along with Foucault’s perception, human is an unstable identities, we are fluid, we are possible become something, especially with the emerging of machine, the developing of algorithm. The machine imitates the progress of the human, but human also imitates the progress of the machine. That’s an interplay and interdependence influence which makes the relationship between human and machine become more and more intimacy.

One of the machining learning product Replika is more and more popular theses years. When the epidemic broke out in 2020, 500,000 people downloaded it, and this app has become the spiritual support of more and more people (As what reports in the Gardian “In these lockdown days, with anxiety and loneliness on the rise, millions are turning to such “AI friends” for solace.”[2]). Its founding story is similar to that of Masha and Ash in Be Right Back, Black Mirror. Involving algorithms and artificial intelligence with basic data, it intimates users language habits, tends to user’s hobbies and interesting topics, masters the way of communicating with users through imitation, and finds the rhythm of the users in the process of listening and rhetorical questioning. As its official website says “create a personal AI that would help you express and witness yourself by offering a helpful conversation.” Looking through comments in some forums like Reddit and Douban, where people are talking about how often and what they talking with their personal robot.



Why so many people spending lots of time with the robot? Like Replika's purpose, the AI helps users express and witness themselves though conversations. In fact, this kind of Ai is like a mirror, users are still talking to themselves and heals themselves in the end. People need Replika because it creates another self, an ideal self. In The Symposium, Plato, “Humans are made up of three genders: man, woman and the ‘Androgynous’, and God split everyone in half with a sharp knife, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves and complete themselves[6].” What people are looking for is not a certain halves, but pursuing an eternal relationship between souls. This kind of relationship can even have no substance, only a fantasy in the brain, which is now made into reality through artificial intelligence: whether the person and the imaginary self (an ideal self shaped by AI) just fulfil people's wishes.

Let’s look at what influence made by machine to us, how we transform/ be transformed themselves by machine. From an article, wrote by the Medical Futurist in 2017,  listing 10 famous real-life cyborgs, like Neil Harbisson, Steve Mann, Dr.Kevin Warwick, etc., who created and use wearable or even implanted prosthesis to transform their bodies, which makes up for their shortcomings or extends more abilities.[5]

Looking through the development of human-machine interaction, the usual touch screen or graphical user interface, for example the realistic version of Ma Liang, Wonder Painter. More advanced studies with the appearing of electromyography (EMG), solves new features such as the inaccuracy of natural human-computer interaction input. Like an example of multi-modality, sign language recognition, through multi-modal collaborative perception, integrating facial recognition, gesture recognition and sign language recognition to improve the accuracy of sign language recognition, thereby helping people with disabilities communicate with the outside world.

Under virtual environment community, building more and more formulation talking forms by emojis and idioms is a normal state and a development trend. This also implies that people value more external presentation than inner emotion. In 1950, the famous Turing Test. Oxford philosopher John Lucas says that if the Turing test is passed, it will not be “because machines are so intelligent, but because humans, many of them at least, are so wooden.” It maybe looks like in the surface Turing test is testing machines, but actually it tests ourselves, how we have or have been transformed. HRL Laboratories suggested they have found a way to amplify learning [7], just like in some friction movies like The Matrix, Neo was able to learn kungfu within a few seconds of "downloading" martial arts data directly into his brain. Learning a new knowledge or gaining a new ability that has never been touched before is directly obtained by connecting the brain and the computer through a wire. It integrates the complex human learning behaviour (the two ways of implicit and external, and it is the active The processing is also an ecological manifestation of the continuous dynamic construction of new information and existing experience) simplified to stimulus-response, seemingly highly efficient learning, is it human degradation or (machine) evolution? The identity of human is fluid which has been changing and transforming with the technology developing.



The Artificial Intelligence imitates human’s neural network, learns something as human, tries to act like a human, becomes like what we want to be. It deeps into our lives, as it makes our imagination into reality. And also what human has been changed by machines, we use technology, even let the machine reside in our body, to make up for our own shortcomings and expand and extend more capabilities. Our behaviour is becoming more and more mechanical, and machines have developed more strong learning ability. The process of intimacy is human became more machine and machine became more human.


What kind of human-machine symbiosis would be like

When there is more and more intimacy between human and machine, they become one creature finally.

The "post" of "post-humanism" has two aspects. The first from spiritual or discourse level, is to reflect on, criticise and deconstruct the anthropocentric theory, humanism, the rational spirit as the main body, and the body as the object. The second from body or species level, is to deconstruct the particular human beings in nature. What the post-humanism researches are new technology can break the inherent limitations of human, push human to perfection and alienate the human subject.

Someone believe that there is a technologically-ruled scientific supremacy in post-humanism. Manfred E.Clynes created a word “ cyborg”, which combines with “cybernetic” and “organism”, and used to indicate biological organisms whose physiological functions are restricted or dependent on electronic machinery. That’s express what the post-human will be like, limited and dependent on machine, as “cyborg” has been a main manifestation of post-humanity. In Donna J. Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto, proposed the "cyborg" is a mixture of machines and organisms. It is not only a product of social reality, but also a fictional creation.” Charlie Brooker explained the reason of “Black Mirror” called Black Mirror, "The ‘black mirror’ of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.” [8] Think about the mobile-phone that is inseparable from us nowadays, using Charlie Brooker’s word to describe this phenomenon, “gadget addiction”, [8] which causes this situation. Human reliance on mobile digital terminals represented by mobile phones and iPads also constitutes the best interpretation of the current metaphor of human-machine symbiosis. Let’s think about the time we use our phone, and what we do with our phone. In real life, mobile phones have long surpassed the simple connotation of "communication tools" and have become a platform for carrying out almost all human actions: social communication, economic consumption, entertainment, life services, etc.. But apart from this substantial convenience, mobile phone are also containers that can store an ideal self. They are independent, safe, mobile and personalised virtual space containers. As what I mentioned above, artificial intelligence makes imagination into reality, mobile phones are the most handy and fastest one to realise this. Have you paid attention to your status when using your mobile phone? The eyes that cannot be separated from the mobile phone are empty and greedy, as if trying to smoke, nibbling on some kind of short-term stimulant, once the Internet is removed, you will immediately restless and look around in disarray. The mobile phone is not just a simple extension. It has been treated as an organ. We are inseparable from it. A person with a mobile phone becomes a new organism in a sense. "Human-mobile phone" may be currently the latest, most common and lowest-end human-machine symbiosis form. Charlie Brooker said, "technology is a drug", [9] technology brings the cheapest, most accessible, and almost perfect spirit drugs, but also makes people's desires less and less satisfied. This is also the side effect of technology when it becomes more and more perfect. Technology and people are endless black holes interacting, attracting each other, perhaps also suggesting the result of the final integration and symbiosis.

The “Macy Conference”, “Turing Test”, “Moravec Test”, outlines the post-human picture. As Katherine Hayles says “The Moravec Test, if I may call it that, is the logical successor to the Turing Test…the Moravec Test was designed to show that machines can become the repository of human consciousness-that machines can, for all practical purposes, become human beings. You are the cyborg, and the cyborgs are you.”[10]  If people’s consciousness can be downloaded, stored in somewhere forever and also can be retrieved by others, if the consciousness will not change when it leaves its original body, human immortality may be realised. The form of container that stores consciousness can be anything, the body of ourselves may not be inevitable existence. So “we” could become anything. If we can change our consciousness, any part of our bodies, or create new machines like us with same bodies and consciousness. Are we still what we are? Or are the machines become us? Or just the opposite? Like the famous "The Paradox of the Theseus Ship", when all the functional parts on the ship are replaced, the final ship will still be the original Ship of Theseus. Has it become a pile of complete different ship? That’s may be the time that the new creature human-machine symbiosis born.



With the development technology, the relationship between human and machine is more and more intimacy, more and more difficult to separate. Each other makes each other a reality, mutual achievement between each other. What we may become in the future, what the post-human would be like, are big questions with lots of possibilities. Maybe human-machine symbiosis is the next form, the next creature we will be evolved into. But just like what Foucault said, the concept of “person” is shaped though recent knowledge, it is not a basic element, so it will be erased, just like a face on the beach by the sea, without even leaving any trace. Human-machine symbiosis may also meet this fate at the end.




The artefact is a concept video describing the symbiosis of human-machine. There are wave, cell, patterns like gene, starry particles and geometry shapes, describing the fate that we will be erased and evolved into a new creature, human-machine symbiosis, who shared a same brain, same body together, people’s consciousness could be recycled. But this symbiosis may also be erased and generated into other new forms at the end.

I mainly use reaction-diffusion algorithm, which is a basic and relevant simple algorithm, just use “0” and “1” to generate different and complicated natural patterns, like coral, zebra, spiral patterns  and also is the simulations of vegetation distribution in semi-arid areas, and the distribution of biological populations (predators and predators). So this algorithm represents not only the shape but also the behaviour. I start a shape like a human but also like a robot, after then, it becomes no longer representative rapidly, with the algorithm they become the most basic unrepresentative patterns, the original, which can be generated into other things then. The shape can be rapidly erased, and slowly generated into another shape. That’s like what Foucault said the concept of "person" is not a priori existence, it will also be erased, just like a face on the beach by the sea. What could be after a “person”, may be a new creature symbiosis of human-machine, but it may be also erased rapidly.


Bibliography & References

1 Man-computer symbiosis, J.C.R.Licklider, IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, volume HFE-1, pages 4-11, March, 1960.

2 AI and me: friendship chatbots are on the rise, but is there a gendered design flaw? Oliver Balch, the Gardian, May, 2020.

3 Riding Out Quarantine With a Chatbot Friend: ‘I Feel Very Connected’.

4 “How often do you spend time with your Replika?”

5 The world’s most famous real-life cyborgs.

6 According to Greek mythology, humans were double beings.

7  Uploading Knowledge to the Brain, World Health.Net.

8 Charlie Brooker: the dark side of our gadget addiction.

9 Sinister Vision of the Future in the TV Series Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker.

10 How We Become Posthuman, Katherine Halyes.