reply to post by EvanJP
Solar power is really not practical for mobile applications. About the best you are going to get is a moving sidewalk with fixed solar arrays
powering it. Even if you had 100% capture and conversion of the energy radiated from the sun, you would be hard-pressed to power anything we equate
to a motor-vehicle, today (city traffic is too stop-and-go while highway driving is too power intensive). A military/defense application is out of
The most promise comes from direct fuel-to-electric catalysis (much like a hydrogen fuel cell - only working directly with fuels like methanol or
other hydrocarbons). That significantly reduces the weight of your primary power plant (the engine) and conversion (alternator) into a single
solution. A similar application of cold fusion would also be viable - but we don't even have prototype/research devices to compare.
Then the only problem is in getting computing power compact enough to support anything we would equate to being intelligent. Even then... one must
be careful to differentiate between 'simulated' and 'real' intelligence. It is a line that is not easy to draw... but, for example, let's say
you have something like Watson... it's not an intelligent machine, it merely designed to give you the impression it is intelligent (it can service
queries and match context to give you that impression, and even 'train' itself to be more accurate with future interactions).
Perhaps the best way to put it is the difference between intelligence and sentient intelligence. A sentient intelligence can be said to have a
personality and will of its own. A cat... while not in possession of the same depth of intelligence of a human... is considerably different from
Watson. I am sure someone will come along and chastise me for, essentially, declaring a cat sentient... a cat does appear to be self-aware. It is
capable of understanding that there is an environment to be interacted with in different ways. Many even have a personality, particularly when
interacting with other cats. Watson, however, is not aware of its environment in any context. It simply reacts objectively.
By time we do have computers and machines capable of replicating human intelligence, we will have already advanced considerably in cybernetics. I
expect that some of the most popular cybernetic enhancements will start as interface devices and computational aids (a calculator that you 'train'
to interact with and never have to search for, again). This will expand into 'notepad' type programs - and I expect, after that, 'rigid'
cybernetic programs will dissolve, completely.
The reason for this is simply the way the brain works. Our neurology is very unique to each individual. The regions of the brain may activate in a
very similar sequence when viewed under an fMRI when you and I are shown the same image... but the exact way in which that image is processed and how
it triggers relevant memories is going to differ - perhaps greatly.
It will be exceedingly difficult to create devices and programs with a development process currently used for digital systems running on identical
hardware. While we would 'train' to interact with cybernetic devices (even the simple calculator would require extensive training to use
proficiently) - the way we currently develop computer code would require us to train for each -program- .
At such a point after being established, cybernetic devices will lose their rigid programming structure and focus more on developing devices that the
user inherently 'expands' into. Rather than training to use a new program, you simply build one based off of the axioms you've trained to utilize.
In a sense - your consciousness would simply grow to include the functions and operations of the cybernetic devices, much in the same way that people
will often learn to think of or in reference to their arm, leg, or other physical peripheral when learning new topics.
So, by time we have sentient machines, we will have a much better understanding of how our own consciousness and sentience functions so as to better
relate to our creations. Further, I am not sure the "robot versus human" issue would be as prevalent in such a world as it is, today... the
distinction is great in today's world... but in another fifty to a hundred years - the distinction between a biologically-originated sentience and a
technologically-oriented sentience may merely be academic (and with an increasing number of internet-based interactions, ideological differences and
labels are more likely to encompass the greater volume of discrimination issues than physical).