Recently, a paralyzed man was able to write using his thoughts.
Ten years after the man they called “T5” was utterly paralyzed, researchers planted a robot in the part of his brain that controls movement. That long after losing the use of his body, they weren’t sure his brain would remember how to move at all.
But it did. When the man imagined handwriting the alphabet, his brain started to light up, and the robot living in there began to learn.
Over many months they grew closer, until the robot knew him well enough to read his thoughts.
Eventually, they hooked him up to a screen and told him to copy some words, until he could do that to their satisfaction. Then they asked him what advice he would give to his younger self.
“Be patient. It will get better,” he wrote.
Even when things get unimaginably difficult, when we are trapped and scared and defeated, we can at least take comfort in knowing that things will always change.
And often a lot sooner than we think.
It was a strange morning in Shanghai.
Despite its age, the local school had very graciously walked down the street to make room for a new skyscraper complex.
The 7,600-ton building, severed from its roots and mounted on hundreds of mechanical legs, inched 200 ft down the road; without dropping so much as a windowpane.
We don’t always have to destroy the old to make way for the new.
It’s cheaper — and way cooler — to carefully nudge it out the way.
Times are changing faster than ever.
Some days I look around at the technology we take for granted and can barely believe I get to see this happen.
Computers used to be a joke. We had a computer with 128kb of RAM when I was a kid. 128 kilobytes!
I’m not even sure you can find an image that small these days.
We can speak to anyone face to face through this tiny computer I can put in my pocket. We have robots that dance and space rockets that land themselves. Self-driving cars and drone-taxis will be standard in ten years.
And we’re still not impressed.
This is the stuff I used to dream about in sci-fi books but I never thought I’d see it happen.
Some days I sit here and look back at those dark, bloody, scary, slow pages of history and think:
They really did all of that for us?
And they really did.
That fills me with such pride for humanity that I want to pass it on.
In case you were ever worried about the robots coming you should know that AI won’t take our jobs.
AI will offer us new, better, more interesting work that we’ll enjoy more.
If you told someone back in 1920 we’d have cat psychiatrists, dog masseurs, and a ten-year-old who made millions from unwrapping presents, they’d probably put you in an asylum.
Yet here we are, psychoanalyzing pets and making synchronized dancing videos for cash instead of squeezing down a mine or milking a cow.
Don’t fear the future.
Imagine whatever wild place you want it to be and start walking.
The rest of us will just have to catch up.
It’s impossible to ignore the rise of robots.
They’ve gone from ‘awkward factory joke’ to ‘overlords-in-training’ in a handful of years. And it turns out the breakthrough was teaching them how to make mistakes.
Our brains learn through trial and error. For many years, when a robot produced an error it would simply stop, shake, make weird noises, give up, and perhaps leak a little fluid — like many people.
Teaching robots how to accept and learn from errors instead of grinding to a halt completely changed the game. It even makes them more likable.
And robots are happy to make 1,000 mistakes an hour because they don’t have egos (yet), so you can bet they’re learning fast. Really fast. Here they are, practicing a dance to celebrate their global takeover.
It would be deeply ironic if we wiped ourselves out by teaching robots to do the very thing we haven’t yet mastered: learning from our mistakes.