Just listened with great interest and amusement to Neil deGrasse Tyson‘s StarTalk Radio! podcast “Gazing into the Future with Ray Kurzweil“, where “your personal Astrophysicist” and Hayden Planetarium Director interviews the Futurist on his predictions on the future of A.I., the mind, and humankind in general.
The interview spans all kind of topics: from embodied and disembodied Artificial Intelligence (think Robots vs the Cloud), embodied and disembodied Human Intelligence (think getting hooked up with 3D printed body parts vs uploading your “brain” – or at least your memories – onto a computer chip), Nanorobots running through your bloodstream and even (Sex) Robots flirting with Polyamorous Roboticists! (sic!).
Kurzweil is being criticised by the other interviewee, Neuroscientist Gary Marcus, for being so specific about the dates on which each milestone is going to happen (Eliminate poverty by 2020? Eliminate disease by 2030? That would be nice). But they all agree that the future is coming, in some ways it’s already here, and that the moral questions posed or that should be posed are valid and tricky to answer: What’s the future of work? Can machines turn us into paperclips? Will we all be unemployed in the future? Can machines turn evil or will circumstances turn them destructive? (think of self-driving cars inadvertently colliding with one another in the vicinity of magnets). There are as many optimistic as pessimistic scenarios, but we are appeased that SkyNet is unlikely to become reality any time soon.
And we may simulate human intelligence and even language, but they ascertain it’s unrealistic to try and simulate the human brain itself with its billions of neurons and synapses in search of the foundations of this intelligence and linguistic aptitude.
But then again, as one of the sayings quoted in the show goes “When something doesn’t work, it’s A.I., when it does, it’s just (clever) Engineering”. Quite!