Friday, July 6, 2012

Singularity interview with Hugo de Garis

Are we building gods or terminators?

That was the headline question posed in the interview posted on Socrates' Singularity 1-on-1.  The subject of the interview is Dr. Hugo de Grais, a man with an actual PhD in Artificial Life and Artificial Intelligence.  As an aside, he discusses how he really drifted into the field of AI as there were very few professorships for theoretical physics and mathematics.  Yet another travesty of modern academia.

He is the author of the book, The Artilect War: Cosmists Vs. Terrans: A Bitter Controversy Concerning Whether Humanity Should Build Godlike Massively Intelligent Machines .  Having never had this book brought to my attention before, I must say that it simply must go onto my "to-read" list...which is of Library of Congress proportions.  So many books, so little time.  But I digress...

The idea behind The Artilect War is that there will be a subset of people who will not accept the Singularity.  They will be troubled by the increasing number of humans who augment themselves with cybernetics as well as computers with artificial intelligence.  Those in the opposition will be known as "Terrans" (at least in de Garis' scenario.)  Those in favor of building artilects will be "Comsits."  Finally, those who wish to become cybernetic artilects themselves will be the "Cyborgists." 

A war then erupts in the mid 21st Century, one likely fought with weapons based in nanotechnology.  Hugo de Garis muses that such weaponry with its enormous computing potential could result in the deaths of billions of people or "gigadeaths."  No, that's not a new heavy metal band.

While I found the interview to be very interesting indeed and Dr. de Grais is an obviously erudite man, I am once again leery of pitching in with such doomsday scenarios in regard to the Singularity.  I say this because people tend to embrace new technologies. The up and coming generations are generations of "early adopters," wanting new technology as soon as it's available and incorporating it into their lives.  What was once a luxury now feels indispensable.  For example, I found a smartphone to be an unnecessary "goody" for the longest time.  Now that I have one, I can't live without it.  I believe that people, especially the young, will adopt cybernetics once they see its benefits.  Same goes for AI.

One caveat I will add here is that unlike say, Apple products, cybernetics, AI robots, and other transhuman applications are technologies that are in a class by themselves.  A truly new frontier.  The potential dangers that they do bring with them are a bit more formidable then those from an iPhone.  While I might not agree with them, I do see how doomsday tractates such as The Artilect War and Robopocalypse have formed. 

Let's hope the upcoming Spielberg adaptation of that latter book has a few ideas for circumventing these pitfalls.  I seriously don't think that it will but I'm seeing the movie anyway.

 My e-novella Hound of Winter is now available for just 99 cents.

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