A Changing World: The Future

For the past four weeks we’ve been looking at the impact of technological advancement on society and humanity, examining its ups and downs, and asking, essentially – is it making us better? Is it making us more humane? Are we better off for all our gadgets and our constant connectedness, our overwhelming number of options-choices-information, our increasing lack of privacy, and (of course) our desire to make silly LOLcats?


Today we will take a peek into the future and ask, what happens if / when we add superintelligence to the machines and devices we use every day? (And why are we so driven to do so in the first place?)

Nick Bostrom: is a professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University. Since 2005, Bostrom has led the Future of Humanity Institute, a research group of mathematicians, philosophers and scientists at Oxford University tasked with investigating the big picture for the human condition and its future. He has been referred to as one of the most important thinkers of our age – approaching both the inevitable and the speculative using the tools of philosophy, probability theory, and scientific analysis.

Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence asks, “What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial agents save or destroy us?” and lays the foundation for understanding the future of humanity and intelligent life.

Bostrom’s Home page: http://www.nickbostrom.com/

Machine intelligence is the last invention that humanity will ever need to make. -Nick Bostrom

We need to think of intelligence as an optimization process, a process that steers the future into a particular set of configurations. -Nick Bostrom

Thoughts & Questions for Discussion
• Are our fears about AI unfounded, silly, and science fiction-y?
• Why do we want/need intelligent machines?
• Is there a difference between intelligent and conscious?
• Where are we currently ‘steering’ machines?
• Will intelligent machines preserve (or improve) our values? How?
• Will intelligent machines make US irrelevant?
• Or will they simply become more of an extension of US?
• Oren Etzioni: I am an AI researcher and I’m not scared
• Jeremy Howard TED Talk: Implications of Computers that Learn

2 Comments on “A Changing World: The Future

  1. I was a project leader on defensive weapon systems. The systems recommended when to fire, but the final decision was always a human. There is no reason to change this important decision protocol, for any system. The value system of the human is the challenge.

    Future on the way:

    “Google has a Quantum Artificial Intelligence unit working with the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a goal of developing a quantum machine that can learn.”

  2. Hi Futurists:

    While swimming at Hood after our class today, I decided, that I don’t want to relinquish my freedoms quite yet to super intelligence (or AI).

    And, I don’t want to live in a world without art, music, operas, literature created by humans. Our individual, rich histories, experiences, moments of “Eureka’s” come together to create something unique.

    Could AI want and be able to figure out its goals? (Remember, the speaker said not to anthropomorphize)? Would “it” enjoy the fun and challenges of figuring out how to achieve the goals? Would it ever then have the satisfaction that maybe “it” had contributed something important to our world? I don’t think so.

    Finally, “it” will not have an imagination, epiphanies, intuition, any creativity, or increased consciousness for making moral and just decisions and increasing our empathy.

    Thanks, again, Tera, for all that you bring to us, and I look forward to seeing you and others in another class..


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