Event: Hangout on Air: Our Final Invention – AI and the end of the human era

Sunday, January 26, 2014




The Hollywood cliché is that artificial intelligence will take over the world. Could this cliché soon become scientific reality, as AI matches then surpasses human intelligence?

Each year AI’s cognitive speed and power doubles; ours does not. Corporations and government agencies are pouring billions into achieving AI’s Holy Grail — human-level intelligence. Scientists argue that AI that advanced will have survival drives much like our own. Can we share the planet with it and survive?

The recently published book Our Final Invention explores how the pursuit of Artificial Intelligence challenges our existence with machines that won’t love us or hate us, but whose indifference could spell our doom. Until now, intelligence has been constrained by the physical limits of its human hosts. What will happen when the brakes come off the most powerful force in the universe?

This London Futurists Hangout on Air will feature a live discussion between the author of Our Final Invention, James Barrat, and an international panel of leading futurists: Jaan Tallinn, William Hertling, Calum Chace, and Peter Rothman.

Here are some commendations for the book Our Final Invention:

“A hard-hitting book about the most important topic of this century and possibly beyond — the issue of whether our species can survive. I wish it was science fiction but I know it’s not.”
—Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype

“The compelling story of humanity’s most critical challenge. A Silent Spring for the twenty-first century.”
—Michael Vassar, former President, Singularity Institute

“Barrat’s book is excellently written and deeply researched. It does a great job of communicating to general readers the danger of mistakes in AI design and implementation.”
—Bill Hibbard, author of Super-Intelligent Machines

“An important and disturbing book.”
—Huw Price, co-founder, Cambridge University Center for the Study of Existential Risk

Our Final Invention is a thrilling detective story, and also the best book yet written on the most important problem of the twenty-first century.”
—Luke Muehlhauser, Executive Director, Machine Intelligence Research Institute

“Enthusiasts dominate observers of progress in artificial intelligence; the minority who disagree are alarmed, articulate and perhaps growing in numbers, and Barrat delivers a thoughtful account of their worries.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Science fiction has long explored the implications of humanlike machines (think of Asimov’s I, Robot), but Barrat’s thoughtful treatment adds a dose of reality.”
—Science News

“This book makes an important case that without extraordinary care in our planning, powerful ‘thinking’ machines present at least as many risks as benefits. … Our Final Invention makes an excellent read for technophiles as well as readers wishing to get a glimpse of the near future as colored by rapidly improving technological competence.”
—New York Journal of Books.

Live questions

Viewers of the live broadcast on Google+ will be able to vote in real time on questions and suggestions to be discussed by the panellists as the Hangout proceeds. Give ‘+1’ votes to the suggestions you most like.

Event logistics:

This event will take place between 7pm and 8.30pm UK time on Sunday 26th January.

You can view the event:

• On Google+, via the page https://plus.google.com/+DavidWood_dw2/posts – where you’ll also be able to vote on questions to be submitted to the panellists

• Via YouTube (the URL will be published here 15 minutes prior to the start of the event).

There is no charge to participate in this discussion.

Note: There is no central physical location for this meetup.However, you may consider meeting with a few friends in the same locality, and watching the event together.

Note also that panellists are subject to change, depending on personal circumstances nearer the time.

About James Barrat:

James Barrat has spent about 20 years writing and producingdocumentary films. His clients include National Geographic, Discovery, PBS, and other broadcasters in the US and Europe.

His long fascination with Artificial Intelligence came to a head in 2000, when he interviewed inventor Ray Kurzweil, roboticist Rodney Brooks, and sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke. Kurzweil and Brooks were casually optimistic about a future they considered inevitable – a time when we will share the planet with intelligent machines. “It won’t be some alien invasion of robots coming over the hill,” Kurzweil said, “because they’ll be made by us.” In his compound in Sri Lanka, Clarke wasn’t so sure. “I think it’s just a matter of time before machines dominate mankind,” he said. “Intelligence will win out.”

He wrote Our Final Invention about what can go wrong with the development and application of advanced AI. It’s about AI’s catastrophic downside, one you’ll never hear about from Google, Apple, IBM, and DARPA. He thinks it’s the most important conversation of our time, and he hopes you’ll join in.

About Jaan Tallinn:

Jaan Tallinn works on the overall strategy for ASI (Artificial Super-Intelligence), on top of researching and reviewing potential portfolio companies.

As a founding engineer of Skype, Jaan is considered to be one of the foremost experts on P2P technologies, and together with Ahti and Priit worked out the core elements for Kazaa and Skype. He continues to be involved with Skype, where he’s one of the lead system architects.

Jaan holds a degree in theoretical physics from the University of Tartu.

Currently he serves as Chairman of MetaMed Research LLC, and also a co-founder of the Cambridge Project of Existential Risk.

About William Hertling:

William Hertling is the author of the award-winning trilogy of novels Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears, A.I. Apocalypse, and The Last Firewall. These near-term science-fiction novels about realistic ways strong AI might emerge have been called “frighteningly plausible,” “tremendous,” “must read.”

• Avogadro Corp won Forewords Review Science Fiction Book of the Year.

• A.I. Apocalypse was nominated for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

• The Last Firewall was endorsed by tech luminaries including Harper Reed (CTO for Obama Campaign), Ben Huh (CEO Cheezburger), and Brad Feld (Foundry Group).

William was born in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up a digital native in the early days of bulletin board systems. His first experiences with net culture occurred when he wired seven phone lines into the back of his Apple //e to build an online chat system.

When he’s not writing, he works on web development and strategy at HP.

About Calum Chace:

Calum Chace lives in London and Sussex. After a 30-year career in business he chairs and consults to entrepreneurial businesses, and he is now a novelist and a blogger.

Calum believes that the first conscious machine may be created before this century is halfway through. The consequences of this are likely to be astonishing. He points to a quotation from Andrew Marr in a BBC1 TV programme last year, describing this forthcoming creation as: “the greatest achievement of humanity since the invention of agriculture [and it will] challenge the very idea of what it is to be human.”

Calum is the author of the scientific thriller Pandora’s Brain (to be published in 2014), which looks at the issues raised by the coming machine intelligence explosion. Set in the very near future, the book features Max, a shy but engaging and resourceful student who discovers that his recently-deceased father was involved in research that could enable the construction of the world’s first conscious machine.

About Peter Rothman:

Peter Rothman is the editor of the H+ Magazine, https://hplusmagazine.com/, which describes itself as “covering technological, scientific, and cultural trends that are changing – and will change – human beings in fundamental ways”.

Peter is an engineer and software developer with over two decades of experience. He studied artificial intelligence and neural network technology at the University of Southern California and has a masters degree in computer engineering from the Viterbi School there. His work in the field includes:

• The development of AI systems for exploring advanced aircraft concepts

• A neural computer for DARPA

• A variety of applications in predictive modeling, including automated systems for controlling systems onboard tactical fighter aircraft.

More recently he has been working in computer vision applications and text analysis applications including anti-fraud software for the banking industry. His current project is to predict future areas of science and technological discovery.

2 Responses

  1. Anton Melser says:

    I was very disappointed with this book. While the author did a lot of research, he is clearly not someone with deep knowledge of the issues and the book basically just takes memes from Hollywood scifi and attempts to put them in a “scientific” form. There are real risks, though he doesn’t give any time to the important ones and makes mountains out of molehills. Assuming an AGI/ASI is going to be like a greedy little consumerist capitalist that had an unfulfilling childhood and has latent violent and abusive tendencies is more than a little trite. The main problem with the issue is that we understand our own intelligence very poorly and are reduced to talking about it in half-baked metaphors we take from the current major societal trends. I much prefer the analyses of “singularity realists” like Rodney Brooks who understand the real issues without the grandstanding of those like Kurzweil. I finished the book but only because I’d bought it…

  1. January 24, 2014

    […] Peter Sunday, January 26, 2014 7:00 PM to 8:30 […]

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