Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition 01.07.09

I’m stealing today’s AI from John Brockman who poses The Edge Annual Question each year. The question for 2009 is:

What will change everything?

A few suggestions posed in the article The Big Question include climate change, studies showing that animals have emotions and feel pain, a general sense of trepidation (currently affecting the economy, for example), and the emergence of new religions.

What do you think will change everything?

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40 Comments

  1. Pie that exists simultaneously in cake form, ending the eternal feud.

    Alternately, a ninja in a pirate costume.

    Seriously though, I’d have to say that something along the lines of true AI would change everything, primarily because it could give us intelligent solutions to problems without bias clouding the judgement midway through.

  2. @QuestionAuthority: That’s a good point. I was more going for the idea that it wouldn’t have any necessary moral viewpoint or stance programmed into it, and would, as a result, be unbiased towards a religious, moral, or otherwise potentially confounding issues that we as humans simply wouldn’t consider.

    Good question though… I wonder if I’m thinking of something that we simply couldn’t make.

  3. Hmmm, try as I might I can not imagine “one thing” that will change everything any time soon or in the foreseeable future. Unless it’s aliens showing up on our door step or the flying spaghetti monster making a simultaneous call to every phone on the planet telling us we’ve all been somewhat irritating and remedial interventions will be commencing forthwith.

    Technological advances nearly always come in small increments and not much sneaks up on us anymore. Issues like animal rights and climate change seem quite unlikely to have any new available research or information that will sway current opinion. And when it comes to the economy, wars and religion there have been so many more times in the past 100 years that have been more dire, more depressing and more screwed up I’m not all that concerned about the current circumstances we find our selves in.

  4. Remember all the hoopla about ten years ago in anticipation (manufacturer-generated, that is) of what turned out to be the Segway? I recall talk of something so incredible that it would change everything…
    so far the Vice magazine don’ts and there’s that new mall cop movie…so, uh…

  5. What will change everything?
    Getting laid would change everything.
    Well it would for ME!
    Hey listen, I aint been nookied since Bush Sr was the top dog. Becoming poonyfied would change my life pronto.

  6. Ubermoogle, Question Authority: If you haven’t already you you eheck out Eleizer Yudkowsky’s work at http://www.overcomingbias.com he’s actually a researcher in AI and has written about AI morality.

    What I think will change everything is when the US government finally spends itself into total insolvency in a couple of decades. If we’re lucky the rest of the world will see the writing on the wall and stop relying on you before it’s too late. Otherwise things will get ugly.

  7. @Ubermoogle: Seriously though, I’d have to say that something along the lines of true AI would change everything, primarily because it could give us intelligent solutions to problems without bias clouding the judgement midway through.

    ———-

    In what sense would that be “true” AI?

  8. What will change everything?
    A Vogon constructor fleet appearing in orbit around the Earth.

    “What do you mean you didn’t know?! The plans have been posted at Alpha Centauri for the last five years! If you can’t be bothered to nip on down…!” :-D

  9. @James K:

    I find it challenging to believe that with all we don’t know about our own ‘intelligence’, ‘morality’ , ‘free will’ et al that we somehow know enough to create a true AI. It would almost have to be accidental. On the other hand, we are quite good at making AAI by which I mean artficies that do a job of ‘seeming’ intelligent by a series of guesses and mimicry.

  10. @sethmanapio: Perhaps I’m abusing the definition a bit, and I might be a little optimistic about it generally, but I think an unbiased AI could give us a completely different perspective of things from what we’re used to as thinking, reproducing and self-preserving animals.

  11. I find it challenging to believe that with all we don’t know about our own ‘intelligence’, ‘morality’ , ‘free will’ et al that we somehow know enough to create a true AI.

    Yudkowsky feels the same way. That’s the fascinating thing about him, he’s dedicated to his cause while being fully aware of how mind-bendingly hard it is. He’s not even close to writing code, right now he’s trying to develop a philosophy of intelligence and morality to the point where it will be useful in creating AI.

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