In the popular HBO series Westworld, robotic hosts are depicted as being placed into a kind of psychiatric analysis by their creators. Could this actually happen one day? Joanne Pransky thinks it will. She bills herself as the World’s First Robotic Psychiatrist® (yes, she even registered that title!). She was dubbed the real life Susan Calvin by Isaac Asimov, after the robot psychologist he created in his classic 1950 short story anthology, I, Robot. In this episode of the Seeking Delphi™ podcast, host Mark Sackler talks to her about this and other significant issues in the man/machine relationships to come.
I’m not worried about depressed robots. But I am worried about masses of people being depressed about robots. Or any other form of autonomous system, for that matter. How we use them, how we communicate and interact–and ultimately control them–is critical. IEEE, ever in the forefront of maintaining standard practices and ethical approaches to technology, is directly in the fray on this one, with its Initiative on Symbiotic Autonomous Systems. Roberto Saracco, a noted computer scientist and educator from Turin, Italy, is co-director of the initiative; he joins me for this episode of Seeking Delphi.™
Is privacy dead? The answer may be more indifferent than you suspect. Gray Scott says it’s becoming irrelevant. People and politicians may squawk, but if you look at their behavior, it looks as if they just don’t really care. It seems we’d rather have free content–even at the cost of privacy–than pay even nominal amounts to access online materials. In this wide ranging interview, conducted just hours before Mark Zuckerberg’s senate testimony in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data breach, Gray provides us with his nuanced view of the state of privacy, both present and future.
” The only true disability is a crushed spirit.”–Aimee Mullins
In this final instalment from the first Seeking Delphi™ visit to SXSW, we hear from two of the most remarkable individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
The session, entitled Extreme Bionics: The Future of Human Ability, delved 100 years into the past, covering the history of prosthetic devices from the crude low-tech devices built for World War I amputees, through to the increasingly high tech devices of today. Furthermore, it looked to a future that might bridge the final gap to neurological embodyment of artificial limbs, and various technologies that will enhance natural biological human abilities along with prosthetic devices.
Aimee Mullins was born without shin bones and lost both of her legs below the knee at the age of one. She has hardly let that stop her–she was a paralympian and is a model and actress. Most notably, she had a recurring role in season two of the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things.
Hugh Herr lost both of legs below the knee at age 18 to frostbite suffered in a mountain climbing mishap. He is an associate professor and head of the biomechatronics group at MIT’s Media Lab.
In keeping with the future theme of Seeking Delphi™ I asked both of them to imagine the future of these technologies. This panel was part of the IEEE Tech for Humanity series at SXSW 2018. Acknowlegements to them, and to Interprose, for arranging these interviews.
“As an entrepreneur I like to know the next two or three things I might start a company on. For me it was robotics, bio-hacking, and quantum.”–whurley
As one of America’s leading technologists, when whurley speaks, people listen. Lots of them. His SXSW 2018 Intelligent Future keynote, titled The Endless Impossibilities of Quantum Computing, packed the largest ballroom at the Austin Convention Center. Just hours before the launch of his new company, Strangeworks, he provided the culmination of IEEE’s Tech For Humanity series. In between those two events, I was able to sit down in person for an exclusive interview. Special thanks to Interprose and IEEE for arranging this and several other interviews as SXSW. whurley heads IEEE’s working group on quantum computing.
For anyone who has watched the HBO series Westworld, the questions about creating machine consciousness run much deeper than “can we.” These include, should we? How will we treat it? How will it feel about its station as artificial life? Will we be able to control it, and is that ethical? And most profoundly, how will that change what it means to be human? The questions go beyond ethical to existential, and they were all addressed in the SXSW Intelligent Future track in a panel titled Can We Create Consciousness In A Machine? Not surprisingly, there were two techno-philosophers on the panel to explore these issues. They are David Chalmers, with NYU’s Center for Brain an Mind Consciousness, and Susan Schneider, with the Department of Cognitive Sciences at the University of Connecticut.
In this Seeking Delphi™ minicast, I speak with both of them about some of these issues. The third panelist mentioned in the podcast is Allen Institute physicist, Kristoff Koch.
YouTube slide show of Seeking Delphi™ SXSW 2018 minicast #2
The experts on the panel agreed…classical digital computers can’t create consciousness. Neural networks? Neuromorphic chips? And what about quantum computing? My interview with whurley on quantum computing, immediately following his SXSW keynote on the subject, is below.
SXSW minicast #3: whurley on quantum computing
In case you missed it, the YouTube slide show link for SXSW 2018 minicast #1, on covering sessions on quantum computing and self-driving car safety, is below.
As introduction to the podcast, some of this material is reprinted from a post earlier today. Scroll down for the audio file or links to access it on iTunes or PlayerFM.
“The promise of autonomous vehicles is great.”–Dan Lipinski
“My opinion is that it’s a bridge too far to go to fully autonomous vehicles.”–Elon Musk
Wait–what? The man who thinks he can send humans on a one way trip to colonize Mars within 10 years, thinks fully autonomous vehicles are out of our reach? The Elon Musk quote above is from 2013. I would be surprised if he still feels that way–but who knows?
Segue to this morning, at the Intelligent Future interactive track at SXSW 2018 in Austin, TX. Nobody on the panel entitled “Who takes the wheel on self-driving car safety” suggested we won’t get there. But there was plenty of caution on how, how fast, and how far we go in doing so.
Most notable were comments by Andrew Reimer of MIT. He foresaw a gap of 50-100 years before fully autonomous cars–no human intervention–take over the lion’s share of driving, globally. His issues were not just technical; they included trust, complexity, infrastructure and good old fashioned habit. He was certain that manual driving would probably never completely go away. He sighted the example of a high end sports car owners wanting the enjoyment of driving.
“It might just be hobbyists,” he said, but made it clear that in some shape or form, the human factor is likely to survive for a very long time.
A session on “Quantum Computing: Science Fiction to Science Fact,” was somewhat misnamed. While the history of its theoretical origins were recounted by D-Wave’s Bo Ewald, the session really focused on the current trends and developments leading toward a 10-year or so future horizon.
Bo Ewald talks about meeting Richard Feynman
Ewald recounted how iconic physicist Richard Feynman first imagined quantum computing in 1981, published the first paper on it in 1982, and gave a talk on it at Los Alamos in 1983. Ewald was head of computing at Los Alamos in 1983 and met Feynman at that talk. Sheldon Cooper, eat your heart out.
A sessiojn autonomous systems covered much of the same ground that was addressed in Seeking Delphi podcasts with Richard Yonck (#12) and John C. Havens (#17). last year. But one of the presenters, Liesl Yearsly of Akin, had an interesting means of illustrating how the material will affect us.