SXSW 2018 Mini-cast #2: March 10, 2018; Can We Create Consciousness In A Machine?


“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”–Albert Einstein

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.

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David Chalmers

Susan Schneider








Special Edition SXSW 2018 mini-cast #2.

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.

A reminder that this and all Seeking Delphi ™podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and  YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook and on twitter @MarkSackler

Book Review: Life 3.0, Being Human In The Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Max Tegmark

“The short answer is obviously that we have no idea what will happen if humanity succeeds in building human-level AGI.”–Max Tegmark, in Life 3.0


Reprinted with permission of the publisher, my review of Max Tegmark’s new book, from the November/December issue of Age of Robots.

Full issue available for download here.

LIFE 3.0: BEING HUMAN IN THE AGE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE Max Tegmark ©2017, Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 364p. Review by Mark Sackler


Max Tegmark is not one to shy away from bold scientific pronouncements. The MIT cosmologist and physics professor is perhaps best known for his taxonomy of a four level multiverse—some levels of which are predicted by certain theories, but none of which have been proven to exist. In his previous book, Our Mathematical Universe, My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, he offers the astounding conjecture that the whole of reality may be nothing more than pure mathematics.

So, what, if anything, makes Life 3.0, Being Human in The Age of Artificial Intelligence different? Unlike a universe of multiverses, or of pure mathematics, it deals with issues that are right in front of our faces. And his taxonomy of Life 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 is not a mere conjecture that can’t yet— or might never—be tested. Artificial
intelligence is happening right in front of us, and we have a multiplicity of issues to deal with, while we still can control it. Even as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk are shouting loudly about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, and many actual AI researchers are countering that the dangers are overblown and distorted, Tegmark is doing something to bridge hype and reality. Or at least, he’s trying to. The problem is, there is no consensus even among the experts. He provides the reader with a wide range of scenarios. Many are not pretty—from a corporation using advanced AI to control global markets and ultimately governments, to a runaway AI that discards human intervention to rule the world itself. And yet, he asserts, all of the scenarios he presents have actual expert believers in their possibility.

The ultimate answer is, we don’t know. Tegmark is not so much warning against its development—it’s probably impossible to stop—as he is advising about its challenges, opportunities and dangers. He knows that the experts don’t really know, and neither does he. But he’s not afraid to present bold scenarios to awaken our awareness. He sums it up best in Chapter 5, Intelligence Explosion:

The short answer is obviously that we have no idea what will happen if humanity succeeds in building human-level AGI. For this reason, we’ve spent this chapter exploring a broad spectrum of scenarios. I’ve attempted to be quite inclusive, spanning the full range of speculations I’ve seen or heard discussed by AI researchers and technologists: fast takeoff/ slow takeoff/no takeoff, humans/ machines/cyborgs in control. I think it’s wise to be humble at this stage and acknowledge how little we know, because for each scenario discussed above, I know at least one well-respected AI researcher who views it as a real possibility.

Tegmark makes is clear, that for all the unknowns, we need to proceed with caution. Bold conjectures and scenarios sometimes turn into realities. And some of these potential realities are not where we want to go. Decisions we make about machine intelligence in the next few decades will go a long way to deciding the future of humanity—our evolution or even our continued existence. He goes on to present possible scenarios for what we might look like in 10,000 and even 1 Billion years. It’s fascinating, but mind-numbing. We simply might not be able to control any of it.

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Podcast #17: IEEE and Ethical Considerations In Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems

“The real question is, when will we draft an artificial intelligence bill of rights? What will that consist of? And who will get to decide that?” —Gray Scott


Gray Scott’s comment aside, there are more pressing issues than a robot bill of rights.  Artificial intelligence development is progressing at an ever accelerating rate, and bringing with it questions of privacy, unemployment, and potential malevolent uses of the technology.  In this edition of the Seeking Delphi™ podcast, I talk with author John C. Havens about these issues.   He’s executive director of the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations In Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems.

Links to relevant stories appear after the audio file and embedded YouTube video below.  A reminder that Seeking Delphi is available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook

Follow me on twitter @MarkSackler


Episode #17: Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems with John C. Havens

YouTube slide show of Episode #17


John C. Havens biography

IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems

Heartificial Intelligence on Amazon

Dubai appoints state minister for A.I.

India appoints experts to advise government on A.I.

Tesla announces addition of new autopilot features in the near future

Eric Schmidt warns U.S. on China’s impending lead in A.I.

Saudi Arabia’s newest citizen, Sofia


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Podcast #16: Options for Future Human Evolution

“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”–Milton Berle

“There are no shortcuts in evolution.”–Louis Brandeis

Milton Berle was simply funny;   Louis Brandeis is about to be proven  wrong.  Humanity is on the cusp of a new era, full of promise and peril.  We are on the verge of directing our own evolution, and when that comes, it will come at a breakneck pace.  Breakthroughs in biotech and info-tech are rapidly hurtling us towards an age of self-directed evolution.  It will be change by choice, not by chance.  What are those choices, and how will we deal with them? How will it change what it means to be human?  That is the subject of a forthcoming book by futurist Linda Groff,  who joins me as my guest on this episode of Seeking Delphi.™

Links to relevant stories appear after the audio file and embedded YouTube video below.  A reminder that Seeking Delphi is available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.


Episode#16: Options For Future Human Evolution


Linda Groff, bio.

Global Options and Evolutionary Futures

News Story Links

Kalashnikov hover bike

Renault hover car design contest winner

Senate subcommittee unanimously approves self-driving car legislation 

Sex robot damaged beyond repair at arts festival in Austria


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The Future This Week: September 26, 2017

“By far the greatest danger of Artificial Intelligence is that people conclude too early that they understand it.” –Eliezer Yudkowsky

Just two weeks after the first Emotion AI Summit–an event that might not have been possible even a year ago–there is an explosion of news around artificial intelligence.  The sum of the stories might best be described by the subtitle of my other blog: ridiculous and sublime.  As sure as there is the potential to use new technology for both good and evil, there is also the likelihood that someone will use it, well, to be just plain silly.  So here is the good, the bad, and the positively daft.   And be sure to check out the Seeking Delphi™ Podcast on the  Emotion AI Summit, if you missed it last week.

Artificial Intelligence/Robotics–A prominent Silicon Valley CEO has made a very direct prediction regarding the future progress of AI.  Jim Breyer, CEO of Breyer Capital, said in a CNBC interview that artificial intelligence will be able to learn on a par with humans by 2050.

–Current specific AI uses for security-related applications are on the rise.  At least three of these uses came to light in the last few days.   These include an effort in  Brazil to monitor electric power use and detect theft or meter fraud,  the possible detection and prevention of power grid disruptions by the U.S. Department of Energy, and a news scanning bot that collects data on police shooting nationwide. 

–As for those silly uses of AI, consider a British company that has brought to market a sex robot that tells jokes–for a sticker shock inducing $4500.00, and  the Japanese (who else?) have invented a robodog that can sniff your feet and tell you if they smell bad. (Doesn’t everything smell good to a dog?)

Meet Samantha, the joke-telling sexbot.

–Almost on cue for the above story, researchers at Columbia Engineering Machine Labs have revealed that they have created a 3D printed silicon robot muscle that closely resembles real human muscles, but is several times stronger.

-Vladimir Putin has more to say about artificial intelligence.  A few weeks back he said that whomever controls artificial intelligence will control the world.  Now he’s warning–get this–artificially intelligent robots might eat us.  Sorry for the spoiler alert, but in Will Mitchell’s sci-fi novel, Creationsthey sort of do.

A new report by the World Economic Forum projects the global market for artificial intelligence will grow at a compound rate of over %17, to annual value of US$14 Billion by 2023. It also spews the now commonplace doom and gloom about job displacement.

An editorial in Wired magazine suggests that an ethical watchdog for artificial intelligence is desperately needed.  Actually, IEEE is working on one, and the head of the effort will be on an upcoming edition of the Seeking Delphi™ podcast.  (See coming attractions, below)

Biotech/TranshumanismThe journal Science has reported that neuroscientists in Lyon, France have partially restored consciousness to a man who had been in a vegetative state for the past 15 years.  Can that sci-fi deep state hibernation be far behind?

Coming Attractions–Up next on the Seeking Delphi™ podcast will be futurist Dr. Linda Groff on her upcoming book on options for future human evolution.  Also keep an eye out for the ethics of artificial intelligence, with Heartificial Intelligence author John C. Havens.

A reminder that the Seeking Delphi™ podcast is available on iTunesPlayerFM, blubrry , and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.

The Future This Week: September 11, 2017

“Automation is going to cause unemployment, and we need to prepare for it.”–Mark Cuban

Back in his early stand up days, Woody Allen had a joke that went something like this. My father came home from work one day and told us he had been laid off from his factory job.  He had been replaced on the assembly line by a $50 part.  The real tragedy of the situation was that my mother immediately went out and bought one of those parts.

Funny, yes.  But the disruption being caused in the workplace by automation and artificial intelligence is not so funny, particularly for the people on the losing end.

Automation/AI induced job loss or disruption–A report in London’s Daily Mail, suggests that we are nearing a tipping point for massive job disruption and loss caused by artificial intelligence and various other forms of automation.   While some critics of the employment doomsday scenarios suggest new jobs will be created to replace those lost, the report suggests, at best, there will be a period of painful adjustment.

Almost on cue, reported that another major Silicon Valley executive has come out in favor of Universal Basic Income.  Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, joined the ranks of other major tech leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, in supporting the concept of providing everyone in society with an unconditional guaranteed income as insulation from tech-induced unemployment.  If you’re wondering how it could be funded, here are some suggestions.

Sharing economy– Services like Uber and Lyft are not exactly automation, but they are empowered by the technologies of the internet and smart phones.  Apropos to the two stories above, today’s New York Times reports on economic hardships inflicted on traditional cab drivers by the ride sharing apps.

China’s answer to Hyperloop

High speed transport--Move over Elon Musk, China has its own answer to his Hyperloop transport system.  China Aerospace Science and Industry announced the planned development of system using maglev technology and vacuum tubes to transport passengers at an astounding 2500 mph.

Meanwhile, India has jumped onto the Hyperloop bandwagon. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced it has signed a deal to explore building a system linking the cities of Vijaywada and Amaravati in southeast India. The U.S.-based company already has deals to explore building systems in South Korea, Slovakia and Abu Dhabi.

Autonomous Vehicles– Who says congress is always behind the technology curve.  This past week they passed a bill to help facilitate the development and dissemination of self-driving cars. Now if only they’d do something about high school biology students using $50 CRISPR gene editing kits.   Pardon the expression, but I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Coming Attractions–I’ll be attending the Emotional AI summit, hosted by Affectiva at the MIT Media Lab this week.  Look for reports and a podcast soon thereafter.

A reminder that the Seeking Delphi™ podcast is available on iTunesPlayerFM, blubrry , and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.

The Future This Week, August 21, 2017

“I wish I had never gotten involved with steroids.  It was wrong. It was stupid.”–Mark McGuire

I’ve been saying it since I first learned about CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, two years ago.  It’s going to happen.  Maybe it has even already happened.   Performance enhancing drugs will be a thing of the past;  they will be replaced by performance enhancing genetics.

Genetic editing/human enhancement–In a wide ranging article in Next Big Future, the potential for athletic performance enhancement is analysed.  Is the super-human athlete coming?

Robotics/Artificial Intelligence–In an open letter to the United Nations, leading industrialists in the robotics and A.I. field urged an immediate global ban on autonomous weapons.  The group of 116 business leaders from 26 companies included Elon Musk, and Mustafa Suleyman, founder and Head of Applied AI at Google’s DeepMind.

DARPA announced a new program to develop better means of testing, adapting and predicting the behavior of autonomous machine learning systems.  One objective of the effort, called assured autonomy is to get beyond the predominant view of assurance systems, that such algorithms, once deployed (say, as in self-driving cars) will not learn and evolve beyond our control.  (A subject covered in Seeking Delphi™ podcast #14 on self-replicating machines).

–Robots don’t have to threaten your life or evolve out of control to be creepy.  Check out the dancing robots in the YouTube video below.

 Electric/Autonomous Vehicles–Remember the Volkswagon hippie microbus of the 1960’s?  The German automaker now plans a 21st century version of the vehicle;  it will be electric and have level 3 autonomy.    Debut is planned for 2022. Just add a peace sign, blast Jimi Hendrix on the sound system, and you are ready to go.


Wearable devices/material science–A university in China reports being able to create strong, flexible silk–that even conducts electricity, by feeding graphene to silk worms.   The resulting material could be used for a new class of wearable health sensors and create flexible robot bodies.

Coming Attractions–Speaking for wearables, the next Seeking Delphi™ podcast will feature an interview with Bloomlife CEO and co-founder Eric Dy.  The company’s health monitoring device that keeps tabs, simultaneously, on pregnant women and their unborn babies,  recently won an impressive innovation contest.

A reminder that the Seeking Delphi™ podcast is available on iTunesPlayerFM, blubrry and , and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.