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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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: July 17, 2017

“The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to.”–Carl Sandburg

I don’t know about the moon, but when it comes to Mars, it does not appear that NASA will be doing much more than saying hello in the foreseeable future.  It seems there’s this little problem of money.  On the other hand, it’s full speed ahead to the lunar surface for at least one private enterprise.

Space Exploration and Technology–NASA has finally admitted what experts have been saying for some time.  It does not have enough money to land astronauts on Mars.  They could get astronauts there and orbit, but not land.  So I suppose they could say hello.

Moon Express is full speed ahead on its own ambitious space project.  They recently announced plans to launch a series of robotic lunar mining missions, the third of which will bring back samples from the surface in 2020.  The company is racing four other enterprises as finalists for the Lunar X Prize of $20 milllion, which will be awarded to the first private venture to land a rover on the moon and send back high definition pictures.

eCommerce/Retailing– According to retail guru Brittain Ladd,  Amazon could become the largest U.S. grocery retailer by 2030, if their proposed takeover of Whole Foods goes through.   Ladd predicts Amazon will pass U. S. #2 retailer Kroger by 2025 and take over the top spot from Walmart sometime between 2027 and 2030.

Electric Cars–The greatest roadblock to massive roll out of electric cars may not be infrastructure, but batteries.  Volkswagon, says that as many as 40 new giga-factories may be needed to meet global demand by 2025.

Transhumanism/Brain interface–DARPA has awarded a contract to six organizations, to be led by the University of California, Berkeley, to develop implantable interfaces that could transmit images and sound directly into the brain.  The aim is to compensate for natural visual or hearing loss.  (Reference back: in Seeking Delphi™ podcast #10, on the future of cinema and digital entertainment, film maker Steven Katz discussed this possibility.)

CRISPR/genetic editing–A team of researchers from Harvard and MIT are casting doubt on an earlier study that found that CRISPR/Cas9 gene edits could introduce unexpected mutations.  The original study was done by Columbia University.  It should be noted, however,  that the Broad Institute, a joint venture of Harvard and MIT, is in a pitched patent battle with the University of California, Berkeley, for rights to various uses of the technology.   CRISPR gene editing has the potential to change the face of human health, and perhaps even enter the domain of trans-humanism.  See video embedded below.

In the meantime, researchers at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley (no surprise there) say they have synthesized a protein they call anti-CRISPR which shut of mutations in CRISPR altered genes.

 

Robotics/Artificial Intelligence–It seems that a security robot has committed suicide in Washington, DC.  After sounding a security all-clear, it threw itself into a pool.

 

Coming Attractions:  I’ll be attending the annual meeting of the Association of Professional Futurists July 27-29 in Seattle.  More to come on that.

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.

The Future This Week: May 7, 2017 (week of)

“I feel like an email cross-dresser – I use a Microsoft product on my Apple product to access my Google product.”–Brad Feld

Um, OK.  I’m guilty as charged, too, Brad  Feld.  In the 1960’s mixed marriages caused controversy.  In the 2010’s it’s mixed technology.  But make no mistake about it, whatever you use, the cloud is about to get a lot bigger–and higher.  With the SpaceX announcement of its initiative to launch thousands of internet beaming micro satellites beginning in 2019, those unread emails are literally going to be orbiting the earth.  That’s just the beginning, in The Future This Week.

Space–SpaceX revealed detailed plans  and a timetable for its forthcoming communication satellite constellation.  It now projects 2019 as the launch date for the first of thousands of micro-satellites aimed at providing global internet service by 2024.

Now its not just enough to go to the moon or to Mars.  The Japanese space agency announced ambitious plans this week to go to the moons of Mars.  The plan is to send a robotic lander to Phobos and Deimos and return with samples, sometime in the 2020’s.

Made in Space, Inc., the company behind the 3D printer currently on the International Space Station, unveiled a video of its latest out-of-this world manufacturing venture.  It’s a heavier duty 3D printer, called Archinaut, that will have the capability to build entire satellites and even space craft while in orbit. (see below)

Autonomous Vehicles–According to a report issued by the technology think-tank ReThinkX,  autonomous electric vehicles will dominate the automotive landscape by 2030.  The report projects that these vehicles will be responsible for fully 95% of all miles driven by that time.  Most other forecasters have foreseen a much slower transition to both all-electric and fully autonomous vehicles.

Transhumanism–A recent DARPA press release  outlines the expansion of its plans to “hack” the human brain.  The idea is to enable the downloading of training directly into the mind.

Internet/Social MediaFacebook announced plans to hire 3000 human (yes human!) content checkers globally.  Apparently policing its content with artificial intelligence for inappropriate,offensive and illegal material–including live murders and suicides–is not yet effective enough.

Scientist at the Univeristy of Munich have developed a technology to transmit holographic images over the internet.  A paper describing how the radiation from a wi-fi transmitter can be used to transmit 3-dimensional images of surrounding environment is available here.

Artificial Intelligence–In case you missed it, author and futurist Richard Yonck discussed his groundbreaking book, Heart of The Machine, with me on the latest Seeking Delphi™ podcast. (YouTube slide show below).

 

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

Podcast #12: Artificial Emotional Intelligence

“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”–Roger Ebert

In episode #11, futurist Ian Pearson spoke to his assertion that artificial intelligence will create jobs.  One of the main reasons for this, he believes, will be the need to provide an emotional human interface between A.I. and its intended beneficiaries, be they patients, consumers, or business clients.  But the field of affective computing is rapidly developing artificial intelligence that can read and respond to human emotion.  They are systems with emotional intelligence.   In episode #12, I talk with author Richard Yonck.  His new book,  Heart of the Machine, provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of development in emotional A.I.,  while providing cogent scenarios projecting where it might lead us in the future.

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

 

 

 

 

Podcast #12: Artificial Emotional Intelligence

 

You Tube Slide Show of Episode #12

Richard Yonck’s background on Intelligent-Future.com

Heart of The Machine on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Ray Kurzweil’s review of Heart of The Machine in the New York Times.

News items:

Atlanta sets goal to run on 100% renewable energy by 2035.

SpaceX plans to begin launch of global network of internet providing satellites in 2019

University of Houston Master of Science in Foresight web page

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Podcast #11: Will Artificial Intelligence Kill Your Job?

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

One of the hottest topics in foresight today is artificial intelligence.  And while many of the most visible forward thinkers have been stressing over potential existential threats to all of humanity, there is a more mundane threat to all of us.  That would be our world of work.  As automation on the assembly line replaces more and more unskilled labor jobs,  there lies the looming threat of artificial intelligence taking on skilled, professional jobs.  Will A.I. kill your job?  Create you a new one? Both? Neither?  While the media is full of pessimism on this account, at least one prominent futurist is cautiously optimistic.  Author, speaker and blogger Ian Pearson, of Futurizon thinks that, at least in the short term, A.I. will create more jobs than it kills.  I talk to him about these views, as well as the longer range existential effects of A.I., in this week’s Seeking Delphi Podcast.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Pearson

 

 

Podcast #11: Will Artificial Intelligence Kill Your Job?

 

You Tube Slide Show of Episode #11

Ian Pearson’s blog post on A.I. and the future of work

News items:

Elon Musk’s Tesla to produce electric semi and pickup truck

European Space Agency warns on orbiting debris

Michael Abrash says full AR still 5-10 years away

Steve Wozniak on Google, Apple, and Facebook in 2075

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Podcast #9, Ethics and Emerging Technologies

All attempts to adapt our ethical code to our situation in the technological age have failed.–Max Born 

When thinking about the future of technology, many envision one extreme or the other.  Apocalyptic collapse, or Utopian delight.  There is a broad in between, however, filled with ethical as well as existential conundrums.  In this episode of Seeking Delphi, I talk with James J. Hughes, director of The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies about a wide range of issues.  These include not just the ethics of if, how, and when to proceed with certain technologies, but the ethics of public policy in dealing with the potentially disruptive social and economic changes they trigger.  The future is not black and white–in case you hadn’t noticed–but infinite shades of gray. It’s also clouded by the rise of the right and the Trump administration.

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

 

 

Episode #9: Ethics and Emerging Technology

 

 

 

(YouTube slideshow)

 

James Hughes bio

Harvard scientists to launch ambitious geoengineering experiment

World Future Society 2017  conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, Oct 12-14 (details soon).

Elon Musk launches venture to link brains directly to computers

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