A bolder prediction

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Ginni Rometty, the chairman and CEO of IBMGinni Rometty, the chairman and CEO of IBM, spoke about the future of artificial intelligence at the World of Watson event, designed to showcase the “ecosystem” of innovation happening around Watson, IBM’s signature artificial-intelligence system.

“In the future, every decision that mankind makes is going to be informed by a cognitive system like Watson,” she said; “and our lives will be better for it.”

Business Insider calls it a “bold prediction.”  But I think we can go one better:

In the future, mankind’s most important decisions will be made by informed, cognitive systems like Watson, and our lives will be better for it. Continue reading

Our A.I. love/fright affair

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UltronEver stop to think about humans’ state of affairs with artificial intelligence (A.I.)?  It’s a lot like a girl who’s fallen in love with a charming, attractive man who is also a serial killer: She is aware that he is dangerous, maybe even lethal; but she forces herself to love him anyway, trusting that her faith in his inner goodness will win out in the end and not leave her in a shallow grave in little, hacked-up pieces.

Or, rather, that’s how our relationship with A.I. could be; in actual fact, we stay with A.I. because we need its help, but we expect it’s going to turn and hack us up any second now. Continue reading

Ex Machina: Humans vs A.I… of course

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Ava in Ex Machina

Ava, the robot featured in Ex Machina

I had the chance to see the new movie Ex Machina (pronounced: Ex Ma-Khi-na) in a sort of “boutique” theater, the ArcLight Theater in Bethesda.  The ArcLight presents a more upscale theater-going experience, which turned out to be perfect for Ex Machina, as it’s an upscale telling of the “humans vs A.I.” theme that is usually represented (crudely) by the Terminator franchise, (genocidally) by Galactica or (lightly) by Star Trek.

And for “upscale,” how did it do?  Masterfully.  Overall, a five-star experience—if you’re okay with science fiction movies that don’t feature space ships and ‘splosions and ask you to use more than five brain cells at a time.  (Oh, yeah, there’s a bit of sexual language and nudity, so leave the kids at home.)

Read on; no spoilers ahead.

Continue reading

Have a look at Gabe Ibáñez’s Automata

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This is the first I’ve heard about this movie (coming in October), but it looks like a movie to see: Gabe Ibáñez’s Automata, A serious look at the ethics of creating independent intelligence.

Invasive technologies define the future of Sarcology

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sarcology cover 2014Invasive technologies, by definition, tend to have the most initial resistance to their introduction to society.  It can be hard to imagine a future world in which new and sometimes disturbing, often painfully-disruptive technologies come to be accepted, even common, parts of our lives.

Sarcology, recently updated and re-released, depicts a future world full of these invasive technologies, making it easy for the reader to question the likelihood and desirability of this future reality.

But given time, and often contrary to public perception, we have seen that even the most invasive of tech can overcome initial resistance and become accepted, even ubiquitous, in society. Continue reading

Robots and sentience

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iStock Photo

iStock Photo

Robot. Sentience.  They are two words that, when considered at the surface, don’t seem to be able to go together.  After all, a robot is a mechanical creation, generally considered incapable of sentience, or full self-awareness.  We specifically use the word “robot” to imply that the machine cannot have sentience; a robot is a clockwork thing.

When we try to suggest that a mechanical creation has sentience, we tend to immediately rename it.  Cyborg.  Android.  Replicant.  Synthezoid.  We distance ourselves from the word “robot,” and seek to redefine the creation to stand for something beyond its mechanical parts.

Is it because we want to keep the concept of “robots” as simple things?  Or is it because we see sentience as being beyond mechanical creations?  Do we see sentience as requiring some special spark that robots are incapable of? Continue reading

Her: Guess who’s plugged in to dinner?

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Joachim Phoenix in "Her"Her, Spike Jonze’s new movie, is at once unique… and not.  Which seems to be an odd thing to say regarding a movie about a man who falls in love with his computer.  But the seemingly strange relationship is not nearly as original as it might seem. Continue reading