Frode Hegland wrote:
> >> WILL SPIRITUAL ROBOTS REPLACE HUMANITY BY 2100? A SYMPOSIUM AT
> >> STANFORD
> So, how was it? Was anybody there from this group? Have I missed
You had to ask. Now I need to write up the summary I've been planning
Bill Joy pointed to the old enemies we have so far faced down since the
middle of the last century: atomic power, germ warfare, and ______. But
he noted that those technologies required big, expensive programs and
were the province of a few governments (although the list is growing).
The additional issues that face in the next century though: biotech,
nanotech, and robotics, differ in two fundamental ways:
1) They are potentially self-replicating
Rather than being confined to a single instance, therefore,
harmful effects can multiply exponentially.
2) They do not require big, expensive programs.
Especially with the growth of computing power and information
access, we are "democratizing the capacity for evil", such that
a Kacinski in our midst could bring major portions of our
selves, our civilization, or even the biosphere. (Biotech, for
example, holds the ability to build "designer viruses" that
lethally attack a given race.)
The alternative he presented was "relinquishment" -- giving up the
pursuit of knowledge in those areas.
The panel provided a number of interesting counter-arguments and
counter-proposals, most of which were buried beneath a flurry of bad
logic and specious arguments. I was doing a fair amount of tongue-biting
during those moments when arguments were presented that "missed the
point" but between those moments there were some well-reasoned
Ralph Merkle made the most well-reasoned defense of nanotechnology,
pointing out that "replication capacity" does not necessarily imply
"self-replication". If the DNA-information is stored on board, like a
cell, then the cell is self-replicating. But if it is broadcast from
afar, then any component that is cut off from that stream can no longer
reproduce. So the technology is controllable.
[He also made the point that business does not want to kill off its
customer base, so it will never intentionally do harmful things.
Unfortunately, that argument misses the problem. It is not what business
intends that is the problem, but rather what they might do in a
shortsighted quest for profit (witness MTBE) and, more importantly, what
some badly misguided individual might do.]
On the other hand, Ralph also made the point that if we run from this
technology, and some malevolent person or government or person *does*
pursue it, we will be left without any means to defend ourselves. So if
there is a problem, we want to know about it as far ahead of time as
possible. And if there is no problem, we'd like to know about that, too.
Another counter-argument made by John Holland (I think) was that if a
problem were unleashed by an individual, massive resources of government
and industry would be immediately brought to bear to find a solution.
Although that approach has not been particulary effective with AIDs, the
reasoning is that the massive computing power that is coming into our
hands (the power of one thinking person in a single affordable system by
2010, of *all* thinking people by 2030) will make it possible to solve
such problems before they do egregious harm. [On the other hand, the
equivalent of putting oil back into the Valdez always seems like a much
easier problem to solve when you haven't been faced with it.]
As for Robotics and thinking machines replacing us, Holland, pointed out
that there are serious discrepancies between what we can get a computer
to do and what humans do. He mentioned Herbert Simon, who estimated that
it would take 10 years to develop a machine capable of beating the best
human chess players -- in 1950. He also pointed out that for Deep Blue
to play a great game of chess after analysing millions of combinations
every *second* was not very amazing -- what *was* astonishing was that a
human could do so. [This is more astonishing given the background
information that humans -- including Grandmaster -- look at 35
positions, on average, before selecting a move. I have long felt that
chess programs should be restricted to evaluating 50 positions. To play
well under that restraint, they will have to do the same kind of pattern
recognition that humans do.]
He also gave some insight into the human pattern-recognition process,
too -- patterns like the ones players see on a chessboard. It turns out
the human eye darts from place to place, absorbing bits of the picture,
and that the "darting" action is governed by deep cognitive processes we
don't understand. The darting actions themselves are call "sacades"
(sah-cahds) and they are integral in human pattern matching. [Another
note on chess: Given a chess position in which the best move found by
analysis was resonably obscure, 2 out of seven Grandmasters considered
the move in their deliberations, while none of the 5 or 6 Masters in the
study considered it -- another indication of the degree to which the
limited moves considered are controlled by pattern recognition.]
Anyway, the point was made that many of the things we simulate with
computers today don't really come near to performing in ways that we
could consider "intelligent" must less "self-aware", "conscious", or
"spiritual". So we probably don't have to worry about robots for a while
[There were other predictions about glorious futures, like biotech
having the capability to eliminate world hunger. It strikes me that
would be a good idea because, if there *is* a possibility that a small
government or even an individual could wreak massive harm, then it seems
to me that we really *want* everyone on the planet to be just as totally
happy and comfortable as possible, and we better get busy thinking about
how to get them that way just as soon as we can. However, I note with
chagrin that no business is funding genetic research for a wild tomato
that grows like crazy in adverse conditions and produces abundant fruit.
Instead, I see funded research for a tomato that can withstand stronger
pesticides -- so we can pump even *more* pesticides into the eco system
and keep profits up! So it seems to me that even with a magic ray gun
that produces a powerful orgasms, the so-an-so's that run our businesses
wouldn't have the sense to know which way to point it...]
Thus endeth the sermons, diatribes, and soapbox standing, cleverly (?)
disguised as a summary...
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Apr 06 2000 - 20:37:53 PDT