[unrev-II] Hofstadter's Saturday, April 1st, Special: WILL SPIRITUAL ROBOTS REPLACE HUMANITY BY 2100?

From: Doug Engelbart - Bootstrap Institute (doug@bootstrap.org)
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 20:24:00 PST

  • Next message: Jon Winters: "Re: [unrev-II] Hofstadter's Saturday, April 1st, Special: WILL SPIRITUAL ROBOTS REPLACE HUMANITY BY 2100?"

    From: Doug Engelbart - Bootstrap Institute <doug@bootstrap.org>

    Forwarded to some of us Foresight friends by Christine Peterson. This bears
    directly upon the "complex, urgent, huge-scale problems" we kept bringing out
    in the Colloquium. Are we going to get collectively capable enough, soon


    Foresight's own Ralph Merkle will participate in an important symposium on
    machine intelligence this Saturday at Stanford. Organized by Douglas
    Hofstadter, others involved include Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Bill Joy, John
    Holland, Kevin Kelly, Frank Drake, and John Koza.

    Given Bill Joy's recent views on nanotechnology and AI in in Wired, and the
    known views of some of the others, things may get a bit heated. Let's do our
    part to keep the tone friendly. Expect to see heavy press attendance.

    The event is likely to fill up, so to be sure of getting in, you might want to
    arrive early.

    -- Christine Peterson, Executive Director


       -- free and open to the public --

       Saturday, April 1, from 1 PM til 5:30 PM

       Teaching Center, Science and Engineering Quad (TCSEQ), room 200 near the
       Math Corner, Sequoia Hall, and the Varian Physics Building

    Primary speakers:

       Ray Kurzweil (inventor of reading machine for the blind, electronic
       keyboards, etc., and author of "The Age of Spiritual Machines")

       Hans Moravec (founder of Carnegie-Mellon University's Robotics Institute,
       and author of "Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind")

       Bill Joy (co-founder of, and chief scientist at, Sun Microsystems)

       John Holland (inventor of genetic algorithms, and artificial-life pioneer;
       professor of computer science and psychology at the U. of Michigan)

    Panel members:

       Ralph Merkle (well-known computer scientist and one of today's top figures
       in the explosive field of nanotechnology)

       Kevin Kelly (editor at "Wired" magazine and author of "Out of Control", a
       study of bio-technological hybrids)

       Frank Drake (distinguished radio-astronomer and head of the SETI Institute
       -- Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence)

       John Koza (inventor of genetic programming, a rapidly expanding branch of
       artificial intelligence)

    Symposium organizer and panel moderator:

       Douglas Hofstadter (professor of cognitive science at Indiana; author of
       "Godel, Escher, Bach", "Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies", etc.)

    In 1999, two distinguished computer scientists, Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec,
    came out independently with serious books that proclaimed that in the coming
    century, our own computational technology, marching to the exponential drum of
    Moore's Law and more general laws of bootstrapping, leapfrogging,
    positive-feedback progress, will outstrip us intellectually and spiritually,
    becoming not only deeply creative but deeply emotive, thus usurping from us
    humans our self-appointed position as "the highest product of evolution".

    These two books (and several others that appeared at about the same time) are
    not the works of crackpots; they have been reviewed at the highest levels of
    the nation's press, and often very favorably. But the scenarios they paint are
    surrealistic, science-fiction-like, and often shocking.

    According to Kurzweil and Moravec, today's human researchers, drawing on
    emerging research areas such as artificial life, artificial intelligence,
    nanotechnology, virtual reality, genetic algorithms, genetic programming, and
    optical, DNA, and quantum computing (as well as other areas that have not yet
    been dreamt of), are striving, perhaps unwittingly, to render themselves
    obsolete -- and in this strange endeavor, they are being aided and abetted by
    the very entities that would replace them (and you and me): superpowerful
    computers that are relentlessly becoming tinier and tinier and faster and
    faster, month after month after month.

    Where will it all lead? Will we soon pass the spiritual baton to software minds
    that will swim in virtual realities of a thousand sorts that we cannot even
    begin to imagine? Will uploading and downloading of full minds onto the Web
    become a commonplace? Will thinking take place at silicon speeds, millions of
    times greater than carbon speeds? Will our children -- or perhaps our
    grandchildren -- be the last generation to experience "the human condition"?
    Will immortality take over from mortality? Will personalities blur and merge
    and interpenetrate as the need for biological bodies and brains recedes into
    the past? What is to come?

    To treat these disorienting themes with the seriousness they deserve at the
    dawn of the new millennium, cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter has drawn
    together a blue-ribbon panel of experts in all the areas concerned, including
    the authors of the two books cited. On Saturday, April 1 (take the date as you
    will), three main speakers and five additional panelists will publicly discuss
    and debate what the computational and technological future holds for humanity.
    The forum will be held from 1 PM till 5:30 PM, and audience participation will
    be welcome in the final third of the program.

    Sponsoring agencies at Stanford: Symbolic Systems Program; Center for the Study
    of Language and Information; Department of Computer Science; Department of
    Philosophy; Center for Computer-Assisted Research in the Humanities; Channel
    51; GSB Futurist Club

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