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“We will have human level AI in 7 years and 5 months. If I said 10 years it would seem like I don’t have a plan.” – Peter Voss

(June 10-12, 2015) – Palm Desert, CA

Is artificial intelligence (A.I.) evil and will robots take over the world? There is an A.I. revolution underway with red flags flaring around the world from the likes of Stephen Hawking (Stephen Hawking Warms Artificial Intelligence Could End Humanity) to Elon Musk (Elon Musk Donates $10M To Keep AI From Turning Evil).  Last weekend, the newly created Brink Institute held a weekend retreat curated by Celia Black with leading minds gathered around technology on the “brink.”  The event was co-hosted by Washington Post reporter and science fiction writer Neely Tucker and Fast Company’s Steve Ramos. What was the verdict on AI? And how soon will it be real? 

Neely Tucker kicked off the event by reminding us of the importance of independent, unbiased media coverage. At one time, news from the Washington Post disrupted a presidential campaign. Now, it is a “garage project” of Jeff Bezos after Amazon acquired the Washington Post in October, 2014. Tucker reminded the audience that society has in front of itself a blank page, and we have an opportunity to tell the important stories of science and technology in profound ways. Steve Ramos added that our greatest assets as a society are not technology but our stories.

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Steven Bowler/Wikimedia Commons


Photo: Wikimedia

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Vivek Wadhwa

 “Every good thing we develop has an evil side to it.” – Vivek Wadhwa

 Tech entrepreneur  Vivek Wadhwa  shared how tech giants such as MicroSoft, Google, and Apple are all focusing on longevity and healthcare, which is at the inflection point of the exponential curve in technological progress. There are economic, political, and cultural changes underway which need rapid progress. Examples include revolutions in the medical device arena with an emphasis on simple sensors which drive down the cost of healthcare. Current medical device technology has complex and expensive hardware and user interfaces, when the true technology is a simple and inexpensive sensor which can be paired with a software application. Medical technology of the future will be built efficiently around sensor technology. An entrepreneur in India created a sensor-based device and application with $10,000 and made devices that cost $600 each and can diagnoses thirty-three (33) diseases. It is being used by 2.5M people and has set a gold standard in Europe.

Wadwa wanted to dispel the myth of youth by citing the average entrepreneur age as thirty-nine (39). He emphasized  the importance of using wisdom to create technology for the greater good, referencing examples of work related to the water shortage and ocean health. The merging of man and machine is around the corner. Five (5) years from now, our phones might be integrated directly into our bodies instead of being something we hold closely all day. Every good thing we develop has an evil side to it, though, and AI will be no different than any other technology ever created. We must use technology for good,” Wadhwa stated. 

(Videos: Embedded via sharing from YouTube/Big Think)

Jim Clark 

Jim Clarkfounder of the World Technology Network, emphasized the importance of diversity and the contributions of women during the technologic and social phase change we are currently faced with.  In 2016, Clark will be bringing together global delegates for a week during the UN General Assembly and fifty percent (50%) will be women. His message: “We all have front front row seats to one of the most important times in human history.” Regarding the development of AI specifically, Clark indicated we cannot predict what is going to happen beyond 10 years. We can, however, be flexible and resilient amidst the changes.

Monica Anderson

Monica Anderson  is an expert on A.I. and is the CTO of Sensai Corporation. She holds the opinion that the Turing Test as an identification of A.I. is a “bit of a joke” and thinks that intuition is an important characteristic of AI. Monica has built twenty (20) systems related to the development of artificial intelligence since 2001. The code behind these systems is more simple than a person might think. Rather than millions of lines of programming code, some were as simple as six hundred (600) lines. According to Monica, the first step in the development of A.I. is the skill of reduction, which our entire education is built around and which true A.I. must be able to do on its own. She predicts it a trillion dollar business, and that people will have personal A.I. confidants as depicted in the film Her

Five important elements of A.I:

  • All intelligences are fallible
  • All intelligences are limited
  • All intelligences must learn from their mistakes as neurons do
  • All intelligences use intuition not just logic (fast thinking vs. slow thinking)
  • All intelligences must use reduction

“I don’t think deep machine learning is A.I. but it is the right pathway to go down.” – Monica Anderson 

Jim Karkanias

Microsoft Partner Jim Karkanias  gave a talk entitled “Information Alchemy.” The big picture perspective is that there have been many overlapping species of humans but “we’re the ones who survived.” Nanotechnology will play in important role in the evolution of artificial intelligence, and some of the important elements are: 

  • Molecular level machinery
  • Energy production
  • Information storage and processing
  • Self-repair and replication

In essence, we are already this. We are nanotechnology.

Karkanias identified three (3) steps to strong A.I.: “sophisticated (1) and controllable (2) nanotechnology (3)

He believes we are much closer than we think to developing human level A.I. The fields of medicine and molecular biology play an important role, although medicine lags years behind and needs to speed up.

David Hanson

Hanson Robotics founder David Hanson presented on the state of humanoid robots. “We are evolved for social interactions…There are enormous amounts of data going back and forth such that we haven’t even deciphered it yet. Social interaction is unconscious data synchrony.” There is a unique challenge in creating very life-like machines that are not in the “uncanny valley” or unsettling feeling humans experience when observing an artificial robot that is not close enough to human resemblance. The Einstein robot developed by Hanson Robotics seems to be outside the “uncanny valley” – and it only required 2 motors to control facial expressions. Hanson also created the Initiative for Awakening Machines. Hanson is not deterred by the potential for “job loss and doom” as human level A.I is developed. “Robots aren’t going to just wake up and take over NORAD. We will have time.” 

(Video: Embedded share via YouTube/David Hanson)


Neely Tucker’s closing quote from William Faulkner:

“I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail.” 


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Main Photo: Deviant Art, Bergie81