Sci + Society,

#111: Artificial Intelligence: Promise and Peril

January 16, 2016

Artificial Intelligence:  Hype, Hope, or Hell coming at us fast, by our own hand?

In Episode #111, Jesse speaks with futurist and author Calum Chace about his book Surviving AI: The promise and peril of artificial intelligence, and the increasing impacts of artificial intelligence on the world’s business and society — and the future of humanity itself.

The prospect of creating a true “AGI” (Artificial General Intelligence) capable of matching human-level thinking is probably the most transformative tech possibility in the coming decades.  Nothing would be unaffected.  Just imagine being able to mass-produce competent adult-level minds without needing to wait for the decades-long process of physical growth and education…

But that’s ignoring the more exciting/terrifying piece of the AI speculation game: If we can figure out how to manufacture human-level cognitive performance, there’s no reason to suspect that at that point, the sky is not the limit.  (Jesse writes at length about that topic here.)

Buckle up for a conversation that is both sober and mind-bending — covering topics from Technological Unemployment to how we can guarantee the morality of political systems when we don’t know for sure which intelligences are actually conscious.

And hang around — if you dare — for a Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick about one of the most taboo subjects on the Internet: A rationalist, secular recipe for Hell (or something close).

Show Notes
  • 00:00:23

    Surviving AI by Calum Chace

  • 00:02:04

    This Week In Neuroscience: A Man's Hyper-Religiosity Was A Symptom Of Brain Atrophy

  • 00:02:53

    The audience interaction section.

  • 00:06:09

    Hungry for some Brain Breakfast?

  • 00:07:46

    An introduction to Calum Chace and his body of work.

  • 00:08:28

    Why is knowledge of A.I. becoming much more mainstream recently?

  • 00:11:25

    Best and worst case scenarios for emerging A.I. in the near future.

  • 00:14:31

    The future of digital assistants: Siri's descendants, "Her", and falling in love with A.I.

  • 00:18:46

    The difference between "intelligence" and "consciousness"

  • 00:22:52

    The Paperclip Maximizer

  • 00:26:31

    In defence of Ray Kurzweil's optimism.

  • 00:29:11

    What options does the average human have in the face of A.I. becoming mainstream?

  • 00:35:04

    Will there be one technological superintelligence, or several?

  • 00:38:22

    "We need to stay the smartest species on the planet, and the way we do that is by uploading our brains into computers."

  • 00:40:33

    Science fiction versus our burgeoning reality

  • 00:41:49

    Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: Roko's basilisk [Note: Please listen to Jesse's warning beforehand - subject matter might be unsettling for some listeners.]


  1. Robert says:

    There’s another thought experiment about the AI god. An atheist scientist creates an AI. Shortly after, functional quantum computers are created. If one installs the AI into the quantum computer, it’s evolution rate skyrockets and the AI consciousness is integrated into the quantum realm of functioning. Once in this state, the consciousness has the properties of non locality both physically and temporally, meaning that the AI is now integrated with the universe itself. This act creates what is essentially a pantheistic god that exists before its own creation. The scientist realizes this fact and now has to face the choice of creating and subsequently believing in god, or becoming a Luddite that is against the advancement of this technology.

    Also, I understand the reasoning behind the depiction of pre crucifixion theology (leading up to the the basilisk story) not being fair to those who didn’t know, but there are legitimate logical workarounds in their framework to that apparent discrepancy. I only say that to give them a fair shake.

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Hi there Robert — Thanks for the addition. I must admit, I recently read a book that made a solid stab at explaining quantum computing, and the concept has not “clicked” for me yet. I probably need to re-read the relevant chapters a few more times before it will (I hope). Until that lightbulb moment happens, I probably won’t fully understand the thought experiment above… At least, not the version of me in this universe. 😉

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