“Two weeks ago, I watched the movie Her in preparation for an interview by a Brazilian newspaper. I knew I would find something closer to science fiction than reality, but the movie does have a foundation in reality. It was particularly interesting to see that the future depicted in the movie shows a sincere attempt to reconcile technology evolution with things our eyes and hearts can recognize, like handwritten letters and wooden furniture
Thirty years ago, when the Apple Macintosh was unveiled to the world, it was considered revolutionary. In 30 years, Apple managed to build a phone whose computational capacity is almost 200 million times more powerful than the first Macintosh. Projecting 30 years from now, the idea that we’ll have a molecule-sized computer, some billion times more powerful than the iPhone of today, isn’t as crazy as you may think.
The fundamental issue I see with these bold predictions is that computational power isn’t enough. Today’s most powerful supercomputer would be able to simulate one second of one percent of our brain, but it would take more than half an hour to do so. I have no doubt that, in terms of FLOPS, by 2045 we’ll have insanely fast computers, but the right software, the one that can run like the brain, is also necessary. Our comprehension of how the brain works and how to build software that mimics it will need to evolve exponentially as well.
From initiatives like the European human brain project, quantum computers (that might prove to be AI accelerators), nanotechnology, and serious advances in neuroscience that are already happening, I believe we’ll have examples of strong AI in less than 30 years or at least AI agents that task themselves with learning all about our universe and its mysteries.”
Cinema has long been enamoured with the ideas of robot sentience, Artificial Intelligence, transferring the human mind into machines, or more recently, uploading consciousness into the ‘cloud’.
From Metropolis in 1927 there is a continuous arc to the Matrix movies and the yet to be released Transcendence which raises the (for some philosophers, very real) issue of “The Singularity” – “a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature”.
Arnie addressed the issues of AI and the Singularity with great sensitivity and intellectual rigour in the Terminator series, but who could forget Hollywood’s most cerebral exploration of AI in Weird Science.
But I reckon artificially intelligent robots and cloud based computer overlords are the easy bit. If we want to set ourselves a real challenge, your weekend mission, should you choose to accept it, is to design a PAPS – a Perfect Artificial Pain System.
Where would you start? What features would be essential? How would it work? How would you turn it on? How would you turn it off? Would it be the same as human pain, or how would it be different? What base components would you need?
No one knows the answer so you can’t be wrong!
Get creative and get cracking – you’ve got 48 hours.
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