Intelligent Machines: The End of Humanity? [An exploration of whether our tools will become our masters ] : LUSENET : Human-Machine Assimilation : One Thread

End of Humanity?

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Intelligent Machines: The End of Humanity?

An exploration of whether our tools will become our masters

March 6, 1999,  1:00 - 4:30 p.m.
Rawles Hall 100
Indiana University - Bloomington

        As the year 2000 starts rushing headlong towards us, we all are thinking about many changes.  But how many of us are thinking along the radical lines of several recent books, all of which -- all written by highly reputed authorities -- argue that because of the relentlessly accelerating march of technology, desktop-computer power will, within just a few decades, far exceed that of the human brain, and shortly thereafter will even exceed the collective thinking power of all humanity.  They further argue that such thinking entities will merge with nanotechnology and virtual reality, and the products that will emerge from this convergence will be intelligences of an inconceivably powerful sort, leaving us humans behind in the dust.
        All this is foreseen, at least by these experts, by the end of the coming century.  Clearly, if there is even the tiniest grain of truth to what they claim, we should all be profoundly concerned with these prospects.  We need to evaluate the likelihood that what they claim is true, the degree to which these forecasts are anathema to us, and if a true calamity seems in store, then what sorts of measures might be taken to forestall it before it is too late.  On the other hand, all of this might be seen as groundless poppycock, as nothing more than what happens when silly science-fiction-addicted minds splice sloppy and wishful thinking together into an incoherent goulash. If this is so, however, then why do these books get published by top-notch publishers, get reviewed by the nation's top newspapers, get promoted by the editors of "Scientific American", and so forth?
        Are we dealing with the sublimest of hokum, or are we dealing with something to be taken truly seriously?  Whither humanity and its ever more powerful, ever more flexible, ever more reflective
technology in the coming ten decades?

Welcome and Introduction
        Douglas R. Hofstadter
              College Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science
              Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition

Panel Chair and Moderator
        J. Michael Dunn
              Oscar R. Ewing Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Computer Science
              Director, Office for Informatics

        Andrew Dillon
              Associate Professor of Information Science
        Thomas F. Gieryn
              Professor of Sociology
        Rob Kling
              Professor of Information Science and Information Systems
              Director, Center for Social Informatics
        Noretta Koertge
              Professor of History and Philosopy of Science
        Michael A. McRobbie
              Professor of Computer Science and Professor of Philosophy
              Vice President for Information Technology and
              Chief Information Officer at Indiana University
        Gregory J. E. Rawlins
              Associate Professor of Computer Science
        Richard M. Shiffrin
              Luther Dana Waterman Professor of Psychology
              Director, Cognitive Science Program
        Brian Cantwell Smith
              Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science
        Linda B. Smith
              Chancellors' Professor of Psychology
        John Woodcock
              Associate Professor of English

        Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition
        Center for Social Informatics
        Cognitive Science Program
        Computer Science Department
        Office for Informatics
        Office of the Vice President for Information Technology

Some relevant literature
        Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers
              Exceed Human Intelligence
        Gregory Rawlins, Slaves of the Machine: The Quickening of Computer
        Hans Moravec, Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind
        Neil Gershenfeld, When Things start to Think
        Damian Broderick, The Spike
        New York Times Book Review, January 3, 1999, "Hello, HAL: Three
              books examine the future of artificial intelligence and find
              the human brain is in trouble" by Colin McGinn.

        1:00 - 1:20 p.m.  Welcome and introduction by Douglas Hofstader
        1:20 - 3:00 p.m.  Panel discussion, chaired by J. Michael Dunn
        3:00 - 3:15 p.m.  Coffee break
        3:15 - 4:30 p.m.  General discussion: panelists and members of
                          the audience. (Interested people may continue to discuss
                          and philosophize.)

For additional information, please call the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition at 855 6965.

-- scott (, February 22, 2000

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