Edge 2015: At the Edge of AI?

The 2015 Edge Question is now available: “What do you think about machines that think?”. George Church at Harvard has an opener that starts with a riposte in favour of human beings…

“I am a machine that thinks, made of atoms — a perfect quantum simulation of a many-body problem — a 1029 body problem. I am dangerously capable of self-reprogramming and preventing others from cutting off my power supply. We human machines extend our abilities via symbiosis with other machines — expanding our vision to span wavelengths beyond the mere few nanometers visible to our ancestors, out to the full electromagnetic range from picometer to megameter. We hurl 370 kg hunks of our hive past the sun at 252,792 km/hr. We extend our memory and math by a billion-fold with our silicon prostheses. Yet our bio-brains are a thousand-fold more energy efficient than our inorganic-brains at tasks where we have common ground (like facial recognition and language translation) and infinitely better for tasks of, as yet, unknown difficulty, like Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis papers, or out-of-the-box inventions impacting future centuries.”

The whole Edge Question for 2015 runs 130,000 words, about the length of two novels. If you’re planning to read it on your Kindle, don’t try sending to Instapaper, as it’ll choke and fail. I’ve made a quick and nice-looking .mobi conversion for the Kindle, unabridged and free.