Google’s quantum computer

This is a post-script to my recent post on Eric Schmidt saying that the Turing Test would be passed within five years.  An interview with a pioneer in quantum computing suggests that Google just might be hoping to build a human-level AI in that sort of time frame. Google has recently bought a quantum computer from D-Wave, and during a long but fascinating webcast interview on Singularity 1 on 1, Geordie Rose, founder and Chief Technology Officer at D-Wave Computers, talked about how D-Wave is a key partner in Google's programme to develop machine intelligence.  Rose did not commit to any timelines, but when...

Mr Geek goes to Washington?

The Economist claims that technology plutocrats are starting to engage with the US political process in a more comprehensive way than they have previously deigned to do. The paper cites Steve Jobs as typical of the existing attitude.  After hosting a dinner with Barack Obama and some fellow tycoons, he reportedly complained “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me.” The Economist argues that earlier interventions in Washington from Silicon Valley have been limited to specific issues, but now an organisation called FWD.us, a campaign for immigration reform (seeking...

The Turing Test to be passed within five years – Eric Schmidt

“Many people in AI believe that we’re close to [a computer passing the Turing Test] within the next five years.”  So said Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, speaking at The Aspen Institute last month. The Turing Test, of course, was proposed in 1950 by brilliant computer pioneer Alan Turing as a way to decide whether a machine could be said to think. The Turing Test has many critics, but it seems to me that if a computer convinces a panel of humans that it has human-level consciousness and intelligence then we will have to accept that it is correct.  After all, that is...

Partial Recall

Total Recall it ain't, but it's a very small step in the same direction. False memories have been implanted into mice, scientists say. A team was able to make the mice wrongly associate a benign environment with a previous unpleasant experience from different surroundings. The researchers conditioned a network of neurons to respond to light, making the mice recall the unpleasant environment. Reporting in Science, they say it could one day shed light into how false memories occur in humans. The brains of genetically engineered mice were implanted with optic fibres in order to deliver pulses of light to their...

Light pollution

During a family holiday (a California road trip) we have been enjoying the stunning beauty of starry nights above the Grand Canyon and elsewhere.  (Not my photo, I hasten to admit.)  This wonderful sight was available to everyone since the dawn of human history up until very recently.  In the late eighteenth century, the industrial revolution began to place an umbrella of smog above the minority of humans who lived in cities.  Then, between the world wars, the great blessing of electric light brought light pollution, and now hides the stars from most of us.  It is an extraordinary irony...

Google Glass and different reactions to our cyborg future

Today I went on a tour of the Google campus at Palo Alto, arranged as part of a family holiday in California.  It was, of course, inspiring. (Ray Kurzweil was hired by Google late last year, and we were told that he works in building 42, but I did wonder if that was no more than a jokey reference to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) When I told Eryka, our charming Google staffer guide, that the first group of Google Glass users are now able to invite their friends to join the second wave, she gasped and reached for her phone...