Interview on Singularity Weblog

[embed][/embed] This week I interviewed with Nikola Danaylov, the creator of Singularity Weblog.  It was great fun, and quite an honour to follow in the footsteps of his 160-plus previous guests. We talked about hope and optimism as a useful bias, about the promise and peril of AGI, about whether automation will end work and force the introduction of universal basic income ... and of course about Pandora's Brain.

The Guardian asks: Are the robots about to rise?

The Guardian has a detailed article (here) about Ray Kurzweil, and the prospects for artificial general intelligence.  It's by Carole Cadwalladr, a feature writer and novelist who has produced a series of speculative pieces about the impact of technology. Presumably it was the sub-editor who added the obligatory Terminator photo, but it's still worth a read. In 2004 Andrew Marr wrote that the default answer to questions like this in newspaper headlines is "No".  (The observation was later named Betteridge's Law of Headlines.)  Phew.

Our Final Invention – Panel Discussion

A couple of days ago I took part in an online panel discussion of James Barrat's book, "Our Final Invention".  The session was organised by David Wood, chair of the estimable London Futurist Group.  Apart from David, James and me, the other panel members were Jaan Tallinn (co-founder of Skype), and William Hertling (author of the very good "Avogadro Corp.").   Here's the video:

Why did Google buy all those robot companies?

Late last year the internet was lit up by the news that Google had bought eight companies that develop and manufacture robots.  A newsworthy development in itself, but what really got people talking was that Google did its buying very quietly, and didn't explain what it wanted all that robot tech for. The move into robotics wasn't taken lightly.  The (undisclosed) cost of the shopping spree probably wasn't enough to have a perceptible impact on Google's torrential cash flow, but it is significant that one of their key talents runs the new department: Andy Rubin, who was responsible for establishing...

What is Calico?

The launch last week of Google's Calico - California Life Company - is an important step in the battle against ageing.  But we still don't know whether it is a head-on charge against death itself, or an incremental approach, tackling individual diseases with Big Data.  The distinction is, well, a matter of life and death. Aubrey de Grey is Chief Science Officer of SENS, which stands for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence.  He thinks that by repairing seven types of molecular and cellular damage to the body which are caused by our basic metabolic processes, we can halt the ageing...

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...