"The actual path of a raindrop as it goes down the valley is unpredictable, but the general direction is inevitable," says digital visionary Kevin Kelly — and technology is much the same, driven by patterns that are surprising but inevitable. Over the next 20 years, he says, our penchant for making things smarter and smarter will have a profound impact on nearly everything we do. Kelly explores three trends in AI we need to understand in order to embrace it and steer its development. "The most popular AI product 20 years from now that everyone uses has not been invented yet," Kelly says. "That means that you’re not late."
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Scared of superintelligent AI? You should be, says neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris — and not just in some theoretical way. We’re going to build superhuman machines, says Harris, but we haven’t yet grappled with the problems associated with creating something that may treat us the way we treat ants.
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An eight-year-old boy’s encounter with a robotic toy doll ends up changing the course of technological history. Steven Johnson talks with special guests Ken Goldberg and Kate Darling, as we look at the uncanny world of emotional robotics. What if the dystopian future turns out to be one where the robots conquer humanity with their cuteness?
Original video: https://soundcloud.com/wonderland-podcast/episode-1-babbage-and-the-dancer
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Elon Musk has described the colonization of Mars as a planetary “insurance policy.” If we’re going to trash Earth, we’ll need somewhere else to go. The New Yorker’s archive editor, Joshua Rothman, is a lifelong science-fiction fan who has often fantasized about going to the red planet. He speaks with Elizabeth Kolbert, a New Yorker staff writer who is against the galactic-colonization plan, and Jacob Haqq-Misra, a scientist who writes about what the political landscape of an inhabited Mars might look like.
Is the Earth too perfect? The Moon too grey? Mars too dusty? Then how about setting up a human colony in the depths of space?
Richard Hollingham travels to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Chattanooga, Tennessee to meet scientists, engineers, doctors and anthropologists planning human colonies in space and spaceships that will take humanity to the stars.
These are not dreamers - although they all have an ambitious dream - but well qualified experts. Several work at Nasa, others have day jobs at universities and research institutes.
Richard hears of proposals to build giant space stations and worldships - vessels packed with the best of humanity. These caravans in space might be lifeboats to escape an approaching asteroid or perhaps the first step to colonising the galaxy.
IN KEVIN KELLY’S VIEW, a dozen “inevitable” trends will drive the next 30 years of digital progress. Countless artificial smartnesses, for example, will be added to everything, all quite different from human intelligence and from each other. We will tap into them like we do into electricity to become cyber-centaurs — co-dependent humans and AIs. All of us will need to perpetually upgrade just to stay in the game.
Every possible surface that can become a display will become a display, and will study its watchers. Everything we encounter, “if it cannot interact, it is broken.” Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) will become the next platform after smartphones, conveying a profound sense of experience (and shared experience), transforming education (“it burns different circuits in your brain”), and making us intimately trackable. Everything will be tracked, monitored, sensored, and imaged, and people will go along with it because “vanity trumps privacy,”as already proved on Facebook. “Wherever attention flows, money will follow.”
Access replaces ownership for suppliers as well as consumers. Uber owns no cars; AirBnB owns no real estate. On-demand rules. Sharing rules. Unbundling rules. Makers multiply. “In thirty years the city will look like it does now because we will have rearranged the flows, not the atoms. We will have a different idea of what a city is, and who we are, and how we relate to other people.”
In the Q&A, Kelly was asked what worried him. “Cyberwar,” he said. “We have no rules. Is it okay to take out an adversary’s banking system? Disasters may have to occur before we get rules. We’re at the point that any other civilization in the galaxy would have a world government. I have no idea how to do that.”
Kelly concluded: “We are at the beginning of the beginning — the first hour of day one. There have never been more opportunities. The greatest products of the next 25 years have not been invented yet.
“You‘re not late.“
Tech enthusiast Kevin Kelly asks "What does technology want?" and discovers that its movement toward ubiquity and complexity is much like the evolution of life.
They said it couldn’t be done: Nuclear fusion. We visit scientists building a clean power plant that’s hotter than the sun — but can they ever deliver? Then: the strange world of cold fusion, the people who hate it and the billionaires betting on it.
In 1968, an Italian industrialist and a Scottish scientist started a club to address what they considered to be humankind’s greatest problems—issues like pollution, resource scarcity, and overpopulation. Meeting in Rome, Italy, the group came to be known as the Club of Rome and it grew to include politicians, scientists, economists and business leaders from around the world. Together with a group of MIT researchers doing computer modeling, The Club of Rome concluded that sometime in the 21st century, earth would reach its carrying capacity—that resources would not keep up with population—and there would be a massive collapse of global society. In 1972, the Club of Rome published a book outlining their findings called The Limits to Growth. The book became a bestseller and was translated into more than two dozen languages. It had its critics and detractors, but overall The Limits to Growth was incredibly influential, shaping environmental politics and pop culture for years to come. There was a growing sense that limits would need to be put in place in order to regulate populations and economic growth. But in the midst of the debate, a physicist named Gerard (Gerry) O’Neill suggested a solution—one that would ask us to look beyond planet earth and into outer space.
Original video: https://soundcloud.com/roman-mars/217-home-on-lagrange
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There are some very smart people out there arguing that machines and computers are stealing our jobs. And that when these jobs go away, they won’t be replaced. They think that in the future, there will be fewer and fewer jobs.
In the short-term, that’s a big problem, but in the long-term, it could be great news. If robots are doing all the work, people can just relax, right?
What happens when the jobs go away? No one knows. So, in collaboration with The Truth, we made something up. Our show today is a work of fiction.
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