One place where my faith has helped me with my science is that it has made me fearless. I take it literally when the Bible says ‘Fear only God.’ I’m not going to fear what all my colleagues are going to think of me. Before God all of the most intimidating professors really aren’t intimidating at all. With this perspective all fear of people vanishes. As a child I was quite nervous in front of people, detested public speaking and would weasel out of any public appearance, especially the weekly show-and-tell time at school. I would hide the object my Mom made me bring so I wouldn’t have to stand up in front of class and talk. I would have cowered in the presence of the Nobel prize-winners, CEOs, rock stars, You Tube luminaries, heads of state and other people that I have the pleasure to meet regularly these days. What brought about this change in me? Continue reading
How will developments in AI and robotics change the way we think about what it means to be human? This was the question that Professor John Wyatt, a medical doctor with a long involvement the discussion about what it means to be human, asked in his lecture at the Faraday Institute summer course this month, which I’ll summarise here. Continue reading
What if a robot could feel pain – and not just an automatic response to a potentially harmful stimulus, but an emotional experience of pain? This is one of the questions that I asked Dr Beth Singler, a Research Associate at The Faraday Institute, in today’s podcast. The human pain response is extremely useful but can we, should we, or do we need to give it to robots? (Transcript below)
Can you tell us first what brought you to the Faraday Institute? Continue reading
Is your smart phone really smart? Do you ever fear it will get too smart? Will it wake up one morning and decide to start running your life – deleting contacts it doesn’t like, booking holidays online that it wants to go on with you or shifting your calendar appointments to suit its tastes? Continue reading
Ray Kurzweil, futurist, author, and director of engineering at Google, has ambitious plans to create computer copies of human brains by 2045. He teamed up with a Russian entrepreneur to found the 2045 Strategic Social Initiative, which promises ‘the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality’. At the Faraday Institute summer course last month, Noreen Herzfeld explained why she thinks developing a synthetic copy of the human brain is impossible.
Herzfeld is Professor of Theology and Computer Science at St John’s University, Minneapolis, and she thinks that a brain model would have reduced capabilities compared to a human brain in a human body. The example of memory show that computers simply do not function in the same way that humans do.
Human memory is multi-layered, partial and necessarily fallible. An example of the multi-layered nature of memory is Marcel Proust’s description of eating a madeleine cake that evoked a rush of childhood memories. As he ate, tasting butter and lemon, he was reminded of childhood pleasures: the house where he lived, the streets he played in, and the gardens he enjoyed. These linkages between sensation and memory are unintentional, almost accidental, but are an essential part of our lives. Continue reading