Less Hal and more Her, responding warmly to the feelings of others may no longer be a uniquely animal quality. Empathetic responses are being integrated into artificial intelligence and robotics, raising sticky ethical questions. The shift can be subtle or overt -- from emotionally appropriate gestures from your smartphone's voice assistant, to comforting robotics in clinical situations. For instance, Danielle Krettek, the founder of Google's Empathy Lab, said her work has contributed to some of the Google Assistant's apparent ability to attune to your mood. "When you say, 'I'm feeling depressed', instead of giving you a description of what depression is, it [might say], 'you know what, a lot of people feel that.
"When you are born, you know nothing." This is the kind of statement you expect to hear from a philosophy professor, not a Silicon Valley executive with a new company to pitch and money to make. A tall, rangy man who is almost implausibly cheerful, Hawkins created the Palm and Treo handhelds and cofounded Palm Computing and Handspring. His is the consummate high tech success story, the brilliant, driven engineer who beat the critics to make it big. Now he's about to unveil his entrepreneurial third act: a company called Numenta. But what Hawkins, 49, really wants to talk about -- in fact, what he has really wanted to talk about for the past 30 years -- isn't gadgets or source codes or market niches.
The University of Cambridge professor was an iconic figure in both the scientific community and in popular culture, known for his keen mind and humor, as well as his striking physical challenges. Dr. Hawking had long battled with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which left him wheelchair-bound for most of his life. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neuron disease, the condition damages the nerves that control movement and results in paralysis. Patients with ALS typically die within five years of diagnosis. Dr. Hawking, who was diagnosed in 1963 at the age of 21, is believed to have been the longest-living survivor, a fact that still perplexes neurologists.
News concerning Artificial Intelligence (AI) abounds again. The progress with Deep Learning techniques are quite remarkable with such demonstrations of self-driving cars, Watson on Jeopardy, and beating human Go players. This rate of progress has led some notable scientists and business people to warn about the potential dangers of AI as it approaches a human level. Exascale computers are being considered that would approach what many believe is this level. However, there are many questions yet unanswered on how the human brain works, and specifically the hard problem of consciousness with its integrated subjective experiences.
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is empowering people with physical disabilities, allowing them to take charge of their own lives but it's also having a surprising impact on people with neuro-diverse conditions like autism. It's easy to generalise about people on the autism spectrum; they like consistency, take things literally and like routine. They are built to provide consistency. They don't (yet) understand sarcasm and they like logic, a lot. But it's important to remember that although people on the autism spectrum will share certain difficulties, everyone's experience of the condition will be very different.