An executive guide to the technology and market drivers behind the $135 billion robotics market. Artist Stephanie Dinkins tells a fascinating story about her work with an AI robot made to look like an African-American woman and at times sensing some type of consciousness in the machine. She was speaking at the de Young Museum's Thinking Machines conversation series, along with anthropologist Tobias Rees, Director of Transformation with the Humans Program at the American Institute, Dinkins is Associate Professor of Art at Stony Brook University and her work includes teaching communities about AI and algorithms, and trying to answer questions such as: Can a community trust AI systems they did not create? She has worked with pre-college students in poor neighborhoods in Brooklyn and taught them how to create AI chat bots. They made a chat bot that told "Yo Mamma" jokes - which she said was a success because it showed how AI can be made to reflect local traditions.
"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.
Most people will know of, or at least heard of, Ray Kurzweil, Google's famed Director of Engineering, and one of the world's leading futurists. He's been surveying and forecasting the technology scene for longer than most of us have been alive – speaking of which he's currently trying to live forever, and one of his ambitions is to bring his long dead father back to life as an avatar – everyone's got to have a hobby. Earlier this week at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas he caused a commotion by announcing two things. Firstly that he thinks artificial intelligence (AI) will pass a Turing Test in 2029, and secondly that he's set 2045 as the date when we'll finally realise the Singularity, the point at which we see runaway technological growth that result in unfathomable changes to human civilization. "By 2029, computers will have human level intelligence," Kurzweil said in his interview.
Every year, I look forward to our annual Nuance Research Conference (NRC), an opportunity for our global research organization to come together to collaborate, converse, and drive forward Nuance's vision for designing and building intelligent, conversational solutions. This year, Deep Learning and AI took center stage along with sessions focused on advancing innovation in ASR, TTS, speech signal enhancement, and language innovation (to name a few), and our discussions have primarily centered around how we at Nuance can continue to pioneer advancements that improve the dialogue between people and technology. We were fortunate to kick off the NRC with a presentation given by John Searle, a thought leader in theories of the mind and distinguished professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof. Searle is well known for his work on speech acts, the "Chinese room" thought experiment, and, as we found out during the course of his talk, a passionate user of Dragon dictation. Searle spoke extensively about AI and the associated problems of consciousness, arguing that a state of consciousness that is inclusive of all the feelings and sentience of a being is a prerequisite of true intelligence.
We live in the greatest time in human history. Only 200 years ago, for most Europeans, life was a struggle rather than a pleasure. Without antibiotics and hospitals, every infection was fatal. There was only a small elite of citizens who lived in the cities in relative prosperity. Freedom of opinion, human and civil rights were far away. Voting rights and decision-making were reserved for a class consisting of nobility, clergy, the military and rich citizens. The interests of the general population were virtually ignored.