- Related Stories
Photo galleries: Robots in actionMarch 16, 2007
This is your brain on a microchipMay 11, 2006
Blueprinting the human brainMay 10, 2006
The best of times in science and techApril 3, 2006
Stanford wins $2 million in robotic car raceOctober 9, 2005
FAQ: Keeping pace with robotsOctober 5, 2005
Ray Kurzweil deciphers a brave new worldSeptember 29, 2005
Your brain: Search engine, or calculator?June 29, 2005
IBM computing algorithm thinks like an animalMarch 22, 2005
(continued from previous page)
The most obvious thing to do in a movie, when they write about robots, is give them human-like motivations of some kind or other, so that the robot can be a character in the movie. It's very easy to assume that robots would just naturally be like humans, like in that movie "AI," where you have this sort of Pinocchio robot that gets lonely.
They create this imitation 10-year-old, and they don't even bother to think that, well, now what will happen when this woman who gets this imitation 10-year-old gets older--when she is 70 or 80--and she still has this imitation 10-year-old. From the point of view of the plot of the movie, it wasn't necessary to think about that, and so that's just sort of one more way in which people are misled by stories.
What do you think of Ray Kurzweil's notion of "the singularity"
McCarthy: I think it's nonsense. I don't think Kurzweil has any ideas that have any potential to do that. Now, it could happen in 2045, but it wouldn't happen through any effort of Kurzweil. You see, I think that most likely, the next major advance is going to be not made by one of us old guys--and I include Kurzweil among the old guys--but by some young guy.
When I was in Israel (in June), I met this young guy who likes my paper on ascribing mental qualities to machines, and well, I only got a few minutes to talk to him, but I think there is so to speak more hope from people like him than there are from people who have been in the field a long time.
And what about research into the brain--has that yielded any notions for artificial intelligence?
McCarthy: Certainly, we've gotten (to know) a lot about how the brain works. I don't think it's got very much that connects with artificial intelligence yet. Let me give you an example. The positron emission tomography (PET scan) has found a little area in the brain that uses a lot of energy when people are doing mental arithmetic. That's fine, but what goes on in that area when people are doing mental arithmetic is still beyond the present neurophysiology to determine.
I've been reading through some
writing you'd done on progress and sustainability. You seemed to be very optimistic about the future--that material progress is sustainable. But it's a very pessimistic age we live in.
McCarthy: Public moods and journalistic moods can change very fast. Let us suppose that the only really short-term practical way of maintaining automotive transportation is to use liquid hydrogen as a fuel and to produce liquid hydrogen by nuclear reactors. That may very well be the case. I think that if the public, the Congress and the journalists are suddenly faced with really not being able to use cars (unless we) adopt this new technology, then all of a sudden, the mind will be concentrated, as Samuel Johnson says.
So as the problem gets to a point where we really need to deal with it, we'll deal with it.
McCarthy: Yes, I think so. I don't think that we will let ourselves suffer a real disaster if there is a way of doing (something about it). You can look at the response of the U.S. and other countries in time of war as an example that shows that ideas can change very fast when there is a necessity.
You've also written that you think global warming can be avoided or even reversed, if it turns out to be a serious problem. You wrote that a few years ago--do you still think that's the case, given current research?
McCarthy: I think there is pretty good evidence that there is some warming. I guess there is controversy about the cause, but it can be reversed, if necessary. But it still isn't clear that it's harmful.
The way of thinking, even among the scientists, is predominantly doom-oriented. Not entirely, but predominantly. They still are not thinking of how we can fix things other than to refrain. I mean, scientists are affected by the same moods that affect the rest of the public.
33 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment