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A.I. & Cybernetics

Date: 10-06-10
Host: George Noory
Guests: Kevin Warwick, Robert Scoble

Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, England, Kevin Warwick discussed his research in artificial intelligence, robotics and cyborgs. While he acknowledged that cybernetics carries with it certain concerns over privacy and independence, Warwick was optimistic about the potential for positive applications of the science and urged further research to determine those benefits. Using the example of brain-to-brain communication using computers, Warwick mused that "this is not a technological leap. It's perhaps more of a philosophical leap, but we have to do it." Among the topics covered by Warwick over the course of the evening were the realistic possibility for a robot uprising, the medical advancements made possible by cybernetics, and his own personal experiments with a variety of robotic implants.

Looking at the current state of artificial intelligence, Warwick expressed dismay at some of the popular misconceptions surrounding AI. "I'm amazed when I hear people say 'artificial intelligence still can't make a cup of tea,'" he lamented, "that's absolutely ridiculous." Warwick countered that such simple tasks are meaningless compared to the true power of AI such as the speed of processing complex information. In that realm, Warwick declared,"machine intelligence already has the upper hand." He also observed that many people cite Asamov's Three Laws of Robotics as a reason why robots cannot harm humans. A bemused Warwick pointed out the fictional nature of the rules and noted that "we see in the military that's what they're doing everyday" through the use of weapons like unmanned drones.

Warwick also detailed his own experiments with cybernetics which saw him implanted with a variety of devices over the years. In 1998, he became the first human to have an RFID chip implanted in their body. By linking the chip to the computer in his office, Warwick was able to control the lights, doors, and even had the computer greeting him when he entered the building. Taking things a step further, in 2002 Warwick had a device implanted into his nervous system that linked it to the Internet. This experiment allowed him to actually use his neural signals to control a robotic hand in the UK while he was visiting New York City. While such experiments may be unnerving to some people, Warwick confessed that he's more worried about the possibility of not being allowed to undergo the surgery necessary for the tests due to wary surgeons and insurers.

Personal Technology Trends

In the first hour, writer Robert Scoble talked about personal technology trends such as social network sites, the upcoming Microsoft phone, TV on the Internet, and the hot gaming systems for the holiday season. Scoble said that Facebook managed to exceed Myspace in popularity because of its cleaner interface and more personalized content. To that end, he opined that Myspace was "out-competed by a kid who understood that there was a better way to do things." On what to look for this holiday season, Scoble previewed the impending arrival of both an X-Box and Playstation device similar to the Nintendo Wii. These consoles, he said, will feature "get yourself off the couch" video games and encourage active, physical participation for the players.

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