In the first half, artificial intelligence expert Peter J. Scott talked about the positive developments brought about by exponential advances in technology, as well as the potential dangers that may result. Acknowledging AI as a slippery concept for many people, Scott defined it as the performing of tasks by computers, with one key distinction. While typical computer processes are bound by linear programming commands, AI applications, like humans, can perform tasks (facial recognition, for example) that are practically impossible to break down into a list of steps. Part of AI’s value has to do with the Extended Mind Hypothesis, a philosophical idea that views such technology as a kind of extension of the human brain. Watch Scott’s TEDx talk on AI here.
Scott described a longstanding AI "arms race" involving large corporations like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft—as well as the US and Chinese governments, among others—in which the players compete to develop the most profitable and useful AI. As a result, the total size of all AI models currently doubles every three months, which is much faster than the growth of conventional computing power. But it’s important to remember, Scott noted, that AI is found in such a wide range of applications (from smartphones and online shopping websites to driverless cars, automation that puts people out of work, and massively destructive technologies) that it doesn’t make sense to see it as simply "good" or "bad." The challenge, he said, is to work to align AI development with human values, so that its best potential uses (improving education, curing diseases) become the priorities of its current and future masters.
When Mike Anthony graduated from college, he anticipated a career as a stage actor. But, as he related in the latter half of the show, his world was suddenly shaken when his father passed away unexpectedly one night. Anthony, who had always relied on scientific explanations of death, now couldn’t accept that his father was simply gone forever. "It threw me into a full-blown existential crisis," he recalled. Shortly after his father’s passing, a medium reached out to Anthony’s family with a message to relay: she was currently in contact with the spirit of a man, she said, with the same name as Anthony’s dad. The man, who had only recently passed away, was insistent that the medium assure his family that he was OK, she claimed.
At first, Anthony was skeptical. Was the medium somehow deceiving him and his family? Alone in the woods, he appealed to the spirit of his father for a sign—and the signs began to come. Over several visits, the medium provided several bits of information about his father that Anthony believes she could not have known, and she even agreed to record her readings on video. A friend put Anthony in touch with author Leslie Kean, whose book Surviving Death he had read with great interest. Netflix, who had just secured a deal with Kean to make a TV series out of Surviving Death, was impressed by Anthony’s story, and included him in one of the show’s episodes. Looking back on the journey he’s taken to stay connected with his dad beyond the grave, Anthony said his main takeaway is that "the universe is a fascinating place that we don’t have figured out."