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Coming to grips with intelligent machines
Written by Daniel   
Friday, 07 September 2007 09:23

 Coming to grips with intelligent machines
By Stefanie Olsen
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: September 7, 2007, 4:00 AM PDT

Some technologists believe that rapid advancement in computer hardware and software could at some point lead to a hazy future for humans.

The so-called point of technological singularity has a number of definitions. In one, it's the point at which advances in artificial intelligence bring about self-improving machines that are smarter than humans. The idea has been played out to a dark extreme in popular science fiction books and movies like The Matrix, in which AI machines rule the world and turn humans into the fleshy equivalent of batteries.

Scary scenarios aside, a group of accomplished technologists and investors will gather this weekend at the two-day Singularity Summit to discuss the benefits and risks of advancing artificial intelligence, technical issues surrounding accelerating technology in many fields, and what to do in the event that machines one day outthink humans.

"There are different definitions of singularity. But the most useful way to think about it is that we're in a period of accelerating technology change that our species has never faced before," said Christine Peterson, vice president of Foresight Nanotech Institute, a public interest group focused on advanced technology. "So the question is how do we address the issue of change so rapid that it becomes difficult to project how it will affect us?"

Sure to spark lively conversation, the conference will be held at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts and will draw such speakers as Rodney Brooks, professor of robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CTO of iRobot; Steve Jurvetson, managing director of venture firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson; and Peter Norvig, Google's director of research and the former head of the NASA Ames computational group. Norvig wrote the book on artificial intelligence that most collegiate computer science students read, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach.... More

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