James Barrat on Our Final Invention

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

 Artificial Intelligence
Recently author and film maker James Barrat sat down to chat with Singularity 1 on 1's Nikola Danaylov about his new book, Our Final Invention.

James Barrat has made documentary films for National Geographic, the BBC, Discovery Channel, History Channel and public television.

Barrat also scripted many episodes of the award-winning Explorer series, and went on to produce one-hour and half-hour films for the NGC’s Treasure Seekers, Out There, Snake Wranglers, and Taboo series. In 2004 Barrat created the pilot for History Channel’s #1-rated original series Digging for the Truth. His high-rating film Lost Treasures of Afghanistan, created for National Geographic Television Specials, aired on PBS in the spring of 2005.

Thirteen years ago, while filming an interview with Arthur C. Clarke about the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, Barrat’s views on artificial intelligence, were changed.

Prior to that moment, Barrat had been enthusiastic about AI and the prospects for artificial general intelligence (AGI) and artificial super-intelligence (ASI).  It was Clarke's perspective though that had the deepest impact.  "If you are analytical about [AI], you don't just get the rosy picture," he says about the experience of dealing with the intellectual giant, Clarke.

the threat of AI - HAL 9000

The threats and consequences of the technological singularity (Barrat actually prefers I.J. Good's term intelligence explosion), eventually led Barrat to write the book, Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era.

Huw Price, co-founder, Cambridge University Center for the Study of Existential Risk says it is "An important and disturbing book."

According to Nikola Danaylov, Our Final Invention "Is by far the most thoroughly researched and comprehensive anti-The Singularity is Near book that I have read so far."

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During a conversation with Danaylov (featured above) Barrat covers a variety of interesting topics such as: his work as a documentary film-maker who takes interesting and complicated subjects and makes them simple to understand; why writing was his first love and how he got interested in the Technological Singularity.

Barrat goes into depth on how his initial optimism about AI turned into pessimism and formed the thesis of Our Final Invention.  He sees artificial intelligence more like ballistic missiles rather than video games. According to Barrat, true intelligence is inherently unpredictable - a “black box.”

He believes that it is of the upmost importance to study the potential of artificial intelligence and the risk it presents.  To this end, he applauds the work of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute and other organizations.

"Our Final Invention has one big agenda and that is to say before we share the planet with smarter-than-human intelligence we really need to develop a science for understanding it," says Barrat.

Barrat shares Kurzweil's timelines for the Singularity for the most part, however is pessimistic about the end result though, citing the fact that organizations like the American NSA and CIA are probably using DARPA to create artificial intelligence for military purposes without taking into account the effects this may have if an intelligence explosion occurs.

SOURCE  Singularity Weblog

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