#406 March 23, 2015 – A Promising Vision for AI

This week’s headline story: A Promising Vision for AI

robotContrary to technology visionaries like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking who have warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt offered the South by SouthWest audience reassurance that we don’t need to be so worried right now. “I think that this technology will ultimately be one of the greatest forces for good in mankind’s history simply because it makes people smarter,” Schmidt said during a keynote address last week.

Doug Lenat, a former Stanford and Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who is CEO of Cycorp, a maker of machine reasoning software, worries that AI could make people dumber…much dumber. Electronic calculators, Lenat argued during the panel entitled “AI State of the Union,” have created generations of students who can perform mathematical tasks very quickly but don’t understand the underlying concepts. Similarly, Google “swaddles” users in a blanket of instant information, relieving them of the burden of independent thought and inquiry. The next wave of artificial intelligence — loosely defined as a computer’s ability to distinguish between useful and useless information at any given moment — could propel us irrevocably down that path. “This could lead to Idiocracy,” Lenat said, referring to the 2006 Hollywood satire about a future in which human intellect has taken a steep dive. The result would be a society “where no one has to understand anything about the world, where everything just seems like magic.” Alternatively, he said, computer scientists could design artificial intelligence “to challenge us the way Aristotle challenged Alexander the Great, to make us smarter, more rational, more human, to understand the world more deeply.”

Read more about Schmidt’s and Lenat’s thoughts on the subject using the links in the show notes.

in other tech news…

  • U.S. regulators give Amazon go-ahead for drone tests [Reuters]
    Amazon has been granted approval from the FAA to test its delivery drone technology over private, rural land in Washington state. The ecommerce giant hopes to utilize autonomous drones to deliver packages to customers by air. The plan has many concerned about safety and privacy.
  • High-Speed 3-D Printing [MIT Technology Review]
    A tech startup by the name of Carbon3D has developed a 3D printing process that is 25 to 100 percent faster than conventional 3D printing and produces stronger parts at a lower cost. Carbon3D’s technology is fast enough that it could compete with conventional mass manufacturing in many cases, says Joseph DeSimone, cofounder and CEO of Carbon3D.

in Information Security News…

  • Chrome, Firefox, Explorer, Safari All Hacked at Pwn2Own Contest [NewsFactor]
    Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and even Chrome browsers were all hacked in last week’s Pwn2Own Contest. Winners of more than $500,000 also identified vulnerabilities in Windows, Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash. Look for updates for all of these software packages as a result of the Pwn2Own hacking contest.

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Facebook Messenger Lets You Send Cash to Friends [NewsFactor]
    Facebook is getting into the mobile payments fray with a new service connected to its Messenger app. With the new payments feature, you can do more than send messages and emoticons to your friends — you can send cold hard (digital) cash.

and finally,

  • Google Abused Its Power, FTC Staff Found [NewsFactor]
    A recently disclosed report reveals that the Federal Trade Commission concluded in 2012 that Google used anti-competitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and competing companies.

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