Biocurious is a weblog about biology, quantified.

Is George Dyson a Prophet or a Fool?

by Andre on 2 December 2005

I just read yet another great essay at edge.org. George Dyson discusses his visit to Google:

For 30 years I have been wondering, what indication of its existence might we expect from a true AI? Certainly not any explicit revelation, which might spark a movement to pull the plug. Anomalous accumulation or creation of wealth might be a sign, or an unquenchable thirst for raw information, storage space, and processing cycles, or a concerted attempt to secure an uninterrupted, autonomous power supply. But the real sign, I suspect, would be a circle of cheerful, contented, intellectually and physically well-nourished people surrounding the AI. There wouldn’t be any need for True Believers, or the downloading of human brains or anything sinister like that: just a gradual, gentle, pervasive and mutually beneficial contact between us and a growing something else. This remains a non-testable hypothesis, for now. The best description comes from science fiction writer Simon Ings:

“When our machines overtook us, too complex and efficient for us to control, they did it so fast and so smoothly and so usefully, only a fool or a prophet would have dared complain.”

He also has a follow-up essay that I have yet to read.

Update: The second essay is shorter, but also an interesting idea: a Universal Library. It’s the Lexicographic Universe: something like a librarian’s answer to Wolfram’s Computational Universe. Fun idea. My response to Wolfram would be something like Dyson’s response to the Universal Library:

Even in the Age of Search, we still need authors to find the meaningful books!

Ditto scientists.



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