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"Will Spiritual Robots Replace Humanity by 2100?"
Douglas Hofstadter presents...
FREE and open to the public
April 1, 2000, 1pm - 5:30. TCSEQ room 200.
(Parking in "A" lots OK on Saturdays)
Ray Kurzweil (inventor of reading machine for the blind, electronic keyboards, etc., and author of "The Age of Spiritual Machines")
Hans Moravec (a pioneer of mobile robot research, and author of "Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind")
Bill Joy (co-founder of, and chief scientist at, SUN Microsystems)
Ralph Merkle (well-known computer scientist and one of today's top figures in the explosive field of nanotechnology)
Kevin Kelly (editor at "Wired" magazine and author of "Out of Control", a study of bio-technological hybrids)
John Holland (inventor of genetic algorithms, and artificial-life pioneer; professor of computer science and psychology at the U. of Michigan)
Frank Drake (distinguished radio-astronomer and head of the SETI Institute -- Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence)
John Koza (inventor of genetic programming, a rapidly expanding branch of artificial intelligence)
Symposium organizer and panel moderator:
Douglas Hofstadter (professor of cognitive science at Indiana; author of "Gödel, Escher, Bach", "Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies", etc.)
In 1999, two distinguished computer scientists, Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec, came out independently with serious books that proclaimed that in the coming century, our own computational technology, marching to the exponential drum of Moore's Law and more general laws of bootstrapping, leapfrogging, positive-feedback progress, will outstrip us intellectually and spiritually, becoming not only deeply creative but deeply emotive, thus usurping from us humans our self-appointed position as "the highest product of evolution".
These two books (and several others that appeared at about the same time) are not the works of crackpots; they have been reviewed at the highest levels of the nation's press, and often very favorably. But the scenarios they paint are surrealistic, science-fiction-like, and often shocking.
According to Kurzweil and Moravec, today's human researchers, drawing on emerging research areas such as artificial life, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, virtual reality, genetic algorithms, genetic programming, and optical, DNA, and quantum computing (as well as other areas that have not yet been dreamt of), are striving, perhaps unwittingly, to render themselves obsolete -- and in this strange endeavor, they are being aided and abetted by the very entities that would replace them (and you and me): superpowerful computers that are relentlessly becoming tinier and tinier and faster and faster, month after month after month.
Where will it all lead? Will we soon pass the spiritual baton to software minds that will swim in virtual realities of a thousand sorts that we cannot even begin to imagine? Will uploading and downloading of full minds onto the Web become a commonplace? Will thinking take place at silicon speeds, millions of times greater than carbon speeds? Will our children -- or perhaps our grandchildren -- be the last generation to experience "the human condition"? Will immortality take over from mortality? Will personalities blur and merge and interpenetrate as the need for biological bodies and brains recedes into the past? What is to come?
To treat these disorienting themes with the seriousness they deserve at the dawn of the new millennium, cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter has drawn together a blue-ribbon panel of experts in all the areas concerned, including the authors of the two books cited. On Saturday, April 1 (take the date as you will), three main speakers and five additional panelists will publicly discuss and debate what the computational and technological future holds for humanity. The forum will be held from 1 PM till 5:30 PM, and audience participation will be welcome in the final third of the program.
This event is brought to you with the gracious support of
Stanford's Symbolic Systems Program,
the Center for the Study of Language and Information,
the Computer Science and Philosophy Departments,
the Center for Computer-Assisted Research in the Humanities,
and the GSB Futurist Club.
-- Jim Morris (aka SuperLuminal) (prism@SpamKill.bevcomm.net), March 19, 2000