Diverse views of ‘artificial worlds’ at PopTech conference

October 21, 2002 | Source: KurzweilAI

PopTech brought together more than 400 big thinkers in Camden, Maine this past weekend to explore artificial worlds. “The real and the artificial are converging, becoming more intimate,” said co-producer Bob Metcalfe.

Kurzweil: "bio-inspired superintelligent<br />
machines by 2029"

Kurzweil: "bio-inspired superintelligent
machines by 2029"

Speakers described wildly diverse visions of this convergence ….Animator Alvy Ray Smith predicted that within his lifetime, feature-length movies will be made by computer avatars, with 100 million polygons per frame. Prof. Lauren Rabinovitz saw amusement parks as models of artificial worlds; these are harbingers of the “experience economy” for business writer Joe Pine.

Author Howard Rheingold (Smart Mobs) described virtual communities using cutting-edge mobile communications, while software developer Bruce Damer demonstrated a worldwide virtual community of people living in a huge 5,000-acres artificial world via avatars.

MIT prof. Sherry Turkle described artificial worlds that respond intelligently to users. For retired U.S. Army General Paul Gorman, these are essential in combat simulations to increase battle effectiveness, while psychoactive drug inventor Dr. Alexander Shulgin was more interested in exploring internal artificial worlds using psychedelics.

Three speakers offered even more radical views. Challenging most of mainstream science, Stephen Wolfram, author of A New Kind of Science, said explaining the world with equations is an “old paradigm”; he proposed simpler ones that use a few lines of code.

Inventor Ray Kurzweil said the brain will be reverse-engineered and predicted the emergence of bio-inspired superintelligent machines by 2029, adding that they will not replace humans, rather there will be an “intimacy between person and machine.” He also predicted that life expectancy will soon be increasing at greater than a year per year. “Our generation might achieve immortality if we can just hang in there.”

But unless we manage to keep up with superintelligence, we might be as clueless as a goldfish trying to understand PopTech, warned science fiction author Vernor Vinge. Advocating human intelligence augmentation, he quoted Hans Moravec: “It’s only a Singularity if you get left behind; I intend to be riding that exponential.”