Living with the Genie

February 2, 2004 | Source: KurzweilAI

Living With the Genie: Essays on Technology and the Quest for Human Mastery gives a “reasonably balanced view of the promise and risks of a variety of technologies,” says reviewer Michael A. Goldman in the Jan. 30, 2004 issue of Science magazine.

The new book from Island Press focuses mainly on GNR (genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics). In one essay, Ray Kurzweil predicts that biotechnology and nanotechnology will combine to produce self-replicating entities and says controlling such nanobots will require a kind of programmed obsolescence or other prescribed limits on what they need to reproduce themselves.

The advantages of strong AI (artificial intelligence at human levels and beyond) are also accompanied by dangers, warns Kurzweil. The inherent impossibility of restraining intelligence means that methods “devised to control nanotechnology won’t work for strong AI.” The strategies we devise now cannot “absolutely ensure that future AI embodies human ethics and values,” and it isn’t so difficult to envision a day when we will become the slaves of the robots.

But Kurzweil prefers fine-grained relinquishment. He accepts the need for regulatory oversight, but warns that tight regulation will handicap legitimate researchers who are trying to keep one step ahead of dangerous technologies.