Com­puter shar­ing of hu­man per­son­al­ity in sight: in­ven­tor

The China Post - - LIFE -

The world has only touched the sur­face of tech­no­log­i­cal progress and com­put­ers may soon be able to trans­mit the com­plex­i­ties of hu­man per­son­al­i­ties, a prom­i­nent in­ven­tor says.

Se­bas­tian Thrun, who founded the Google X lab­o­ra­tory where the In­ter­net search gi­ant has de­vel­oped Google Glass and driver­less cars, said it was of­ten dif­fi­cult to grasp con­cepts be­fore they come to fruition.

But he said that, much like data is now rou­tinely trans­mit­ted via com­put­ers, the same may soon be true for full per­son­al­i­ties.

“Per­haps we can get to the point where we can out­source our own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences en­tirely into a com­puter — and pos­si­bly our own per­son­al­ity. Maybe we’re go­ing to have a demo at some point where the com­puter runs ‘Se­bas­tian,’” he told a sym­po­sium Thurs­day evening at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity.

“It’s maybe unimag­in­able but it’s not as far off as peo­ple think. It’s very doable,” said the Ger­man-born com­puter sci­en­tist, who re­mains a fel­low at Google.

“I do be­lieve that in all th­ese t ech­nolo­gies we have j ust scratched the sur­face. Al­most ev­ery­thing in­ter­est­ing hasn’t been in­vented yet,” he said.

Other up­com­ing in­ven­tions pre­dicted by Thrun in­clude fly­ing cars, com­put­ers that are im­plantable into the hu­man body, and med­i­cal treat­ments that will dras­ti­cally curb un­nat­u­ral deaths.

Thrun was speak­ing as part of events to mark the pre­miere of “The Demo,” an ex­per­i­men­tal opera about the 1968 data trans­mis­sion test by sci­en­tist Doug En­gel­bart that helped pave the way for the cre­ation of the In­ter­net.

But Jaron Lanier, a vir­tual re­al­ity pi­o­neer known for his books on the phi­los­o­phy of com­put­ers, doubted that sci­en­tists could as­cer­tain how to share per­son­al­i­ties.

“You are a mov­ing tar­get, and the way you change your­self in re­sponse to the pres­ence of that tech­nol­ogy would undo any abil­ity to mea­sure whether it has suc­ceeded,” he said.

Lanier warned that Sil­i­con Val­ley put too much faith in tech­nol­ogy’s progress.

“I think we are go­ing to have a real strug­gle to de­fine our­selves in a hu­mane and sweet way as we go through a lot of changes,” he said.

He warned that tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions risked wors­en­ing in­equal­ity, say­ing: “I don’t think the in­ter­ests of en­trepreneurs and ev­ery­one else are al­ways aligned.”

He gave the ex­am­ple of Egypt, say­ing that Sil­i­con Val­ley was too con­grat­u­la­tory about the role of so­cial me­dia in the 2011 revo­lu­tion that brought down strongman Hosni Mubarak.

“When it starts to go wrong, we don’t take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that. There is a way in which we are be­ing a lit­tle se­lec­tive in tal­ly­ing our vic­to­ries,” he said.

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