Dr. Charles Harper asks some big questions to challenge the readiness of science to recognize the potential risks and implications of rapid human technological development. Where should our concerns lie given the potential of super intelligent machines that could far exceed human intellectual capabilities? Are we up to the task of proper stewardship of such powerful new advances? Or more significantly will that role even be ours?
Dr. Harper characterizes his questions as “off the wall,” and as he points out these are not the typical concerns of science, but belong more in the realm of “monks, hermits, fasters, counterculturals – the athletes of the spirit,” the type of people who work on understanding the potential transformative changes that could result from the development of highly advanced, thinking, learning machines.
Dr. Charles L. Harper, Jr. is Senior Vice President of the John Templeton Foundation. His primary responsibilities are in the areas of strategic planning, program design and development, vision casting, philanthropic networks development, and talent scouting. He has worked to transform philanthropy by developing innovative entrepreneurial practices in grant making, and has created more than $200 million in grant-based programs ranging widely from the study of forgiveness and reconciliation and enterprise-based solutions for poverty, to projects on foundational questions in physics and cosmology, including topics in chemistry, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, medicine, and the philosophy of science. He is the founding Chairman of Geneva Global, Inc., an innovative new philanthropic organization making grants worldwide within the developing world. Initially trained in engineering at Princeton (B.S.E. 1980), he obtained his D.Phil. in planetary science from the University of Oxford for a thesis on the nature of time in cosmology (1988). He also holds the Diploma in Theology from Oxford (1988) and a Certificate of Special Studies in Management and Administration from Harvard (1997).
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