Paul Saffo

Consulting Professor at Stanford University

Machines of Loving Grace: Anticipating Advanced AI
13 minutes, 6mb, recorded 2007-09-08

Most technologists are ruled by logic, facts, 1's and 0's, and they tend to see and describe things from an obviously biased perspective. At times, this tendency can be beneficial. However, when examining an uncertain conclusion, like the Singularity, their descriptions can become trapped and they can not see with a new perspective.

In this session from the 2007 Singularity Summit, Paul Saffo provides a potentially fresh approach to advanced AGI and the Singularity. Saffo points out that the debate and discussion surrounding the Singularity is arriving at a turning point, where the inventors and the scientists hand-off the field to popular culture. He then submits that from that point onwards, it’s an interaction between popular culture and invention that will make things happen.

To validate his prediction of a coming hand-off, Saffo makes a link between the science fiction classic "Nueromancer" written by William Gibson and the boom of the Internet during the 1990's. Saffo claims that Gibson's lack of training as a “computer scientist” and therefore his ability to interpret things differently provided a vision of cyberspace that shaped the 1990s Internet revolution.

Finally, Saffo provides an example of how popular culture can provide new ways of looking at the Singularity, when he reads a poem from Richard Brautigan. The 40-year old poem offers up a positive, compelling vision of the Singularity that ordinary people can buy into. Ultimately Saffo hopes that these earlier visions are a powerful reminder that we are not hapless bystanders, but active participants in what this future should look like.

Paul Saffo is a forecaster and essayist with over two decades experience exploring long-term technological change and its practical impact on business and society. Paul teaches at Stanford University and is on a research sabbatical from Institute for the Future where he has worked since 1985. He was the founding Chairman of the Samsung Science Board, and serves on a variety of other boards including the Long Now Foundation, the Singapore National Research Foundation Science Advisory Board and is an Advisor to Red Planet Capital, and 3i Venture Capital. Paul also has served as an advisor and Forum Fellow to the World Economic Forum, and is a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. His essays have appeared in numerous publications, including The Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Wired, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, The New York Times and the Washington Post. Paul holds degrees from Harvard College, Cambridge University, and Stanford University.


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