Heather Knight brought a robot with a lot of great human-like mannerisms for a demo (look for it in the video coverage) and discussed the importance of teaching robots to interact appropriately with humans, to facilitate our future collaboration.
Seth Lloyd was a very dynamic and entertaining speaker and touched on some mind-bending scientific ideas including the quantum nature of photosynthesis and the time-travelling of sub-atomic particles. (The good news is that when they make the particles go back in time and try to kill themselves, something always goes wrong. Looks like the universe abhors a paradox!)
Stephen Wolfram was a keynote speaker and spoke primarily about his work with NKS (New Kind of Science) and the implications of his discoveries in that area. He discussed some different approaches to software development that involve “mining” the natural universe of computational algorithms to discover programs fit for certain purposes rather than trying to “engineer” them which gets harder as we tackle more complicated problems. We may not understand exactly why it works, but like other types of technology, we just need to know that it does.
Kevin Jain is president of the Harvard Future Society who co-hosted the conference. He has been working on developing a text book/curriculum that considers that the assumptions of many traditional disciplines (such as economics, psychology, biology) are based on assumptions such as scarcity, human limitation, etc. that may not continue to be true in the future, and he believes that education needs to take a different approach that helps people to question assumptions and pursue different avenues in many of these subject areas.
Jeff Lieberman (from the Time Warp TV show) discussed the ability to think about the future and the past as a “tool” that we employ that no other life form has, and one that has basically taken over our brains so that it is pretty much impossible for us to NOT think (e.g. the difficulty of meditation). He suggests more research into how we “focus in the moment” and the benefits that would have for our overall happiness.
Darlene Cavalier discussed a website for the aggregation of citizen science opportunities scienceforcitizens.net.
Itamar Arel reinforced his message from the Singularity Summit to say that we already have all the tools we need to create AGI. He believes it’s just a matter of time and this will be coming in the near future, and therefore the time to talk about moral and ethical issues and policies is now.
Ben Goertzel presented “The Future History of AGI 2010-2045″. He reviewed the state of the art today–narrow AI still dominating the industry, but AGI is no longer considered so “far out”. By 2020 or so he predicts AGI “children” and AGI scientists that combine narrow AI and AGI. Also that these intelligences will be networked. By 2030 he sees one big AGI network–the global brain to which we will be jacked in via brain-computer interface. In 2040, “the singularity is near” and it’s hard to see beyond that.