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AI: The Human Interface Toby Walsh and Rob Brooks in conversation
Moderated by Rae Johnston

10 September 2023

In the Playhouse

Talks and Ideas

In a year when everyone is talking about artificial intelligence, we need to talk about the human kind. Join AI expert Toby Walsh and evolutionary biologist Rob Brooks as they tackle the fundamental questions we should be asking amid the advent of superintelligent machines.

Suddenly this year, AI is everywhere...

Whatever is happening behind closed doors with the development of generative artificial intelligence - essentially machines that can teach themselves how to think - it was enough to spook some of our top scientists and developers of AI to issue a dire warning. We were on the road to doom, with some predicting species extinction. 

Some called these warnings overblown. AI is the new Y2K, they charged, creating a panic that would inevitably under-deliver on catastrophe. 

Still others charged that the technology development was accelerating and we were approaching the “singularity” (that moment when machines far surpass the capabilities of human beings). 

Debate rages around this question. Will machines  develop a “superintelligence” that begins to look and feel like what we experience as consciousness? And if they do, what does that mean for what we think being human is in the first place?

In a year when everyone is talking about artificial intelligence, we need to talk about the human kind. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be conscious of your existence, your thoughts, your dreams? As machines develop, what might be left that is uniquely human? Our pursuit of pleasure and its rewards? Our ability to love? 

Whether robots take over or not, it might be that their rapid rise and development help us to answer these fundamental questions for the first time. 

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