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One of the main themes of the musical FUTURITY is the notion of Singularity – “a predicted point in the development of a civilization when technological progress accelerates beyond the ability of present-day humans to fully comprehend or predict.”

It’s a hot topic in computing and bio-engineering circles to be sure.

Recently in London, a fascinating public debate was conducted via the salon series Intelligence Squared. The debate was called “Artificial Intelligence: Are we engineering our own obsolescence?” One of the participants was the professor and thinker Murray Shanahan who has written a leading text on this work entitled The Technological SingularityThe panel looks at this aforementioned concept, as well as Artificial Intelligence in general. It’s a perfect primer for The Lisps’ musical.

Here’s how Intelligence Squared billed the evening:

Some of the smartest minds have sounded the alarm recently about artificial intelligence. Physicist Stephen Hawking has said that it could spell the end of the human race. Tech pioneer Elon Musk has warned that with AI ‘we are summoning the demon’. Given that the world is already full of the smart precursors of artificial intelligence – Siri, Google Translate, driverless cars etc, why the warning bells? Because many experts believe that it is only a matter of decades before we create a form of AI that is more than just a useful tool and becomes an autonomous, self-aware entity which could take off on its own, self-replicating and redesigning itself and ultimately wiping out the human race.

Not everyone is so pessimistic, however. Many experts believe that superintelligent machines, far from being a threat, will be our allies. There will be major breakthroughs in science and health, where specialists working alongside computers do better than either a human or a machine on their own. Others, most notably Google futurist Ray Kurzweil, are looking forward to a time when superintelligence will greatly enhance human capacities by means of computer implants that improve the brain and the body. Ultimately we could merge with our superhuman creations, defying ageing and death.

Featuring: Nick Bostrom, Daniel Glaser, Murray Shanahan, Riva-Melissa Tez, Adam Rutherford (chair).

Filmed at Shoreditch Town Hall on 11th June 2015

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