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Archive for July 2nd, 2017

Part of the problem that we’ve seen is that our general commitment as a society to basic research has diminished.  Our confidence in collective action has been chipped away, partly because of ideology and rhetoric.
The analogy that we still use when it comes to a great technology achievement, even 50 years later, is a moon shot.  And somebody reminded me that the space program was half a percent of GDP.  That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in today’s dollars that would be $80 billion that we would be spending annually … on AI.  Right now we’re spending probably less than a billion.  That undoubtedly will accelerate, but part of what we’re gonna have to understand is that if we want the values of a diverse community represented in these breakthrough technologies, then government funding has to be a part of it.  And if government is not part of financing it, then all these issues that Joi has raised about the values embedded in these technologies end up being potentially lost or at least not properly debated.
I was a sucker for Star Trek when I was a kid.  They were always fun to watch.  What made the show lasting was it wasn’t actu­ally about technology.  It was about values and relationships.  Which is why it didn’t matter that the special effects were kind of cheesy and bad, right?  They’d land on a planet and there are all these papier-mâché boulders. [Laughs.]  But it didn’t matter because it was really talking about a notion of a common humanity and a confidence in our ability to solve problems.
A recent movie captured the same spirit — The Martian.  Not because it had a hugely complicated plot, but because it showed a bunch of different people trying to solve a problem.  And employing creativity and grit and hard work, and having confidence that if it’s out there, we can figure it out.  That is what I love most about America and why it continues to attract people from all around the world for all of the challenges that we face, that spirit of “Oh, we can figure this out.”  And what I value most about science is this notion that we can figure this out.  Well, we’re gonna try this — if it doesn’t work, we’re gonna figure out why it didn’t work and then we’re gonna try something else.  And we will revel in our mistakes, because that is gonna teach us how to ultimately crack the code on the thing that we’re trying to solve.  And if we ever lose that spirit, then we’re gonna lose what is essential about America and what I think is essential about being human.
Star Trek, like any good story, says that we’re all complicated, and we’ve all got a little bit of Spock and a little bit of Kirk [laughs] and a little bit of Scotty, maybe some Klingon in us, right?  But that is what I mean about figuring it out.  Part of figuring it out is being able to work across barriers and differences.  There’s a certain faith in rationality, tempered by some humility.  Which is true of the best art and true of the best science.  The sense that we possess these incredible minds that we should use, and we’re still just scratching the surface, but we shouldn’t get too cocky.  We should remind ourselves that there’s a lot of stuff we don’t know.
    —    President Barack Obama
Discussing A.I., Star Trek and the future in an interview in:  Wired Magazine
The interviewer is:  Scott Dadich
I read this in the November 2016 issue of Wired Magazine
The article is: “The President in Conversation With MIT’s Joi Ito and WIRED’s Scott Dadich
The link to the article:  https://www.wired.com/2016/10/president-obama-mit-joi-ito-interview/
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On This Day In:
2016 Just Enough
2015 Bourne Bond
Springs Eternal
2014 Brains First
2013 Not Listening Anymore
2012 At Your Marks!
2011 We Are Not Alone
Underlying Rationality
2010 Is the Obama Administration Failing?
In Other Words…
Quite Please!
In A Hostage Situation…
Are We Done Yet?
In Order…
Flip-flopping…
Proof of Choice…
On “Leading” A Democracy To War…
Actually, It’s All About Me…

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