Our Future with Technology

Friday, February 18, 2011


As computers become smarter (and smaller), there's a good chance that in the future, the lines between humans and computers will begin to blur. What does that mean for our essential humanness? Clive Thompson, Jamais Cascio, Jaron Lanier and Ray Kurzweil discuss a future where machines can think like humans and people become one with the web.

Comments [16]

Quentin Hammonds from Raleigh North Carolina

Thinking about the future will make you wonder but its not scary. A super computer telling you that you are going to loss all your money in the bank in one second is scary. yes super computer don't know when we are yanking there chain but if they did would you want to be living at the time. Im talking about world mayhem the super computers are going to take over. But let me get to the point theres nothing wrong with super computers just don't make to smart that they will understand us and be smarter than us.

Mar. 01 2011 12:29 PM

I do believe that some day technology will come close to knowing more than humans and Watson is a prime example; I do not believe that computers will pass human intelligence. I do not think that humans will be able to create a machine that will be able to understand what Bob Garfield mentioned, sarcasm, puns etc.

Feb. 28 2011 04:00 PM
G Dahlby from Iowa

Loved this series trio of podcasts. Well done and very creative.

Thank you.

Feb. 22 2011 04:33 PM
Bob Garfield

@don ladig

Ethan Zuckerman, Harvard scholar, is not the same person as Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. sorry to waste publicly-funded pixels to so inform you.

Feb. 22 2011 11:49 AM
Chris Graney from Louisville KY

There has been much in the media about Watson, with references to HAL 9000, etc. Here is a different perspective:

The HAL 9000 was a 1960's vision of what a 1990's computer would be like. Remember that it was a star in a movie entitled *2001* -- set in a future which is now a full decade in our *past*. Watson, which is nowhere near as advanced as HAL, is evidence less of advances in computers than in the lack of advances in computers. In the late 1960's they predicted HAL in 30 years, and what arrived was Office 97 and Windows 98. We should keep that in mind when we hear discussions of exponential growth in technology and how there will be such-and-such advance in technology in the next 30 years.

Feb. 21 2011 12:51 PM
Tery Tary

David Lieberman: you are right! After that show I went out & bought 100 IBM computers & copiers!

Feb. 20 2011 09:59 PM
Don Ladig from Saint Louis

There was nothing in my second comment that justified censorship. While I have listened to NPR and watched PBS for 30 years and supported both, in multiple cities, I will not submit to letting public money pay for censorship without protest. Further, I will no longer donate to Public Radio. I will strongly urge my Senators, Congressman, and the White House to end the PBS ride on the taxpayer dollar.
The money can be put to better purpose.


Don Ladig

Feb. 20 2011 06:56 PM
Don Ladig from Saint Louis

Dear Ms. Gladstone:

Before Facebook is done, the private lives of millions of the naive will be compromised, forever. Using publicly subsidized airwaves to effusively praise Mark Zuckerberg as a 'Harvard scholar' could be characterized as abuse of journalistic privilege.

Don Ladig

Feb. 20 2011 06:43 PM
Don Ladig from Saint Louis

Referring to Mark Zuckerberg as a "Harvard scholar" and implying that somehow he is the end all and be all of socialization is, in a word, ridiculous. My opinion is that he is a greedy little thief, who got very lucky. I expect that millions of others share my opinion.

Feb. 20 2011 06:31 PM
Tony Lima from Silicon Valley, CA

It's been quite a few years since I watched Jeopardy! but I recall several competitors being disqualified from a question because they pressed their buzzer before Alex finished the question. Perhaps the rules have changed, or perhaps my memory is flawed. But I believe Mr. Lieberman's last paragraph is incorrect.

Feb. 20 2011 06:00 PM
David Lieberman

"Watson" did NOT beat humans at Jeopardy. It beat them at a version of the game with revised rules set up to guarantee a victory for Watson. The whole thing was merely an infomercial for IBM.

First of all, the humans had to listen to the "answer" read by the host. The computer had the "answer" supplied to it as text. Watson can not understand connected, speaker independent, speech. The idea that anybody can go up to a computer and ask it a question is still, at this point, fantasy.

Secondly, the humans were forbidden to push the button until the question was complete. Ordinarily, pushing the button when you have enough information to decipher the "answer" is necessary to win. If that rule were in place, Watson wouldn't stand a chance.

Feb. 20 2011 01:16 PM
Pat Galloway from Austin, TX

Ordinarily I find OTM informative and interesting; for this show I found it disappointingly ill-informed, perhaps rushed into production to respond to the Watson hullabaloo, itself a misleading demonstration cleverly inserted into popular thinking. Please get some researchers who can understand the Semantic Web and the human labor it takes to make meaning meaningful to a computer. Please grant the topic more seriousness than a roundup of competing sound-bites. The most disturbing thing about this show was that I now wonder whether to trust it on other topics.

Feb. 20 2011 11:15 AM
Raphael from Nyc

I was a little dissapointed by my usually hard hitting friends of otm on the analysis of Watson's implications. The whole star trek computer metaphor is the main talking point of IBM to present this technology as ultimately 1.benign and 2information Finding. Watson is as much an information generating algorithm as it is anything. Multi dimensional statistical analysis fueled by artificial intelligence machine learning is all about devouring massive untagged data fields and finding patterns of information. As technology like kinect which turns real world objects and people into data points or in the case of volumous waves of data flow in the case of egypts uprising- modern and near future survelien e dreams not the identification of individual acts but rather a certain overall statistical pattern of activity. Watson in this regard becomes critical technology, and only machine learning language understanding robots are equipped to answer the challenge. You missed it . Disappointed

Feb. 20 2011 11:13 AM
Bort from Syracuse

Got the definition of "singularity" wrong. It happens when we make computers smarter than us, and they make computers smarter than them, etc. This is called the singularity because we cannot predict what follows, even approximately. Like the singularity of a black hole.

Feb. 19 2011 03:57 PM
Ottmar from Notre Dame, Ind.

This piece on today's show was quite interesting, however, it yet again showed the pervasiveness of the concept in one quarter of how technology in and of itself will "be the answer," if not an end in itself.

Technological aids, though, do show much promise as tools to allow the still-not-obsolete human race to achieve its untapped potential... specifically: in our minds (and all that then follow). A site that addresses this application specifically is http://mergenthalerlinotype.wordpress.com .

1,66o-plus thoughtful people so far have availed themselves of the cutting-edge concepts there on the melding of mind and off-the-shelf medical technology. Additionally, they picked up a bit of trivia on the history of typesetting and "why the funny name."

Feb. 19 2011 08:13 AM
SalvadorA from Indiana

I just checked the website "Institute for the Future" and looking at 'People' section of who they are .... Makes me wonder if the take away message is... The future is homogeneous (99% White)? It's hard not to think that they do not see a 'diversity' in the future. I do like they at least have a good F:M ratio.

Feb. 19 2011 08:01 AM

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