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Interview: BT predicts future of computing

Futurologist says AI entity will win the Nobel prize

10 years ago, in May 1997, Deep Blue won the chess tournament against Gary Kasparov. Do you consider, as Kasparov did, that was the first glimpse of a new kind of intelligence?

Yes, it's a very good example of what you can do with computer-based intelligence. What it pointed out was that it doesn't have to do things the same way that people do in order to achieve goals that people use their intelligence to do. Deep Blue didn't work the same way as people. Deep Blue used a great deal of number crunching. It was not a conscious machine. It was just a very dumb machine that was not aware of its existence. It just crunched numbers in order to be able to solve problems that might require one of the finest human minds on the planet to solve. But it was a big breakthrough. I think it was a very important breakthrough for the thinking instead. A lot of us realised then that it wasn't going to be necessarily to figure out exactly how the brain works to do a lot of problems which require intelligence, because to solve these things one can use computers rather then a big computer with consciousness or self-awareness.

Nonetheless, I think the task of producing machines with consciousness or self awareness is still important. We will probably make conscious machines sometime between 2015 and 2020, I think. But it probably won't be like you and I. It will be conscious and aware of itself and it will be conscious in pretty much the same way as you and I, but it will work in a very different way. It will be an alien. It will be a different way of thinking from us, but nonetheless still thinking. It doesn't have to look like us in order to be able to think the same way.

But as soon as machines become intelligent, according to Moore's Law they will soon surpass humans. By the way, BT's 2006 technology timeline predicts that AI entities will be awarded with Nobel prizes by 2020, and soon after robots will become mentally superior to humans. What comes after that: the super intelligence or God 2.0?

I think that I would certainly still go along with those time frames for superhuman intelligence, but I won't comment on God 2.0. I think that we still should expect a conscious computer smarter than people by 2020. I still see no reason why that it is not going to happen in that time frame. But I don't think we will understand it. The reason is because we don't even understand how some of the principal functions of consciousness should work.

I'll give you an example of it. In the early 1990s in the University of Sussex, there was an experiment to generate a programme to evolve the circuits to distinguish between different tones on a telephone circuit, allowing the circuits to work in different ways. And the circuits that the computer came up with worked in very different ways from those of people came up with. So, the computer doesn't use conventions that people use, but it came up with solutions that were more elegant and worked in very different ways. With even the simplest of systems it takes us a long time to try to figure out how they work, because they are so different from the way people would solve the same problems. Therefore, I don't think we will understand how these smart machines.

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