18:11 PM

De Young Tech Talks: Tim O'Reilly "Do We Need To Fear The Future?"

In conversation with Steven Johnson...

The de Young Museum’s Cult of the Machine exhibit includes a series of talks on the topic of “Thinking Machines”.  Tim O’Reilly, the hugely successful media entrepreneur of tech books and conferences will speak with author Steven Johnson about the future:

How is the confluence of varied technologies changing social and economic realities now and into the future? What are some of the areas of greatest innovation and influence? How can automation augment human capacity? Do we need to fear the future?

Details here: Thinking Machines: Into the Future July 12, 2018, 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm















The first talk in this series was two weeks ago and featured (above, left to right)  Jane Metcalfe, Editor of Neo.Life talking with Annalee Newitz, Arts editor at Ars Technica, and Emily Proust, CEO of Twist Bioscience.

It was a fascinating discussion. Metcalfe believes that, “We now control our evolution” because of our abilities to gain mastery and understanding of our DNA and what manipulating this “code” can achieve.

Proust spoke about how the customers of Twist are ordering massive amounts of genetic data to develop new products. But she says Twist will not sell any potentially harmful genetic sequences.

Newitz spoke about how writers can help people understand the science of the tech world and how it relates to them. She is the author of several science fiction books. 

All three dismissed the likelihood of terrorists using these technologies to create murderous pathogens, saying bullets are a far easier way to kill lots of people. 

Foremski’s Take: Last week Japan executed Shoko Asahara, the leader of a doomsday cult that developed the biological poison Sarin — using it to kill 12 people and injure 5,500 in an attack on Tokyo’s subway in 1995. Clearly, there are people who will choose biology over bullets to attack their enemies.

This also means that nation sates must develop the same capabilities so that they can develop defenses. And these technologies are accessible and affordable they aren’t like building an atom bomb — there’s no need for thousands of centrifugal machines to separate gaseous isotopes. 

The price of technologies to manipulate DNA are dropping faster than Moore’s Law drove down the cost of computing. 

And there are DNA sequences everywhere, literally littering the tiny spaces all around us.  That's why isolating a pure samle of DNA from archeological sites is extremely hard. There's likely more pollution from DNA segments than of anything else that's not natural.

Yet all of this genetic code from all sorts of life forms doesn't easily combine into new variants. The DNA code is very specific to its context and won't work if it's taken out of that sequence. However, microbes and viruses manage to exchange DNA sequences and that's what helps them develop immunity to drugs.

With our digitally-powered DNA hacking technologies we will be able to patch together a monster pathogen that Dr. Frankenstein would run from in horror.

The terrible logic of military game theory is that we have to make it -- so we know how to defend against it. 

I don’t fear that a sentient AI will wipe out humanity — I fear that our inevitable coding mistakes with DNA will prove to be irreversible and terminal.

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Coming up: July 26: Thinking Machines: Machine Learning

Stephanie Dinkins is a transdisciplinary artist interested in creating platforms for ongoing dialog about artificial intelligence as it intersects race, gender, aging and our future histories. Her art employs lens-based practices, the manipulation of space, and technology to grapple with notions of consciousness, agency, perception, and social equity. Her most recent project is a collaboration with Bina 48, an intelligent computer built by Terasem Movement Foundation that is said to be capable of independent thought and emotion.