Rainbows and Artificial Intelligence


reason contributor John Tierney chats with Vernor Vinge, coiner of the term The Singularity, in today's New York Times. They discuss Vinge's most recent book, Rainbows End, in which an old fogey's Alzheimer's is reversed in 2025 and a man from the age of email has to learn to cope with Internet-enabled contact lenses and GPS clothing. Vinge also offers some tips on Tierney's blog for staying on-board as our machines get smarter (and smarter than us).

Allow human/computer teams at chess tournaments. This has also been suggested by Garry Kasparov. It still seems to me that allowing such entrants in human tournaments need not be obtrusive, and would ease the general acceptance of the symbiosis idea. It would also be interesting to see if top players came to recognize that such teams displayed a new style of play, different from the styles of pure human and pure machine competitors….

Develop human/computer symbiosis in art. Of course, parts of this are being deeply exploited. However, we're still missing a very important possibility and this is collaboration closer to the point of creativity itself. Karl Sim's "picture breeding" was a super example of this: The program would generate a screen full of abstract art thumbnails and the user (artist) would select particular thumbnails to be the "seed stock" for the next iteration of the process. In 15 minutes, an ordinary person (such as myself) could generate abstract graphics that were as attractive (well, to me at least) as the best commercial art.

reason interviewed Vinge last year. Tierney's reason contributions here. Get some Internet-enabled contacts here.