Why the future doesn't need us-
Our most powerful 21st-century technologies - robotics, genetic engineering,
and nanotech - are threatening to make humans an endangered species.
By Bill Joy
From the moment I became involved in the creation of new technologies, their
ethical dimensions have concerned me, but it was only in the autumn of 1998 that
I became anxiously aware of how great are the dangers facing us in the 21st
century. I can date the onset of my unease to the day I met Ray Kurzweil, the
deservedly famous inventor of the first reading machine for the blind and many
other amazing things.
Ray and I were both speakers at George Gilder's Telecosm conference, and I
encountered him by chance in the bar of the hotel after both our sessions were
over. I was sitting with John Searle, a Berkeley philosopher who studies
consciousness. While we were talking, Ray approached and a conversation began,
the subject of which haunts me to this day.
I had missed Ray's talk and the subsequent panel that Ray and John had been on,
and they now picked right up where they'd left off, with Ray saying that the rate
of improvement of technology was going to accelerate and that we were going to
become robots or fuse with robots or something like that, and John countering
that this couldn't happen, because the robots couldn't be conscious.
While I had heard such talk before, I had always felt sentient robots were in the
realm of science fiction. But now, from someone I respected, I was hearing a
strong argument that they were a near-term possibility