Love and AI

Will an AI ever learn to love? How does that question make you feel? Silly? Embarrassed? Stupid? Love is the source of our greatest power but, paradoxically, is the thing that makes us feel most vulnerable, to the point that most of us avoid talking about it at all. We literally die without it when we’re infants, and we organize our adulthoods around accounting for … Continue reading Love and AI

Virtual Reality is the Only Reality

by Chris Robinson, Philosopher At-Large


It takes a special kind of crazy to disbelieve reality, and when a philosopher falls down that rabbit hole, he doesn’t often return. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer declared the material world to exist “solely in our representation.” He compared the world to a dream. A hundred years later, Argentinian fabulist Jorge Luis Borges fell down the same rabbit hole and affirmed that the world is “an activity of the mind,” “a dream / the souls erect in shared magic.” He took it a step further: if the world is nothing but a dream, then “there is an instant / in which its being is immeasurably endangered / and it is the shuddering instant of the dawn, / when few are those who are dreaming the world.” Borges took this idea seriously, returning to it again and again. In “Avatars of the Tortoise” he sees Zeno’s paradox, infinity, and other mathematical mind-breakers, as “tenuous and eternal crevices of unreason which tell us [the world] is false.”

Borges lived in an analog world, and he died before computers advanced far enough to make the idea of simulated reality plausible. Fortunately, that rabbit hole exists outside of time, and philosopher Nick Bostrum was able to logic his way into the idealist tea-party. He has since become a prominent thinker about the danger of artificial superintelligence, but his first claim to (philosophical) fame was the “Simulation Argument,” which, in brief, goes like this:

If future humanity has “enormous amounts of computing power” (which seems very reasonable), and if they are interested in running “detailed simulations of their forebears” (wouldn’t you be?), and if “these simulated people are conscious” (as many cognitive philosophers think), then most minds like ours would be simulated minds, and “we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones.” Lots of technologists and futurists, including Elon Musk, take this idea seriously. If only Borges had lived to see rise of scientific idealism! Continue reading “Virtual Reality is the Only Reality”

2016 Extreme Futures and Technology Forecasting Conference

A bunch of folks geeking out about the future of technology in Redmond.

Damn, was that ever fun! I chose to spend eight hours of my Saturday with futurists, tech leaders, startup founders, renewable energy entrepreneurs, and artificial intelligence evangelists in Building 20 on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond. The conference was casual and intimate, disrupted by some minor tech problems (I can’t decide if that’s ironic or not), and intellectually invigorating. I feel like the part of my brain that’s obsessed with the future of technology just got a workout.

Presentations filled up the program. I did a short talk on the VR industry, which I plan on posting here on Monday. But first I want to mention a few of the presentations by other people that stood out to me. Continue reading “2016 Extreme Futures and Technology Forecasting Conference”