The Implications—Bright and Dark—of Powerful New Technologies

As our society grapples with the ramifications of developments like machine learning and genetic testing, a surprising new generation of even more powerful technological advances is already brewing in labs. Researchers are teaming up with machines to create reasoning systems that reach beyond the mere correlations in data to understand the underlying causal mechanisms in extremely complex systems of every sort. Gene editing and synthetic biology are opening the door to genetic modifications not only of our plants and our environment, but also of ourselves. And neurotechnologies are step by step unlocking the mysteries of how our brains control motion, perceive sensation, manage memory, and experience emotions. These technologies beckon us with their phenomenal potential to solve previously intractable problems and to enhance the human experience in ways hardly imagined until now. Simultaneously, they perplex and disturb us with difficult questions about control and equity, about personal agency and authenticity. The industrial era emerged from technologies to help us do; the information era from technologies to help us think. Next will come new advances so deeply symbiotic with their human creators that they have the potential to help us be. Who will we become in this profoundly melded future? That choice belongs not to our machines but to us.

Speakers: Arati Prabhakar
Festival: 2017

More on this Session

Watch and Listen: Technology

Bots — accounts with no human oversight — rule Twitter. According to a Pew Research analysis of more than 1.2 million... See more
As of this writing, 28 journalists have been killed in 2018, 262 were imprisoned in 2017, and 58 are currently marked... See more
Dozens of physicians, health consultants and other medical experts have gone on the payroll at Apple and Google to... See more
Artificial intelligence, which recognizes patterns in data, images, and sound, is poised to move from the laboratory to... See more
Gun violence in the US is a public health epidemic. With partisan battles currently making state and federal... See more
Three experts discuss how science and technology are impacting Israel’s economy and security. This session will examine... See more

Pages