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: Aspen Ideas 2017

More on this Session

Watch and Listen: Technology

How can we break the Islamic State’s brand? How far does Putin’s media machine reach? How will China grapple with... See more
Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joins Walter Isaacson to discuss the opportunities for growth inherent in the... See more
A discussion with Comcast Corporation Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and NBC Olympic primetime host Bob Costas. The... See more
Once the realm of science fiction, smart machines are rapidly becoming part of our world—and these technologies offer... See more
Dr. J. Craig Venter, one of the pioneers in human genome sequencing, talks about coming opportunities to use genomics,... See more
Modern campaigns combine psychology, data, analytics, and technology to persuade and mobilize voters. The smartest... See more

Pages