Sun, Apr 05, 2015 - Page 13 News List

Inventor sees computer sharing of personalities

AFP, PALO ALTO, California

The world has only touched the surface of technological progress and computers might soon be able to transmit the complexities of human personalities, a prominent inventor says.

Sebastian Thrun, who founded the Google X laboratory where the Internet search giant has developed Google Glass and driverless cars, said that much like information is now routinely transmitted via computers, the same may soon be true for full personalities.

“Perhaps we can get to the point where we can outsource our own personal experiences entirely into a computer — and possibly our own personality. Maybe we’re going to have a demo at some point where the computer runs ‘Sebastian,’” he told a symposium on Thursday evening at Stanford University.

“It’s maybe unimaginable, but it’s not as far off as people think. It’s very doable,” said the German-born computer scientist, who remains an adviser at Google Inc.

“I do believe that in all these technologies we have just scratched the surface. Almost everything interesting hasn’t been invented yet,” he said.

Other upcoming technologies predicted by Thrun include flying cars, computers that are implantable into the human body and medical treatments that will drastically curb certain types of deaths.

Thrun was speaking as part of events to mark the premiere of The Demo, an experimental opera about the 1968 data transmission test by scientist Doug Engelbart that helped pave the way for the creation of the Internet.

Jaron Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer known for his books on the philosophy of computers, doubted that scientists could ascertain how to share personalities.

“You are a moving target, and the way you change yourself in response to the presence of that technology would undo any ability to measure whether it has succeeded,” he said.

Lanier said that Silicon Valley put too much faith in technology’s progress.

“I think we are going to have a real struggle to define ourselves in a humane and sweet way as we go through a lot of changes,” he said.

He added that technological innovations risked worsening inequality, saying: “I don’t think the interests of entrepreneurs and everyone else are always aligned.”

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