After 300 years of breathtaking innovation, people aren’t massively unemployed or indentured by machines. But to suggest how this could change, some economists have pointed to the defunct career of the second-most-important species in U.S. economic history: the horse. For many centuries, people created technologies that made the horse more productive and more valuable—like plows […]
The question “Can a machine think?” has shadowed computer science from its beginnings. Alan Turing proposed in 1950 that a machine could be taught like a child; John McCarthy, inventor of the programming language LISP, coined the term “artificial intelligence” in 1955. As AI researchers in the 1960s and 1970s began to use computers to recognize images, translate between languages, and understand instructions in normal language and not just code, the idea that computers would eventually develop the ability to speak and think—and thus to do evil—bubbled into mainstream culture.
Hilary Armstrong is a literature student at U.C. Santa Barbara and a Longreads intern. She also happens to love science fiction, so she put together a #longreads list for sci-fi newbies. * * * Have you heard? Science fiction is “in”—nerds at the movies, nerds everywhere. This is thrilling if you are familiar with the […]
The early days of robots. The Age of Enlightenment inspired inventors like Jacques de Vaucanson to create ever more realistic machines that mimicked human behavior: Vaucanson, however, was less a philosophical theorist than a practical, even greedy businessman. In 1739, as profits from the Flute Player’s performances began to decline, he added two new automatons […]
Self-driving car technology is advancing rapidly. But how comfortable can we get with the idea? Beyond bureaucracy, there are deeper legal questions. Ryan Calo, director for privacy and robotics at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, which is studying the legal framework for quasi-autonomous vehicles, notes how active the liability landscape already is […]