Time Magazine named author and filmmaker James Barrat one of 5 Very Smart People Who Think Artificial Intelligence Could Bring the Apocalypse because of his groundbreaking nonfiction book, Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era.
Intelligence, Barrat contends, not strength or speed, is the superpower that enables humans to steer the future. Scientists around the world are developing machines whose intelligence grows exponentially, and will someday dwarf our own. If we fail to learn how to control these machines before we create them, we will be stuck in an unwinnable dilemma: we’ll have to rely on their kindness to survive. Will machines naturally love and protect us?
Should we bet our existence on it?
As an award-winning documentary filmmaker, Barrat has made a career from introducing lay audiences to complex ideas in engaging and provocative ways. His films have set ratings records for National Geographic, Discovery, PBS, and other broadcasters in the US and Europe. Barrat’s talk is about what’s wrong with the development and application of advanced AI. It’s about short term problems – like unemployment and autonomous killer drones – and the long term specter of sharing our planet with creatures a thousand or a million times more intelligent than we are. It’s about AI’s soaring potential, and an apocalyptic downside you’ll never hear about from Google, Apple, IBM, Facebook, or Amazon.
Why have Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking raised the alarm about the dangers of artificial intelligence? It began with Our Final Invention (named a 2013 Huffington Post Definitive Tech Book) and Barrat’s quest to engage the world in the most important conversation of our time.
“James Barrat’s broad cultural fluency and acute sense of humor combine for an invitingly personal and accessible take on the subject of artificial intelligence. He presents technologically and philosophically complex topics with popular attraction as well as intellectual appeal.” – John Syme, Senior Writer & Media Relations Coordinator, Davidson College
“James Barrat was a wonderful campus guest and the perfect keynote speaker to launch our School of Business Center for Innovation and Ethics. He visited classes and engaged students in deep discussions throughout the day. In the evening, he spoke eloquently to the college community and the public about the ethical challenges of AI. Equal parts talk and conversation, the evening was compelling, and struck just the right balance between the technical and the human challenges we face.” – Kevin H. Michels, Director of the School of Business Center for Innovation and Ethics, The College of New Jersey
“James gave KIE’s Eleventh Annual Fall Lecture and did a terrific job, speaking to around 350 people. He presents a clear and compelling argument, one to which everyone should be paying close attention. The implications for advanced artificial intelligence range from utopian to the end of human planetary dominance, possible even the end of our species. James gives us plenty of reason to think it could be the latter — a wake-up call if there ever was one. The feedback from his talk has been wonderful — he made KIE look good!” – Christopher Meyers, PhD, Director of Kegley Institute of Ethics
“James Barrat is a compelling writer and a powerful, eloquent speaker on a timely topic. Whether from the podium, on a radio broadcast by the local NPR affiliate, or over a cup of coffee in my office, Barrat holds his listeners and spectators spellbound by consistently raising urgent questions about the human condition.”
– Carol Quillen, President, Davidson College
“James Barrat gave an inspiring and compelling presentation on one of the most significant ethical issues of our time. His talk was exceedingly well received by students, faculty, and members of the wider Richmond region.” – Craig Kocher, University Chaplain and Lecturer in Leadership Studies at University of Richmond
“James Barrat held a deeply knowledgeable Purdue audience in rapt attention during a compelling but also entertaining hour presentation on our campus. It’s safe to assume that he will have at least as powerful an impact on listeners hearing about the risks and possibly existential dangers of AI for the first time.”
– Mitchell Daniels, President at Purdue University
“James Barrat talked to a very technically astute audience consisting of students, faculty and technical staff and credibly and entertainingly presented both optimistic and pessimistic visions of the future. His obvious ease and familiarity with both the risks and opportunities of technology combined with his wry sense of humor to create a top-rate event for the audience.” – Gerard McCartney Ph.D., System CIO and Vice President for Information Technology at Purdue University