What would it be like to live in the body of someone else? Since the dawn of mankind, people have imagined what it would be like to inhabit another body, just for a day or even for a few minutes. Thanks to the magic of VR, we can now do that. Jeremy Bailenson, the creator of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, has designed a VR experience called 1000 Cut Journey that may change the way people see race: by experiencing it firsthand. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/jeremy-bailenson-how-experiencing-discrimination-in-vr-can-make-you-less-biased Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Most psychologists agree the best way to have somebody increase empathy is to engage in something called perspective taking. Imagining that you’re someone else trying to cognitively and emotionally understand some event from their perspective. It’s hard to do that. Often we don’t have the facts, meaning I don’t know what’s going on through your mind. I don’t have an experience of what it’s like to be you. And it’s also very effortful. It’s hard to actually imagine what it’s like to be someone else. And, in fact, when it comes to empathy we’re often thinking about unpleasant things, for example, what it’s like to be homeless, and the brain doesn’t want to go there. So VR is a really neat tool because it takes that cognitive effort out. It increases accuracy so you’re not operating on stereotypes you may have in your mind, where you can actually experience the life of someone else as that person lives. Since 2003 I’ve been running experiments that take a person, puts her in virtual reality and gives her an experience that you couldn’t have in the real world. This could be being in a different place or it could actually be becoming a different person. So the first study we ran was about ageism and we took college-age students, and they walked up to a virtual mirror. And the reason we have a virtual mirror is to show the person they become different via a process called body transfer. This is a neuroscientific process where if you move your physical body and you have an avatar that moves what’s called synchronously, that means at the same time that you move your arm, you see its arm move and you see that in a mirror as well as in the first person. Over time the part of the brain that contains the schema for the self expands and includes this external representation as part of the body. So by using a virtual mirror and showing somebody moving with the mirror, you can literally feel like you’ve become someone else. You can be a different gender, a different age. You can become disabled. You can have a different skin color. And our first study took college-age students. We had them become older, about 60 to 70 years old. We then networked a second person into virtual reality and there was a conversation between the two. Over time the conversation turned to stereotypical concepts about being older. So perhaps you didn’t have a good memory, and these stereotypes were activated in the conversation. So while wearing the body of someone else who’s an older person I felt discrimination firsthand as a subject. And what we showed in that first study published in 2005 was that subjects who had gone through this treatment became less ageist when they came out. For example, if you asked them to list words about the elderly they were less likely to list words that were stereotypical. Since that first study, we’ve run dozens of studies. We’ve looked at empathy in terms of becoming a different race, becoming a different gender, even becoming a different species. If you become a cow, how does that make you think about animals? And what our research has shown is VR is not a magic tool. It doesn’t work every single time but in general, across all of our studies, VR tends to outperform control conditions. For example, imagining you’re someone else via role playing or reading about case studies. This experience of walking a mile in someone’s shoes tends to be more effective at causing empathy and behavior change towards others.
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The election of Donald J. Trump surprised many, most of all the Democrats. Jeremy Heimans, a political activist and the Founder of the online media company Purpose, explains it simply: Donald Trump won the internet, and thus won the presidency. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/jeremy-heimans-crowd-power-how-online-intensity-wiped-out-traditional-politics Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink The game of politics for many decades has been played as one in which you’re supposed to keep your head down, you’re supposed to be bland, you’re supposed to be uncontroversial; your job is to court as many people as you can in the middle. Donald Trump from the very beginning took a different posture, everything he did was about unleashing the agency of a small number of intense supporters. This was going to be a campaign in which you could unleash the things that you’d been thinking—maybe your mad uncle muttering at the television—and suddenly every mad uncle muttering at the television was empowered—was sent a signal by this man that those private thoughts could now be made public. As Donald Trump’s candidacy unfolded he built and created a symbiotic relationship with what we think of as a vast, decentralized social media army that did his bidding during the campaign. These were mostly young white men on forums like Reddit and 4chan and they developed a kind of culture of competing with each other, vying with each other, to produce the most creative, the most sticky, the most intrusive meme or message that would penetrate social media and then seep into the mainstream media. So every day they would do this and in response to the events of the news cycle, be it Hillary Clinton’s latest comments, be it Donald Trump’s latest policy pronouncements, they would go take that moment and elevate it. The mainstream media were generally confident that Hillary would win the election: she was ahead in the polls fairly consistently and because she had much higher favorables. While both candidates were unpopular, Hillary’s favorables in public opinion polls were generally about ten points higher than Donald Trump’s. But the people doing social media sentiment analysis, firms like ForeSee, were tracking and finding something very different. Their job is to track net sentiment on social media in connection to political debates. And what they were finding throughout the campaign was that while Donald Trump’s favorables were about ten points lower than Hillary, his net favorability on social media was about ten points higher than Hillary. One of the most striking facts we discovered when researching this book was that the day that Donald Trump had the highest net favorability on social media was his darkest day of the campaign. It was the day of the Access Hollywood tape being released. And it was because at that day his supporters, who had such intensity of commitment to him, rallied around him. They surged to his defense. And even though it seemed in the mainstream media like this was the day that was all losing for Donald Trump, on social media that day Donald Trump actually won. He was elected because he intuitively understood what we call New Power. And New Power is this ability to harness the energy of a connected crowd. And while Hillary Clinton had a very traditional relationship with her crowd, Donald Trump had a relationship that reflects what we now know you need to do in order to really build depth of commitment politically. So the NRA understands intensity in the same way that Donald Trump does. One of its great strengths is, in addition to its old power brand (the fact that it’s a feared institution that politicians kind of quiver at the thought of), it also has an incredibly powerful New Power arm. And that arm goes beyond just its membership, it actually has been very effective at cultivating the most extreme elements of its support base.
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VR could very well be a greater storytelling medium than video games and TV. By being someone else, and seeing and discovering the world through the eyes of other people, that can only increase our empathy... and decrease our own egocentric view of the world. Documentarian Danfung Dennis thinks that virtual reality is an untapped resource that we should keep our eyes on (literally and figuratively), as the right story at the right time could change the world. Imagine a congressman from Texas watching climate change happen at the polar ice caps before their very eyes. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/danfung-dennis-how-vr-can-dissolve-your-ego-and-unlock-your-empathy Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink VR has this unique ability to really take you there and that’s sort of something I’ve been trying to do in traditional still images and documentary film. And those mediums have great power to influence, but I was always frustrated with the inability to really take a first-person subjective experience and let someone see it for themselves. And VR can start to do that. I can place people into worlds that they may never otherwise see and experience something firsthand in a way that is very different than watching a film. You recall it as a memory. Instead of “I saw a movie,” “I actually was there in this experience.” And so those memories actually code in a stronger way. And I think that allows us to reflect and process them in a more personal way. You have an emotional connection and you get as close to being in their position as possible. It’s not completely a first-person perspective—and there is some testing and research around that where it could actually embody someone else, that’s a little bit harder. But right now we know we can at least be very close. And when you are very close to someone and you’re seeing what they’re experiencing, you start to internalize that. We have these mirror neurons that we can feel what other people are feeling. And that reflection that I think is invoked from these powerful experiences can start to foster empathy for the other. And it can dissolve your own ego and help you take the perspective of someone else. And I think this special ability of VR is really important for the urgent crises that we’re facing, especially climate change, which can be hard to dig into, to really lean into, because it seems so big and abstract. But when you are experiencing climate change right in the places that it’s happening you feel like it’s here, that you’re getting this glimpse into the future of a world of extreme weather. Of dried out drought desert conditions. Of refugees. Of pristine ecosystems collapsing and being destroyed. And so when you can actually experience these events as if you were there, you internalize them. And I think that starts to lead to this process of, “Well am I participating in it? Am I consuming fossil fuels that I don’t need to? Can I divest from some of the industries that are responsible for this crisis?” And so I think that reflection is really important because it leads to, or is necessary to lead to, action in one’s own life. And there’s a whole threshold of different actions one can take to engage with this incredible environmental problem that we’re facing. And so this chain of events I think can be triggered through a singular powerful experience. And so with this medium, we can convey not just information. We can convey emotional fidelity in a way that we haven’t been able to do with such clarity. And so we can really feel what it’s like to be a mother in the deserts of Somalia trying to find food for her children and having to flee to the outskirts of cities and to huge camps—and seeing that they’re really just trying to care for their families just as we would do if we were there. And so I think it has this ability to help us invoke the empathy that we all have and cultivate the compassion and the action that is needed to address so many of the world's problems.
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Yale University Professor Timothy Snyder gives a crash course in Ivan Ilyin's philosophy of fascism and explains why this worldview is so appealing to Putin: it defines freedom as knowing your set place in society, asserts that democracy is a ritual and not a reality, and maintains that there are no facts in the world. Perhaps the most fascinating part of this is how new technology—like Facebook—is turning old fascism into political warfare. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/timothy-snyder-the-fascist-philosopher-behind-vladimir-putins-russia Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Ivan Ilyin was a fascist philosopher of the '20s, '30s, and '40s, but he’s probably the most important example of how old ideas can be brought back in the 21st century or in a postmodern context. Ilyin had three very important ideas. The first was that social advancement was impossible because the political system, the social system, is like a body. So you’re a cell, you’re an embryo, you’re an organ, you have a place in this larger body, and freedom means knowing your place. That’s what freedom means. A second idea that he had is that democracy is a ritual. So we can vote, but we only vote in order to affirm our collective support for a leader. The leader is not legitimated by our votes or chosen by our votes, the voting is just a ritual by which we collectively, every couple of years, endorse a leader who has emerged from some other place, from some—in fascism, a leader is some kind of hero who emerges from fiction, who emerges from myth. The third idea Ilyin had, which is very useful, is that the factual world doesn’t count. It’s not real. Ilyin says that God created the world, but that was a mistake. The world was a kind of aborted process. The world is a horrifying thing because it’s full of this and that and the other thing, what we call facts, and those facts can’t be unified into some kind of larger whole so the world is actually horrifying, and those facts are disgusting and of no value whatsoever. So, if you were Vladimir Putin and you’re governing as the head of an oligarchical clan it’s very comfortable to be able to say, “Well, look, freedom consists in knowing your place in society. There’s no possibility for social advance.” If you’re Vladimir Putin and you don’t have serious democracy or you don’t want to have it, it’s very comfortable to do, as he, in fact, has done, it’s very comfortable to transform elections into a kind of ritual. And, likewise, if you can’t have the rule of law and if Russians are basically stuck in a certain place economically and politically, the idea that the world is not factual, that the world is just subjective, that it’s just a matter of this opinion, that opinion and the other opinion, is very comfortable. And Ilyin adds the even more comfortable conclusion that the only true thing is Russian nationalism. The only hope to bring the whole world together is that somehow Russia—which is an innocent victim of the rest of the world—will somehow restore itself in some totalitarian form and then bring order back to the world. So interestingly—it’s not the only thing which is going on—but interestingly these kinds of ideas help Mr. Putin as he consolidates a certain kind of authoritarianism by spectacle at home and also help him as he broadcasts it abroad. The fundamental way that Russia works in American politics is by transmitting the idea that’s nothing is real. So it’s true that the Russians did support Trump. It’s true that there were all kinds of very specific interventions in the election of 2016. But the fundamental idea is to take new technology and transmit this old idea that we can’t really trust ourselves, that there aren’t really facts out there in the world, that the only thing that really matters is our preferences, or really our biases, or really our hatreds.
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A.I. can perform tricks, but can it truly think? Cognitive scientist Joscha Back explains where we are on the path to artificial general intelligence, and where we need to be. The human mind can invent its own code and create models of arbitrary things—including itself—but we don't know how to build a mind quite like that just yet. To achieve A.G.I., will programmers have to re-create every single functional mechanism of the human brain? Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/joscha-bach-what-will-it-take-to-build-a-conscious-ai-brain Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink If you look at our current technological systems they are obviously nowhere near where our minds are. They are very different. And one of the biggest questions for me is: What’s the difference between where we are now and where we need to be if we want to build minds—If we want to build systems that are generally intelligent and self-motivated and maybe self-aware? And, of course, the answer to this is 'we don’t know' because if we knew we’d have already done it. But there are basically several perspectives on this. One is our minds as general learning systems that are able to model arbitrary things, including themselves, and if there are this, they probably need a very distinct set of motivations, needs; things that they want to do. I think that humans get their specifics due to their particular needs. We have cognitive and social and physiological needs and they turn us into who we are. Our motivations determine where we put our attention, what we learn and what we actually do in the world—what we model, how we perceive, what we are conscious of. In a similar sense, it might be that it’s sufficient to build a general learning architecture and combine this with a good motivational system. And we are not there yet in building a general learning architecture. For instance, our minds can learn and create new algorithms that can be used to write code and invent code, programming code for instance, or the rules that you need to build a shop and run that shop if you’re a shopkeeper, which is some kind of programming task in its own right. We don’t know how to build a system that is able to do this yet. It involves, for instance, that we have systems that are able to learn loops and we have some techniques to do this, for instance, a long- and short-term memory and a few other tricks, but they’re nowhere near what people can do so far. And it’s not quite clear how much work needs to be done to extend these systems into what people can do. It could be that it’s very simple. It could be that it’s going to take a lot of research. The dire view, which is more the traditional view, is that human minds have a lot of complexity, that you need to build a lot of functionality into it, like in Minsky's society of mind, to get to all the tricks that people are up to. And if that is the case then it might take a very long time until we have re-created all these different functional mechanisms. But I don’t think that it’s going to be so dire, because our genome is very short and most of that codes for a single cell. Very little of it codes for the brain. And I think a cell is much more complicated than a brain. A brain is probably largely self-organizing and built not like clockwork but like a cappuccino—so you mix the right ingredients and then you let it percolate and then it forms a particular kind of structure. So I do think, because nature pulls it off pretty well in most of the cases, that even though a brain probably needs more complexity than a cappuccino—dramatically more—it’s going to be much simpler than a very complicated machine like a cell.
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Look up—you can see the greatest feat of human cooperation orbiting 254 miles above Earth. As commander of Expedition 35 aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield understands the difficulty of cultural barriers in team work, and the life or death necessity of learning to communicate across those divides. The ISS is a joint project between five space agencies, built by people from 15 different nations—and each of them has a different take on what is "normal". Hadfield explains the scale of cultural differences aboard the spaceship: "What do you do on a Friday night? What does “yes” mean? What does “uh-huh” mean? What is the day of worship? When do you celebrate a holiday? How do you treat your spouse or your children? How do you treat each other? What is the hierarchy of command? All of those things seem completely clear to you, but you were raised in a specific culture that is actually shared by no one else." Here, Hadfield explains his strategy for genuine listening and communication. Whether it's money, reputation, or your life that's at stake, being sensitive and aware of people's differences helps you accomplish something together—no matter where you’re from. Amway believes that diversity and inclusion are essential to the growth and prosperity of today’s companies. When woven into every aspect of the talent life cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are the best equipped to innovate, improve brand image and drive performance. Chris Hadfield features in the new docuseries One Strange Rock and is the author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/chris-hadfield-how-astronauts-work-together-on-the-iss Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: High above our heads is the International Space Station. It’s an amazing, complex thing—the most complicated thing we’ve ever built in space, one of the most complex international projects ever conceived and ever completed. But the keyword of that is international. It is a place built by people from all around the planet, 15 different countries. And that just sounds sort of theoretical, until you start thinking: different languages, different units measurement systems—is it inches or is it meters? Different electrical systems—is it 220, is it 110, is positive ground, is it negative ground? But the most complex problem to deal with, often, is just people who have come from a wildly different cultural background, a completely different sense of what is normal. What do you do on a Friday night? What does “yes” mean? What does “uh-huh” mean? What is the day of worship? When do you celebrate a holiday? How do you treat your spouse or your children? How do you treat each other? What is the hierarchy of command? All of those things seem completely clear to you, but you were raised in a specific culture that is actually shared by no one else. If you have brothers or sisters, ask your brother and sister in detail about some stuff and they will disagree with you. They have a different culture than you do, so imagine if the people that you’re flying a spaceship with come from a wildly different part of the world, trying to find a way to share a sense of purpose so that you can overcome the natural barriers of a difference of culture to do something really difficult—that’s one of the biggest tasks that an astronaut faces. You can start by just by learning language. It’s obvious if it’s as discrete as learning English or learning Russian or learning Japanese, that’s a clearly defined language, but have someone from Louisiana talk to someone from Brooklyn; they both speak English but the language is very different. And if you want to speak clearly and communicate with that person you have to recognize that the culture with which they interpret the world is absolutely necessary for you to understand if you want to clearly communicate with them. And for me the only real measure of clear communication and successful communication is a change of behavior of the listener. If all they did was go “uh-huh,” then you have no understanding of whether they actually comprehended and internalized what it was you were trying to communicate to them. But if you can see that their actions now reflect a different idea, then you can measure whether what you were intending actually got communicated across, then the loop is complete and you’ve successfully crossed whatever cultural barrier was there. And so that requires a lot of extra effort.
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In mid-2017, Elon Musk spoke these words at a National Governors Association meeting and sparked what is now a famous A.I. debate between himself and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react.” Musk wants governors to legislate A.I. now, believing it to be an existential threat to humanity's future and likening it to “summoning the demon.” Zuckerberg, on the other hand, called Musk's predictions "pretty irresponsible" and made the case for A.I. as a tool to vastly improve people's quality of life, adding that tech companies should not slow down. To which Musk tweeted: I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited. And that's the battle of the billionaires in a nutshell, a battle that has divided experts and pundits alike into many sides of an epic debate about the future of A.I. So where does theoretical physicist Michio Kaku stand? Kaku thinks both are right—Zuckerberg in the short term, and Musk in the long run. The tipping point from Team Zuck to Team Musk for Kaku is the moment A.I. achieves self-awareness, which he suspects could be at the end of this century. And what should we do then? "When robots become as intelligent as monkeys I think we should put a chip in their brain to shut them off if they begin to have murderous thoughts," says Kaku. What do you think of Kaku's take on the Musk vs. Zuckerberg A.I. debate and his solution? Michio Kaku's latest book is the awesome The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michio-kaku-on-elon-musk-mark-zuckerbergs-ai-debate Michio Kaku's Universe in a Nutshell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NbBjNiw4tk Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Recently, I was on the Richard Quest show on CNN TV and I was asked the question that we have the battle of the billionaires; on one hand we have Mark Zuckerberg saying, “Don’t worry, artificial intelligence will give us new jobs, new industries, create wealth, prosperity.” And then we have people like, well, Elon Musk, who says, “Watch out. They pose an existential threat to humanity.” Who knows, maybe one day they’ll put us in zoos and throw peanuts at us and make us dance, make us dance behind bars like we do with monkeys and with bears. Well, my personal point of view is that both points of view are in some sense correct. In the short term, I think Zuckerberg is right. Artificial intelligence will open up whole new vistas, it will make life more convenient, things will be cheaper, new industries will be created. I personally think the A.I. industry will be bigger than the automobile industry. In fact, I think the automobile is going to become a robot. You’ll talk to your car. You’ll argue with your car. Your car will give you the best facts, the best route between point A and point B; the car will be part of the robotics industry. Whole new industries involving the repair, maintenance, servicing of robots, not to mention robots that are software programs that you talk to and make life more convenient. However, let’s not be naïve. There is a point, a tipping point at which they can become dangerous and pose an existential threat. And that tipping point is self-awareness. You see, robots are not aware of the fact that they’re robots. They’re so stupid they simply carry out what they are instructed to do because they’re adding machines. We forget that. Adding machines don’t have a will. Adding machines simply do what you program them to do. Now, of course, let’s not be naïve about this, eventually adding machines may be able to compute alternate goals and alternate scenarios when they realize that they are not human. Right now, robots do not know that. However, there is a tipping point at which point they could become dangerous. Right now, our most advanced robot has the intelligence of a cockroach—a rather stupid cockroach. However, it’s only a matter of time before robots become as smart as a mouse, then as smart as a rat, then a rabbit, then a cat, a dog, and eventually as smart as a monkey. Now, monkeys know they are not human. They have a certain amount of self-awareness. Dogs, especially young dogs, are not quite sure. One reason why dogs obey their masters is because they think the master is the top dog, and so they’re a little bit confused about whether or not we humans are part of the dog tribe. But monkeys, I think, have no problems with that; they know they’re not human. So when robots become as intelligent as monkeys I think we should put a chip in their brain to shut them off if they begin to have murderous thoughts. When will that happen? I don’t know.
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Some of the most intelligent people at the most highly-funded companies in the world can't seem to answer this simple question: what is the danger in creating something smarter than you? They've created AI so smart that the "deep learning" that it's outsmarting the people that made it. The reason is the "blackbox" style code that the AI is based off of—it's built solely to become smarter, and we have no way to regulate that knowledge. That might not seem like a terrible thing if you want to build superintelligence. But we've all experienced something minor going wrong, or a bug, in our current electronics. Imagine that, but in a Robojudge that can sentence you to 10 years in prison without explanation other than "I've been fed data and this is what I compute"... or a bug in the AI of a busy airport. We need regulation now before we create something we can't control. Max's book Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence is being heralded as one of the best books on AI, period, and is a must-read if you're interested in the subject. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/max-tegmark-were-smart-enough-to-create-intelligent-machines-but-are-we-wise-enough Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I’m optimistic that we can create an awesome future with technology as long as we win the race between the growing power of the tech and the growing wisdom with which we manage the tech. This is actually getting harder because of nerdy technical developments in the AI field. It used to be, when we wrote state-of-the-art AI—like for example IBM’s Deep Blue computer who defeated Gary Kasparov in chess a couple of decades ago—that all the intelligence was basically programmed in by humans who knew how to play chess and then the computer won the game just because it could think faster and remember more. But we understood the software well. Understanding what your AI system does is one of those pieces of wisdom you have to have to be able to really trust it. The reason we have so many problems today with systems getting hacked or crashing because of bugs is exactly because we didn’t understand the systems as well as we should have. Now what’s happening is fascinating, today’s biggest AI breakthroughs are a completely different kind where rather than the intelligence being largely programmed in an easy-to-understand code, you put in almost nothing except a little learning rule by which a simulated arc of neurons can take a lot of data and figure out how to get stuff done. This deep learning suddenly becomes able to do things often even better than the programmers were ever able to do. You can train a machine to play computer games with almost no hard-coded stuff at all. You don’t tell it what a game is, what the things are on the screen, or even that there is such a thing as a screen—you just feed in a bunch of data about the colors of the pixels and tell it, “Hey go ahead and maximize that number in the upper left corner,” and gradually you come back and it’s playing some game much better than I could. The challenge with this, even though it’s very powerful, this is very much “blackbox” now where, yeah it does all that great stuff—and we don’t understand how. So suppose I get sentenced to ten years in prison by a Robojudge in the future and I ask, “Why?” And I’m told, “I WAS TRAINED ON SEVEN TERABYTES OF DATA, AND THIS WAS THE DECISION,” It’s not that satisfying for me. Or suppose the machine that’s in charge of our electric power grid suddenly malfunctions and someone says, “Well, we have no idea why. We trained it on a lot of data and it worked,” that doesn’t instill the kind of trust that we want to put into systems. When you get the blue screen of death when your Windows machine crashes or the spinning wheel of doom because your Mac crashes, “annoying” is probably the main emotion we have, but “annoying” isn’t the emotion we have if it’s myself flying an airplane and it crashes, or the software controlling the nuclear arsenal of the U.S., or something like that. And as AI gets more and more out into the world we absolutely need to transform today’s packable and buggy AI systems into AI systems that we can really trust.
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Like it or not, banks — and the bankers they employ — hold incredible sway over the economy of the world. The former Finance Minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, has a great way of describing how they continue to consolidate this huge amount of power. He posits that bankers time travel. Not by a DeLorean traveling at 88mph, but by taking value from the future—for instance, how much the housing market is going to be—and apply it to the present to essentially create value out of thin air. It's economic black magic. And it can lead to major consequences for the rest of us... but rarely for the bankers themselves. Yanis's new book is the fascinating Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works-and How It Fails. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/yanis-varoufakis-why-bankers-are-like-time-travelers-who-grab-value-from-the-future Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Ever since humanity emerged, we've all had debts to one another. We are a collaborative species. We survived the evolutionary struggle in the jungle and in the steppes, in the desert only through collaboration. Collaboration requires reciprocity. I do something for you today, you do something for me tomorrow. That is a debt. It’s a form of debt but it’s a nonfinancial, noneconomic debt. It’s an ethical debt. It’s the good side of debt. As society became commodified and all activity started getting channeled through the anonymous market most of this reciprocity took the form of financial debt. What turbocharged the economy once the economy got separated from society through this process of commodification was banking. Because, let’s face it. Bankers have a fantastic power over the rest of society by definition, by way of existence, to create money. When you get a loan from a bank it is a crazy idea that you are getting it from “somebody else”. You’re not getting it from somebody else. It is not true. This is a major fallacy that occupies most people’s minds, infects most people’s minds, that you are being given money that somebody has saved. That is not true. What the bank does it creates money from thin air. It just types into your account, you know, $20,000 if you borrow $20,000. It comes literally out of thin air. And the hope of the banker is you will be able to repay it, because what happens is you take that $20,000, you buy equipment for your studio, you buy a new bicycle, a new car, whatever. So the money goes from your bank account to the bank account of the company or the person that sold you something. And the idea is that through this circular flow of income and through this economic activity a new income is going to begin, new value will be created. You will be able to repay the bank. The bank will have obtained the interest and therefore the bank is going to profit. So the more they lend to you the more profits they make. So it is a little bit—and that’s why I’m trying to explain to my daughter in the book—It’s a little bit like the bank is having a capacity to push their arm through the timeline into the future and grab value that has not been created yet, bring it to the present, invest it into some productive activity, hopefully to create the value that we need to replay the future. But to the extent that this is successful—and it has always been successful—bankers suddenly get the idea that the more they reach into the future, the more value they snatch from the future to bring it into the present, the greater their own personal profit. But when they overdo it—and, of course, they always overdo it, they overreach—they take too much value from the future, bring it into the present. That value is not realized, and then you have a banking crisis. And because they play such a crucial and powerful role in society they have the political clout – political clout that you and I don’t have because they usually are the ones for finance our politicians to get elected to congress and so on—that can use the political system in order to have themselves bailed out—you know, socialism for the bankers, and austerity for everybody else.
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Ronan Farrow isn't the only big name in the Farrow household. His mom, Mia Farrow, is a big-time actress (Rosemary's Baby, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Great Gatsby) and instilled some of the wisdom she learned along the way into her son. Here, on Mother's Day, Ronan shares the best piece of advice he learned from her. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ronan-farrow-why-mia-farrows-best-advice-to-her-son-is-motherhood-in-a-nutshell Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I think the most important piece of career advice I ever received was probably from my mother who used the phrase, “Be one with the target.” And what she meant when she said that was, when you are engaging in some kind of a high stakes professional gambit, whether it’s you’re giving a speech or a presentation at work or you’re breaking a big story, if you are fully invested in the goal and it’s a greater goal than yourself it’s not about you— there’s a certain kind of armor in that, and people can attack you personally (and they certainly do attack me a lot personally) and they can try to weaponize whatever they want against you, but if you are really one with the target and you know that what you’re doing contributes to goals that are bigger than yourself and you are 100 percent off of thinking about you and your self-consciousness and your self-interest and on thinking about the problem and how you’re going to make things better through your work and communicating that to the other people involved in whatever project you’re working on, there’s no time to get mired in the “self” piece of it, in the kind of self-consciousness and the worry about self-interest that can, I think, sideline and distract. That’s easier said than done. I don’t always live up to that, but it’s a great philosophy that I found really useful.
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Virtual reality isn't just for gamers and tech hobbyists anymore, it's also for NFL players. In 2015, Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson and recent Stanford graduate Derek Blech co-founded a VR training company called STRIVR and in the first six months, they had signed five NFL teams on multiyear contracts as well as about a dozen college teams. What did this tech do for the NFL? It made football a game of the mind like never before, providing players a safe virtual space to make mistakes, learn from feedback, do mental repetitions, and practice communication and decision-making skills. Those same lessons apply to many jobs and industries, and where STRIVR went next was Walmart, implementing VR learning in 200 training academies around the U.S., helping over 150,000 employees improve their customer service skills, look for shoplifters, and prepare for the stress-fest that is the Black Friday sales. Whether you're a quarterback or a cashier, VR training can raise your potential and you can safely expect it to be part of your future job training in the coming years. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/jeremy-bailenson-how-vr-helps-nfl-players-score-more-touchdowns Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink If you think about where we get virtual reality from, there’s something called a flight simulator. In 1929, Edwin Link said he didn’t want to learn how to fly from a book, but flying a plane is very expensive in terms of making a mistake; make a mistake in a plane people die and. obviously, planes get lost. So Edwin Link developed the flight simulator so people could learn by doing in a safe environment. One of the ways the general public that people who aren't just gamers or technologists are seeing VR is in training. So one thing I've done for the last few years is I've used virtual reality to train athletes. The project began as a master's thesis by Derek Belch, who's a student at Stanford. We use virtual reality to train quarterbacks to look around, recognize a defensive pattern, make a decision by changing the play—they can keep the original play or they can kill, kill, kill and go down to the next play in the queue. When Derek graduated in 2015 he founded a company called STRIVR, and STRIVR in the first six months signed five NFL teams to multiyear contracts, about a dozen college teams. And what we've seen over the last few years is many teams adapting using VR so that players can get extra mental repetitions. Now, where this goes down to your everyday person, is the lessons that we learned by training athletes it turns out applies to just about every job. So think about your own job. You have to look around, you have to see stuff—we call this recognition, pattern recognition—then you have to make a decision and then you have to communicate that decision. So, for a quarterback, he looks around, spots the defense, sees a pattern, changes a play. When he changes the play he calls that out to his teammates. That lesson, that general pattern, applies to just about everybody's job, and the exciting thing for me has been to watch Walmart. So Walmart we began training one of their academies. So Walmart has 200 training academies and basically, if you work at Walmart at any time you can get in your car, drive a few hours and you get to go and train for a week or so at one of these academies. We started out in one of them where we put VR there and what we were training are things like holiday rush, Black Friday, where there are people everywhere running around and yelling at you and it's this really intense experience, giving employees a sense for what that's going to be like, or having them look around the store to spot safety violations or customers who haven't been helped. The same lessons that we use for quarterbacks in that first training academy, qualitatively we were finding that it was a good solution and that people were enjoying it, and the training was working. We then went up to 30 training academies and what we had was 30 training academies use VR and we paired that with 30 who were not and we could run a nice controlled experiment to see the efficacy, how well VR worked in terms of training, and we had really good data there. We're now in all 200 of Walmart's training academies and, to date, over 150,000 employees at Walmart have put on the virtual reality goggles to get better at their job. And it's a really nice use case; training to help you get better at what you do. One of the most useful things about virtual reality is the tracking data. So for a company who's training someone, what we can do is we can figure out how well you're learning as you're doing the behavior.
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Nobody hopes the eventual face-to-face meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un works out more than Ronan Farrow. Farrow's new book War on Peace in part details the history of diplomatic efforts between past White House administrations and the North Korean regime, and how fragile and fraught with lies that relationship has been. Trump's "saber-rattling" style may be fresh enough to inspire change, but there is a very good chance the U.S. will get played by North Korea's hollow promises. "We are going to need a core of experts who are experienced in the ways in which these regimes, one after another, are difficult and lie to the rest of the world and pose a threat to that region," says Farrow. The potential meeting between Trump and Jong-un will also be the first time a sitting American president will meet face-to-face with a leader of the North Korean regime, and in doing so, the U.S. might give North Korea what it wants most: legitimization. "The risk with this meeting is that we play into their hands and say, “Yeah, sure, we acknowledge you as an equal on the international stage,” and we give up some of our leverage in having them want that contact, want that leader-to-leader access, which could make the nitty-gritty work of actually implementing diplomacy and making sure that they are contained as a nuclear power that much more difficult," says Farrow. Ronan Farrow is the author of War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ronan-farrow-should-donald-trump-and-kim-jong-un-meet Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: War on Peace tells the stories of a number of the diplomats who have been deeply engaged in North Korea diplomacy over the last several administrations. And I think it’s ahistorical when you hear people say, “Those were all failures, we didn’t get anything done.” Under the Clinton administration, we had a really substantive framework agreement with the North Koreans where they made a lot of commitments that would have been very important in the long-term to slowing their progress as a nuclear power, and the United States actually reneged on a lot of the commitments that we made on our end. We were in no small part responsible for the collapse of that deal. Then subsequently during the George W. Bush administration, you had a situation where Bush, after the disasters of Iraq, set about doubling down on diplomacy and they lead six-party talks. A career diplomat named Chris Hill went over there and spent countless hours talking to all of the players, and they actually shut down some of the reactors for the first time in years. They were starting to give us some information about their nuclear development. In the end, they did cheat, it did fall through, and that wasn’t our fault, but we did make some inroads. Particularly in our conversation with China about North Korea, which is going to be a pivotal part of any solution going forward. Now you see the Trump administration coming in with this kind of madcap approach: diplomacy by tweet, all of this saber rattling, and now potentially a meeting between leaders. And the reality is, we don’t know how that’s going to pan out. Could it work? Sure. And I, and I think everyone else invested in this problem, sincerely hope that it does. But what those experts whose stories are in War on Peace say, one after another, is we are flying blind now and we don’t have to be. You can have the same kind of saber-rattling and tough approach, you could have the same kind of leader-to-leader meeting and also insulate yourself against some of these pitfalls. Make sure that we are not accidentally legitimizing the North Koreans as a nuclear power. Make sure that we are hip to the fact that they very often lie about the kinds of commitments they’re making now and have done so in the past. There is a real risk here that we get played. Look, North Korea will continue to be perilous. It was perilous under the previous regime; it is perilous now. I think that the thaw in relations between the North and the South is one of the most positive developments to come along, and that’s due to a number of factors, not just what’s happening in the United States right now. But ultimately, regardless of who is in the seat of power there, we are going to need a core of experts who are experienced in the ways in which these regimes, one after another, are difficult and lie to the rest of the world and pose a threat to that region. And I have complete confidence in one thing, which is: whoever comes along next in terms of North Korean leadership, we’re going to need some people who are really well-versed in dealing with that region if we want to keep them contained.
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In March 2016, the British Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) decided to crowdsource the name of its new $300 million arctic explorer vessel. It hoped the public would suggest something like 'Shackleton' or 'Endeavor', but the moment someone suggested the name 'Boaty McBoatface', it went viral and shot to the top of the poll. The NERC had the right idea in harnessing the power of crowds, explains Henry Timms, director of the 92nd Street Y in New York, but it lacked the skills needed to pull it off. Instead of turning Boaty McBoatface into an opportunity to revive science education and merchandise Boaty, it shut the idea down, canceled the competition and named the ship 'Sir David Attenborough'. "There’s a set of very clear skills in how you go about harnessing the crowd. And you look around the world right now, any corporation, any nonprofit, any leader who wants to come out on top needs to think a lot more carefully about how they negotiate with the crowd," says Timms. Here, he shares the four key components of successful crowdsourcing and brand building, and explains how Lego used those methods to pull itself out of near-bankruptcy and up to new heights. Henry Timms is the co-author of New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World-and How to Make It Work for You Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/henry-timms-how-to-build-a-great-brand-from-lego-to-boaty-mcboatface Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: So there’s this scientific agency in Britain called the Natural Environment Research Council. They’re a big government body and they’ve got a new ship coming. They’ve got a $300 million new arctic explorer vessel and they’re very excited about it, and they recognize that we’re living in this world of crowds where everyone wants to participate and we’re all finding a way to express ourselves, and they have this idea. They say, "Let’s launch a campaign called #NameOurShip." Now, this campaign is off to a slightly worrying start because they launch it with a press release, and the press release says, '#NameOurShip. Maybe you, the public, would like to name it something like Shackleton, or Endeavor, or Adventurer.' Now, these aren’t the kinds of names the public come up with. Within a day someone has tweeted in, “We should call this ship Boaty McBoatface.” And Boaty McBoatface is immediately and virally popular. I should say that in tenth place—Boaty McBoatface was first, but in tenth place, and I thought this was somewhat neglected, was: 'I Like Big Boats and I Cannot Lie'. But in any case, Boaty McBoatface does terrifically well. It goes viral. Everyone is talking about it. It’s on all the front pages of the newspapers. There are literally hundreds of millions of Twitter impressions about this. They’re in the pubs, they’re at dinner tables, the whole nation and, in fact, the whole world—it crosses the ocean, it’s covered by The New York Times and CNN—the whole world gets excited and obsessed with Boaty McBoatface. But there’s a problem. The science minister takes a very dim view of this. 'This is a very big investment of government money. This is not a serious name for a boat. This must be put down immediately and things must be put back in their place.' And this government agency is in a really tough spot. So, on one hand, they’ve got the public who is incredibly excited about the idea of Boaty McBoatface, on the other hand, the science minister is saying this is not taking science seriously. And they end up, really, in a moment which tells us something about our age, which is what they were trying to do. They were trying to work out, 'Okay, there’s a crowd out there, we want to harness their energy.' They want to do that in a powerful way. They were trying to do that, but they had none of the skills you might need to think about harnessing the crowds. In the end what they do is they call it ‘Sir David Attenborough’ who is this very famous British scientist, which no one could really complain about too much. And they named one of the small submarines on top of this boat ‘Boaty McBoatface’. So they literally sunk Boaty at sea. So here’s the question: What could they have done differently? You think about this moment. You think about this huge surge of enthusiasm around science and just imagine if instead of putting Boaty out to the side, instead they leaned into it and they’d said: 'Let’s embrace this. Let’s think about how we could engage a generation of kids in maritime science. Let’s think about how we could merchandise this. Let’s think about all the different moments that Boaty could dock around the nation and you could imagine whole groups of people coming out to learn more about Arctic exploration.'
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When the allegations against Harvey Weinstein were revealed in October 2017, an opinion writer for The New York Times likened him to a hyena, writing: “Hyenas cannot help their own nature.” Ironically, as zoologist Lucy Cooke reveals, the qualities of a hyena couldn’t be further from the nature of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. "The truth about hyenas is that they are really, I think, more like the feminist icons of the animal kingdom," says Cooke. "The spotted hyena is an extraordinary creature... The female’s genitalia is a facsimile of the male’s. She has what is described in polite zoological circles as a “pseudo-penis”, which is actually an eight-inch clitoris. And she also has a fake scrotum." This unusual appendage often suffocates cubs during labor and causes first-time spotted hyena moms to die in childbirth, so what is the evolutionary benefit? The most favored theory posits that it's a built-in anti-rape device, as the female's unique genitalia requires her full cooperation in mating. As Cooke explains in much more detail, hyena sex is not for the faint-hearted, and it's the female's power in this domain that helps her rule the entire society. Lucy Cooke is the author of The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/lucy-cooke-the-extraordinary-genitalia-of-female-spotted-hyenas Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: So, very recently, during the whole Harvey Weinstein scandal, Weinstein was compared to a hyena. This is one of those instances where I just shook my head and just thought, 'Well, that is just about the most least-appropriate animal to compare Harvey Weinstein to.' The reason why—I think it was The New York Times that was comparing Harvey Weinstein to a hyena—was because they are seen as these aggressive, unpleasant, cowardly, malicious, malevolent creatures. The truth about hyenas is that they are really, I think, more like the feminist icons of the animal kingdom. The spotted hyena is an extraordinary creature. They are the original “chicks with dicks” because they have extraordinary genitalia. The female’s genitalia is a facsimile of the male’s. She has what is described in polite zoological circles as a “pseudo-penis”, which is actually an eight-inch clitoris. And she also has a fake scrotum. And it’s an unusual piece of equipment for a female, because it’s a strange multitasking organ, the pseudo-penis, because the female hyena will actually copulate, urinate and give birth through it. So giving birth is a bit like squeezing a melon out of a hose pipe, and a large percentage of cubs suffocate on the way out, and a large amount of first-time moms die in childbirth. So you’ve got to think, 'Hello evolution, what were you thinking when you evolved the pseudo-penis in the hyena? What possible reason can there be for this structure?' And there are lots of theories as to why, but the most favored theory by Kay Holekamp—who’s the Jane Goodall of spotted hyenas, an amazing scientist who has been studying them in the wild for years and years and years—when I asked her, she said that she thought that it was all to do with the war between the sexes. So hyenas are unusual, the females; they don’t just have a pseudo-penis and a fake scrotum, but they’re also bigger than the males and they’re more aggressive. Hyena society is a strict matriarchy, with dominance passing down the female line. Males are reduced to the very outskirts of society where they are forced to beg for acceptance, food, and sex. So the females are really running the show, and they’re extremely aggressive. Now, if a male wants to mate with a female it’s almost impossible for him to do that without her cooperation because it’s kind of like trying to have sex with a sock—because he’s got to try and insert his erect actual-penis into her half-foot floppy pseudo-penis. I mean, it’s not for the faint-hearted. You can’t really do it unless the female is on your side. Now, amongst mammals rape is not uncommon. Dolphins—everybody loves them, look like they’re smiling—but they are not averse to boffing each other’s blowholes. There’s actually a fair amount of non-consensual sex, shall we say, that happens amongst dolphins.
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Most people approach talking about difficult subjects as if they were at a debate. That is, arriving at the table (metaphorically speaking) with preconceived notions and ideas. But Amway's VP of Global Litigation and Corporate Law, Claire Groen, knew there had to be a better way. She and the leaders at Amway devised what they call RealTalk, which brings people together to hold conversations on current topics. And when the topics happened to turn into hot-button issues like immigration, the racism at Charlottesville, and so forth, these talks became an incredible conduit to a more inclusive office. People were heard, and in turn, listened more to ideas outside of their comfort zone. This resulted in a better and more inclusive culture at Amway. Amway believes that diversity and inclusion are essential to the growth and prosperity of today’s companies. When woven into every aspect of the talent lifecycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are the best equipped to innovate, improve brand image and drive performance. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/claire-groen-real-talk-at-work-how-amway-created-a-better-office-for-more-people Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: As part of our drive towards developing an inclusive environment, we wanted to address both people's uniqueness and their sense of belonging. In order to do that we needed to be able to have conversations about somebody's uniqueness in order to achieve a sense of belongingness in the workplace. And therefore we felt like we needed to be able to put on the table conversations that were difficult topics – that people were wanting to shy away from maybe, because they were worried about asking questions, or they were worried about bringing up the topic. But yet those topics were critical to really understanding each other. And we launched a series called RealTalk series in order to be able to put those more difficult things on the table. It happened a little bit as a coincidence that there were a lot of current events that occurred as we were going through that RealTalk series. Things like natural disasters, a lot of the immigration changes that were happening in the U.S. And then also the events that happened in Charlottesville. And those became great platforms for us to be able to have some of these difficult conversations to understand how people view things differently. So people may see an event like Charlottesville and they feel badly about it. They're unhappy about it but they sort of go on about their way. Whereas other people in the workplace feel very personally affected by it. They may be angry. They may be very sad about it. And they need to be able to come into a workplace where people could recognize those emotions and show that they cared that they felt that way. We wanted to have our participants get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. And that was the guidance that we gave to the leaders for those sessions to make sure that we were raising up issues where people understood that it wasn't going to necessarily be an easy conversation. And people had to come prepared to be vulnerable and open to some level of discomfort. One of the things we asked for from the participants was to assume a positive intent. And a positive intent is simply necessary if you want to have these difficult conversations and have them be productive. It's so easy to go in and actually become defensive. That's usually the issue that creates the obstacles in having a productive conversation. It's not so much that people go negative but it's that they become defensive. And so we really asked people to come in and say let's assume a positive intent on the part of the other person so that we didn't go to an area of defensiveness immediately. As we engaged in this series we wanted people to understand that it was a dialogue and not a debate. Dialogue is open-ended. It's a conversation about how I might experience something and understanding how you might experience that exact same thing but in a different way. In a debate you're looking to win. You're looking to convince and have the final say in something. And that's not the purpose of these conversations. The purpose is to make sure that we can understand each other better and become better advocates for each other. All the experiences that we had going through the RealTalk series really summed up to leading people to commit to having ongoing conversations about things that matter even apart from the series. And it really led to a practical takeaway for people to just simply say "I'm going to sit down with somebody. I'm going to ask their perspective on an event that happened. I
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Artificial intelligence has the capability to far surpass our intelligence in a relatively short period of time. But AI expert Ben Goertzel knows that the foundation has to be strong for that artificial brain power to grow exponentially Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ben-goertzel-how-to-build-an-ai-brain-that-can-surpass-human-intelligence Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink If you think much about physics and cognition and intelligence it’s pretty obvious the human mind is not the smartest possible general intelligence any more than humans are the highest jumpers or the fastest runners. We’re not going to be the smartest thinkers. If you are going to work toward AGI rather than focusing on some narrow application there’s a number of different approaches that you might take. And I’ve spent some time just surveying the AGI field as a whole and organizing an annual conference on the AGI. And then I’ve spent a bunch more time on the specific AGI approach which is based on the OpenCog, open source software platform. In the big picture one way to approach AGI is to try to emulate the human brain at some level of precision. And this is the approach I see, for example, Google Deep Mind is taking. They’ve taken deep neural networks which in their common form are mostly a model of visual and auditory processing in the human brain. And now in their recent work such as the DNC, differential neural computer, they’re taking these deep networks that model visual or auditory processing and they’re coupling that with a memory matrix which models some aspect of what the hippocampus does, which is the part of the brain that deals with working memory, short-term memory among other things. So this illustrates an approach where you take neural networks emulating different parts of the brain and maybe you take more and more neural networks emulating different parts of the human brain. You try to get them to all work together not necessarily doing computational neuroscience but trying to emulate the way different parts of the brain are doing processing and the way they’re talking to each other. A totally different approach is being taken by a guy named Marcus Hutter in Australia National University. He wrote a beautiful book on universal AI in which he showed how to write a superhuman infinitely intelligence thinking machine in like 50 lines of code. The problem is it would take more computing power than there is in the entire universe to run. So it’s not practically useful but they’re then trying to scale down from this theoretical AGI to find something that will really work. Now the approach we’re taking in the OpenCog project is different than either of those. We’re attempting to emulate at a very high level the way the human mind seems to work as an embodied social generally intelligent agent which is coming to grips with hard problems in the context of coming to grips with itself and its life in the world. We’re not trying to model the way the brain works at the level of neurons or neural networks. We’re looking at the human mind more from a high-level cognitive point of view. What kinds of memory are there? Well, there’s semantic memory about abstract knowledge or concrete facts. There’s episodic memory of our autobiographical history. There’s sensory-motor memory. There’s associative memory of things that have been related to us in our lives. There’s procedural memory of how to do things. And we then look at the different kinds of learning and reasoning the human mind can do. We can do logical deduction sometimes. We’re not always good at it. We make emotional intuitive leaps and strange creative combinations of things. We learn by trial and error and habit. We learn socially by imitating, mirroring, emulating or opposing others. These different kinds of memory and learning that the human mind has – one can attempt to achieve each of those with a cutting-edge computer science algorithm, rather than trying to achieve each of those functions and structures in the way the brain does. So what we have in OpenCog we have a central knowledge repository which is very dynamic and lives in RAM on a large network of computers which we call the AtomSpace. And for the mathematicians or computer science in the audience, the AtomSpace is what you’d call a weighted labeled hypergraph. So it has nodes. It has links. A link can go between two nodes or a link could go between three, four, five or 50 nodes. Different nodes and links have different types and the nodes and links can have numbers attached to them. A node or link could have a weight indicating a probability or a confidence. It could have a weight indicating how important it is to the system right now or how important it is in the long term so it should be kept around in the system’s memory.
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Crowdsourcing as an idea isn't anything new, says historian and sex researcher Alice Dreger. She tells us about the history of public gathering of information from the medieval era to today. The enlightenment period was a big boon to the arts and sciences, but also an even bigger help to how knowledge is organized and distributed. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/alice-dreger-a-short-history-of-knowledge-from-feudalism-to-the-internet Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Peer review is not a simple thing because humans do it and so whenever there’s humans there will be bias introduced, relationships get complicated with regard to peer review. We have a fantasy that peer review will be totally anonymous on both ends – you won’t know who the person you’re reviewing is and they won’t know who you are and it will all be blind. But in reality people figure out in peer review who is who and biases do get introduced. But that said, the idea of peer review is a really important one and we can sort of approach it and that’s the idea that we have people who are qualified judging each other’s work. It allows us to essentially crowd source knowledge and to have an opportunity where blind spots are picked off, where errors are picked up and where we can make work better. So it’s essentially a way to crowd source knowledge. I want to point out by the way that peer review is historically really interesting. It came out of the enlightenment period. So this was the period when thinkers were beginning to really appreciate the idea that humans together could know more. And what’s fascinating is that democracy and science grew up together and they both use peer review. So science uses peer review because scientific ideas are put forth and then scientists are qualified to do so, judge that work. And in democracy peer review is used in things like voting systems so when we do voting that’s a peer review form. When we do judging of criminal or non-criminal acts in courts that’s a form of peer review when we have a jury. And so it’s not a coincidence because what was happening was the thinkers of the enlightenment were beginning to figure out that more people looking at a problem could to get you better knowledge. Before the enlightenment the concept was knowledge came from above, it came from the church, from the state, from God, it came from an external higher authority. But the real revelation of the enlightenment was the idea that people could do this themselves they didn’t have to rely on the church, the state, God, an external authority, they could to do it themselves. And so they began to have the idea that they would reject the king and they would essentially reject the teachings of the church and they would reject the state being run by the king; that they would take back control of knowledge. And that was true in democracy and in science. So, it’s no coincidence that a lot of the founding fathers were science geeks. They were thinking about crowdsourcing. It is what we call crowdsourcing. There are more checks and balances on bad knowledge going forward so there’s accountability at some level. When you’re doing pier review the editor at least knows who you are. When you’re doing voting theoretically you’re not allowed to vote more than once. When you’re on a jury you have got a judge keeping track of whether or not information should be admissible in court whether it’s fair to admit it in court. The internet is crowdsourcing gone wild. It has no limits on it and so you can have things like bots like things until it actually is noticed by real human beings, you can have situations where something looks incredibly real but it’s not real and it will take off much faster than we can stop it. So the internet really is a beautiful thing in many ways. It allows people to find each other who never could have found each other before, for example, people with very unusual medical conditions can find each other, people with very unusual interests can find each other. The problem is that you have a situation where there are no checks and balances and so you get a phenomenon whereby things that are not real can go forward. But there are some places on the Internet where there are checks and balances. So Wikipedia is a great example actually. Wikipedia actually has people who function as editors and they will talk to each other, fight with each other and all the discussions get externalized. That allows a level of accountability that much of the Internet doesn’t have. It’s also the case that Wikipedia paid editors can actually stop people from editing in some circumstances or stop people from messing with pages. So there are places on the Internet that have been born of crowdsourcing but that do have some checks and balances built in.
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Want to motivate your team? Learn to give useful feedback. Leadership expert Michelle Tillis Lederman explains her four-step method that can make feedback conversations go smoothly and funnel toward growth. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michelle-tillis-lederman-how-to-give-feedback-that-works Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I love thinking about leveraging the laws of likability when giving feedback. Because feedback is only effective if somebody can receive it. So you want to present feedback, I say, on a silver platter and not on a garbage can lid. You have to remember it’s not about your communication style, It’s about theirs. The best way to develop your people is to flex to them, to empower them, to adapt your style to what they need. That’s a manager. That’s a leader. That’s a coach. So if they’re somebody who really likes direct feedback even if it’s something you’re not comfortable with they will respect and be able to take it in better if you can just get to the point. If you’re somebody who’s really direct and they need a little bit more tact and diplomacy, then you’re going to need to massage your messaging so, again, it can be heard. There’s a correlation between the speed at which somebody receives that feedback and the importance that they place on it. When you delay feedback, you delay the value you’re placing on it. So, immediacy is important. Now, not in the exact moment; let them have a moment to breathe. But don’t wait more than a day, if you can, if it’s really crucial. You had that weekly meeting; sometimes it will fade from your memory by that point. It becomes less important to you and to them. So make sure you give that feedback quickly and specifically. Don’t just say, 'Oh, I think it went well.' Tell them why you thought it went well. What specifically they did that you thought went well. And then challenge them with the next opportunity. Give them something to keep growing from. So if you think about the most important law of likability it’s the law of curiosity. And I have a model that you can use to walk through any challenging or feedback conversation that will leverage these laws of likability, starting with curiosity. Curiosity creates connections and connection is important in these conversations because when you are receiving feedback you’re considering your source. And when you don’t value, trust or like source then you might not be really willing to take that information in. So the model has four parts: ask, elaborate, empower, collaborate. 'Ask' is going to leverage that law of curiosity. Start with a question and make sure that question is open-ended. It’s not, you know: 'Do you think that went well?' Which is implying that you don’t think that went well. Instead, you ask: 'How do you think it went? What do you think went well? What do you think could have gone better?' And get them talking. That’s the key to opening up a feedback conversation, it’s to get the information from them. It actually makes it easier on you as a manager because you see where they’re at, what they already know. They’re bringing information in the room and you can determine, 'Oh, we’re about on the same page,' or 'We have completely different views of the situation.' And that will help kind of tweak the information that you need to bring into the room. Oftentimes people are much harder on themselves than you will ever be on them. When you ask, the next law of likability is the most important thing: you have to listen. So, listen for the understanding, listen for the concern, listen for a different view or interpretation of the situation. Because we know we’re coming in with a belief about what happened. We need to try to check that assumption at the door and listen for other possibilities, other narratives.
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When most of us look at A.I. we see magical capabilities. When economists look at A.I. they see something very different. Economist Ajay Agrawal explains: "What economists bring to the conversation is that they are able to look at a fascinating technology like artificial intelligence and strip all the fun and wizardry out of it and reduce A.I. down to a single question, which is, 'What does this technology reduce the cost of?'" Never has one person taken such delight in stripping the fun from something awesome. But what does A.I. lower the cost of? Predictions, says Agrawal. Intelligent machines can take information we have and use it to generate information we need. Uncertainty is the single biggest hurdle in good decision making, and A.I. can drastically increase certainty in many areas, like automated vehicles, language translation, human resources and medical diagnostics. As A.I. becomes a cheaper technology, its use will become even more widespread. "Where I think it’s really interesting is that when it becomes cheap, we’ll start using it for things that weren’t traditionally prediction problems but we’ll start converting problems into prediction problems to take advantage of the new, cheap prediction." Ajay Agrawal is the co-author of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ajay-agrawal-why-predictive-ai-leads-to-better-decision-making Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I think economics has something to contribute in terms of our understanding of artificial intelligence because it gives us a different view. So, for example, if you ask a technologist to tell you about the rise of semiconductors they will talk to you about the increasing number of transistors on a chip and all the science underlying the ability to keep doubling the number of transistors every 18 months or so. But if you ask an economist to describe to you the rise of semiconductors they won’t talk about transistors on a chip, instead they’ll talk about a drop in the cost of arithmetic. They’ll say, what’s so powerful about semiconductors is they substantially reduced the cost of arithmetic. It’s the same with A.I., everybody is fascinated with all the magical things A.I. can do and what economists bring to the conversation is that they are able to look at a fascinating technology like artificial intelligence and strip all the fun and wizardry out of it and reduce A.I. down to a single question, which is, “What does this technology reduce the cost of?” And in the case of A.I. the recent economists think it’s such a foundational technology and why it’s so important it stands in a different category from virtually every other domain of technology that we see today, is because the thing for which it drops the cost is such a foundational input, we use it for so many things; in the case of A.I., that’s prediction. And so why that’s useful is that as soon as we think of A.I. as a drop in the cost of prediction, first of all, it takes away all the confusion of well, what is this current renaissance in A.I. actually doing? Is it Westworld? Is it C-3PO? Is it a Hal, what is it? And really what it is, it’s simply a drop in the cost of prediction. And we define prediction as taking information you have to generate information you don’t have. So it’s not just through the traditional form of forecasting like taking last months sales and predicting next months sales. It’s also taking, for example, if we have a medical image and we’re looking at a tumor and the data we have is the image and what we don’t have is the classification of the tumor as benign or malignant, the A.I. makes that classification, that’s a form of prediction. And so when something becomes cheap—from economics 101 most people remember there’s a downward sloping demand curve—and so when something becomes cheaper that means we use more of it. And so in the case of prediction as it becomes cheaper we’ll use more and more of it. And so that will take two forms: one is that we’ll use more of it for things we traditionally use prediction for like demand forecasting and supply chain management. But where I think it’s really interesting is that when it becomes cheap, we’ll start using it for things that weren’t traditionally prediction problems but we’ll start converting problems into prediction problems to take advantage of the new, cheap prediction. So one example is driving. We’ve had autonomous cars for a long time, or autonomous vehicles, but we’ve always used them inside a controlled environment like a factory or a warehouse. And we did that because we had to control the number of—think of it as the if/then statement.
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Just saying the words 'identity politics' can cause an orchestra of eye rolls, but historically these tribal movements have been a net good for the country, helping to elevate marginalized groups such as African Americans, women in the workforce and LGBTQ people. However, there's an unhealthy trend emerging, says Professor Bill Doherty. You can somehow be in the majority and be a victim of an oppressed minority. "Now we have a culture in which there is competition for victimhood and white men—now many white men are calling themselves victims; victims of affirmative action, victims of the liberal left," says Doherty. Everyone from major religious groups to bankers on Wall Street are competing to be the biggest victims. These warped identity politics don't serve anyone, says Doherty. What they do is make it impossible for groups to work together to solve the common problems we face, like poverty, education, healthcare, and environmental collapse. For the majority, victimhood is a short-term win with long-term costs. Bill Doherty is a senior fellow at Better Angels, a bipartisan nonprofit movement that aims to depolarize the United States. Find out more at better-angels.org. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/bill-doherty-how-identity-politics-made-everyone-a-victim Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: We live in a very interesting time where we have, I think, a combination of what’s called expressive individualism, which is about the importance of me, my experience, what makes me happy. What we now have is something additional and that is identity and tribal identifications where we have—and I want to say there’s a good part of this, for one thing—that we have historically marginalized groups, women certainly in the workforce, in the public sphere, gay people, African-Americans, other minorities, we’ve had a lot of folks who have been in the margins of power in our society who have said uh-uh this isn’t working anymore. So these movements towards individual and group liberation have, in net, been very positive for our country. But we always tend to turn things towards a kind of individualistic focus. Now we have a culture in which there is competition for victimhood and white men now, many white men are calling themselves victims; victims of affirmative action, victims of the liberal left. And you have religious groups that have tens of millions of people in this country who are victims of outsiders who want to destroy them. So what’s happened then is, I think, this expressive individualism has been combined with sort of the benefits of being in an oppressed group, you know, the moral high ground that comes with that and the strong identification that comes with being in a victimized group. And now, everybody is in a victimized group. After the great recession in 2007/2008, bankers were the new victimized group. And so there’s an unhealthy trend towards tribal competition for victim status in our country and I want to go back and again say, there is something to the victim, there is something to it. This is hard to talk about without saying: okay everybody should just get along and stop complaining. I'm not saying that at all. But there is something unhealthy, and what it keeps us from doing—this is my main problem with it —it keeps us from working across identity groups to solve the problems that we have together. Because all of our major problems related to poverty, to education, to healthcare, to the environment—just take any of our problems—they require cross-identity group coalitions to work on together. And when we divide into identity groups we can’t work across coalitions. Martin Luther King, just before he died, was working on poverty on a cross-racial coalition. He knew that the civil rights laws needed to be changed and it had to be a black leadership to change those Jim Crow laws. The next step was poverty and poverty is not just racial. And he knew that you needed to have a broad coalition. That’s going to be hard nowadays. Some are trying it, but that is much harder to do in an identity-based society.
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