A new kind of animal, an ape with almost magical, angelic powers is emerging. We have a choice as to whether it will be Gabriel or Lucifer. We have a choice as to whether our new powers will empower of oppress humankind. This talk is an assessment of what is happening to the human race in the first decades of the 21st century; the most significant transformation in what it is to be human since we left Africa. Homo sapiens is being reborn as a digital ape.
We have universal information and universal access to it; we have universal selection of goods and services (those of us who can afford them); we have universal instant maps. Everything around us is described as “intelligent” – the objects we work with, the machines we live with and travel in, our entertainment. Individuals now use, even wear, tools which enhance nearly every aspect of their cognition. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be reviewed, the methods and techniques behind AI, how AI is being deployed and what this means for us at home and at work.
The original ape in us still selects a mate, searches for food, chatters, steals, wages war, and creates great art but now using the products of digital technology. Is the digital ape on the verge of a new Age of Enlightenment, like the one scientists, philosophers and poets drove forward in the seventeenth century? Or will our magical machines evolve so quickly that they either outwit us, or else lead us to a very unpleasant, collectively diminished, future, in which relatively small super-enhanced digital elites make choices for the rest of us?
Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt is one of the UK’s foremost computer scientists. He is a leading researcher in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and was one of the originators of the interdisciplinary field of Web Science. He is Principal of Jesus College Oxford and a Professor of Computing Science at the University of Oxford. He is chairman of the Open Data Institute which he co-founded with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Both of them leading the development of the highly acclaimed data.gov.uk website. In 2010, he joined the UK government’s Public Sector Transparency Board – overseeing Open Data releases across the public sector. He was knighted in 2013 for ‘services to science and engineering’.