What do we want from the smart machines pervading our world—and what do they want from us?
That question framed this morning’s opening of the EmTech conference at MIT, and it’s a useful way to think about where computing is heading.
As MIT Technology Review’s editor-in-chief, Jason Pontin, said in beginning the show, breakthroughs in computer science have made it possible for machines to understand more of the data that our devices and sensors collect “in ways that elude human perception.” As we become ever more reliant on these devices and their software, the companies that capture our data develop a competitive advantage over those that don’t. And in turn, the companies’ need for data collection and the ability of machines to influence our behavior “creates a kind of intimacy between the human and the digital” that makes automated systems even more powerful.
“We know that there is enormous utility in embracing machines that are smart and powerful enough to become part of who we are,” Pontin said. “They have extended our capabilities and enlarged our sense of what it means to be human. But we need to be conscious of what we want from these smart machines, our new intimates. Because sometimes, they are not solely loyal to our interests.”
We’ll explore these issues through Wednesday at EmTech. For more on these ideas and the technologies driving them forward, see “Teaching Machines to Understand Us,” “How Technology Is Destroying Jobs,” and “The Real Privacy Problem.”
These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems
They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.
Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient
The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.
A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click
Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.
The covid tech that is intimately tied to China’s surveillance state
Heat-sensing cameras and face recognition systems may help fight covid-19—but they also make us complicit in the high-tech oppression of Uyghurs.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.