Home > Misc > 2010-02-09 We Are The Network: Are We Engineering the Species that will Replace Us?

2010-02-09 We Are The Network: Are We Engineering the Species that will Replace Us?

February 8th, 2010

We Are The Network logo 300Are We Engineering the Species that will Replace Us?

Please join us for a discussion every Tuesday at 12PM noon SL (US Pacific Time)

This Tuesday, Feb 9nd, at the Epoch Institute in Second Life

Click here to teleport to the Epoch Institute in Second Life

This Week’s Topic

NOTE: Since we’ll be watching some of the videos linked below at the start of the session, We Are The Network is scheduled for 90 minutes rather than an hour this week, to allow enough discussion time for a topic that will no doubt be … large.

Are We Engineering the Species that will Replace Us?

“It’s just science fiction!” We tell ourselves this little white lie about the movies we flock to. We think “wow, that’s cool, and pretty scary, but that could never happen.” The science fiction of the future is starting to happen closer and closer to home, and there are now some surprising signs that we may already have reached milestones on the road to engineering a cyborg (part human, part computer) species that will ultimately replace us.

You may think this is random paranoia, and feel free to say so on the way in, but I challenge you to say absolutely that we’re not on the path by the end… I’ve found it pretty hard to avoid the uncomfortable conclusion that “we will be Borg” sooner than any of us had expected.

In this session we’ll review some real working examples of technologies that would have seemed unbelievable five or ten years ago, and a compelling TED talk that maps out a potential roadmap for our future.

What does this mean for us? How will we get ready for these changes? Where will this head as it unfolds, and what will it mean for our society and humanity in general?

Join us Tuesday at 12PM noon SL, and thanks for being part of “We Are The Network”!

Best regards,


Reading links below – have fun and see you soon!

Three things to consider:

1) A science fiction movie trailer, one that we all probably presume is “way” in the future, and a quick explanation of a plot element of another related science fiction movie.

2) Real working engineering results, with proof videos that demonstrate significant pieces of functionality from the movie trailer

3) A compelling TED talk that ties the threads together in a way that will likely make you stop and think.

It’s a fun ride… ready? Here are the links:

1) The “I, Robot” movie trailer (2:29)

… and a paper titled “Managing Business Complexity: Discovering Strategic Solutions with Agent-Based Modeling and Simulation.” This paper has a section that talks about tools for ABMS (agent-based modeling and simulation) with specific reference to the Matrix and the Terminator movie series. On the one hand this section describes what could happen when agent-based systems get out of control, the small comfort provided is that as of today the complexity of those systems appears to be far away or impossible. Is this enough comfort, given the number of technologies today that seemed to be impossible a small number of years ago, and the rate of technology evolution?

Another perspective on Terminator 2 http://www.units.muohio.edu/psybersite/cyberspace/ai/t2.shtml

2) Reality on the Ground Today

March 2009 – BostonDynamics Big Dog at Fort Benning (4:46   A 200+ pound quadruped robot that can carry 300 pounds, and can walk on it’s own across real battle terrain, in sand, through water… a “soldier’s new best friend”)

March 2008 – BostonDynamics Big Dog Stability Demo (3:29   Watch Big Dog recover just as an animal or person would from a strong kick to the side while walking, from slipping on ice… more stable maybe than I or you might be in similar situations)

BostonDynamics Big Dog info page

And… just in case you were thinking “Well, ok, but that’s just a four legged robot. They’ll never be able to replicate the way a person walks, with a robot on it’s own, like in I, Robot.” Sorry… been there, done that. Here’s a demo from October 2009
BostonDynamics PETMAN Prototype Demo (1:14)

This one is WAY different than the futuristic science fiction movie robot, right?

3) A TED talk Feb 2009 “Juan Enriquez: Tech evolution will eclipse the financial crisis” (18:50)

How Can I Get Event Announcements (choose one or more)?

* Watch http://joelfoner.com or add this feed to your RSS reader

* Follow @JoelFoner on Twitter

* Join the We Are The Network group in Second Life™

* Join the We Are The Network hippoGroup ( this does not take up a group slot – tap the “We Are The Network” sign at the Epoch Institute in Second Life™)

* Join the We Are The Network Fan Page

Please Note – Mixed Text and Voice Session:

We Are The Network is an open, mixed voice / text discussion session. Please feel free to participate in voice or in text, to your preference. The facilitator and some participants will be using voice, so you may wish to enable voice in your viewer so that you can hear the voice portions of the session.

To enable voice, choose Preferences from the Edit menu, click the “Voice Chat” tab along the left of the form, and then make sure that “Enable voice chat” is checked. Again, speaking is not required for this session, however if you do not enable voice, and use speakers or headphones, you will not be able to hear part of the discussion.

Thanks for attending!

Joel Foner (Second Life: Joel Savard)

  1. Devon Alderton
    February 9th, 2010 at 01:16 | #1

    Joel, I read Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, by Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen and found it interesting. Also, on my “To Read” list are Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P. W. Singer and Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids by Sidney Perkowitz.

  2. February 9th, 2010 at 11:02 | #2

    Looking forward to it!
    See ya there.

  1. February 9th, 2010 at 09:36 | #1
Comments are closed.