What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Michio Kaku: There’s no doubt that the internet is creating what is called an intelligent planet, that is, the skin of the planet earth is becoming a network by which intelligent creatures communicate with each other.  But that's just the first step.  Some people think that the next step in the coming decades is not going to be the internet.  It's going to be Brain Net because we're at the point now where we can actually connect computers to the living mind.  In fact, I was just at Berkeley a few weeks ago where I had a demonstration of this: we can actually create videos of your thoughts.  These videos are not perfectly accurate, but I saw a demonstration in a laboratory at Berkeley where you can actually see in a video screen what people are thinking.

So with electrodes, perhaps, or EEG sensors in a helmet connected to our brain, perhaps one day we'll be able to have brain-to-brain communication, and that gives us the possibility of Brain Net.  In fact, some of the leading neurologists doing these experiments have seriously proposed a brain net whereby you would exchange not just information like typing, but also emotions, feelings, because these are also part of the fabric of our thoughts.  

And then what comes beyond that?  Well, of course, beyond that is science fiction, and science fiction gives us all sorts of horror stories of things like Sky Net: maybe one day the internet will become sentient; maybe one day the internet will think that humans are in the way and perhaps the internet will take over just like in the Terminator series.  Well, I don't think so.

The internet is simply a way in which minds can communicate with other minds.  We see no self-awareness in the internet.  Now some people say,”Well, what about some kind of collective consciousness that arises by an emergent phenomenon?”  Well, that's a lot of gobbledygook.  That's a lot of nice words.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But it's pure speculation at the present time.  Even in the laboratory with our finest instruments and the latest developments in artificial intelligence, we cannot make a computer become self-aware.  

You realize that one of our most advances computers was the IBM computer Watson, which defeated two humans on the program Jeopardy.  At that point, many pundits said, “Oh my God, the end is near; the robots are going to put us in zoos; they're going to throw peanuts at us; make us dance behind bars when they take over, just like we make bears dance behind bars today.”  Well, just remember that Watson, no matter how fast it is, was so stupid you couldn't congratulate it.  You can't go up to Watson, slap its transistors and say, “Good boy!.  You just beat two humans on Jeopardy.  You made history.  Let's drink to it!”  You see, Watson is an adding machine, a very sophisticated adding machine.  It adds billions of times faster than the human brain, but that's all it is.  It's what is called an expert system.  It deals with formalized inputs, formalized outputs.  You talk to an expert system every time you're on the telephone, and the telephone says, “Please hit button one; please hit number two for the next option.”  That's called an expert system.  It's basically a sophisticated adding machine that sounds like it's thinking, but it's not.  It's simply using a formalized logic.  If you hit one, then you go there.  If you hit two, you go someplace else.  That's Watson -- of course on a very, very sophisticated level.  So I personally think that we don't have to worry that that internet is going to become sentient.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

More from the Big Idea for Thursday, October 11 2012

Today's Big Idea: Collective Intelligence

Perhaps our success as a species depends on how well we're able to use our global collective intelligence "to make choices that are not just smart but also wise." This what Tom Malone believes.... Read More…

 

Can We Have Brain-to-Brain ...

Newsletter: Share: