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In this episode: 

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Ben Goertzel is a hugely influential computer scientist and author in the area of artificial general intelligence, among others. Just a few of the many hats Ben wears or has worn: Chief Scientist of Hanson Robotics which makes some of the most advanced robots in the world, Co-founder of AIDYA – artificial intelligence for financial trading, and Chairman of the OpenCog Foundation, an open source project to build a radically new form of artificial intelligence. 

What's real and what's hype in all the talk about artificial intelligence these days? Will teaching AI to solve humanity's biggest problems keep robots from harming us if and when they become autonomous? Is the human brain, with all its limitations, a good model for AI at all? 

In this episode, Ben explains to Jason some of the theory behind various existing and potential AI systems, weighs in on the idea of the Singularity, and touches on his "panpsychist" belief that consciousness is an omnipresent force of nature. 

Ben Goertzel Quote: “I feel like ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ are not the most  interesting metaphors because most real [AI] systems  end up combining aspects of those in complex ways . . .   Old style ‘expert systems’ in the 1970’s you could say  were just top-down, and the ‘artificial life’ systems people  were playing with in the ‘80s, you just have like a bunch  of little organisms running around and hope something  cool will emerge from it? That’s pure bottom-up.  But none of those extreme approaches worked.  And I think the human brain, also, is sort of a judicious  combination. Because you have all these 100 billion neurons  each doing sort of their own thing, and it’s self-organizing.  On the other hand, we’ve got the whole reptilian hind-brain  which is driving us pretty hard with certain motivations,  like “Seek status!” “Seek sex!” “Seek food!” “Seek novelty!”  “Seek familiarity!” Contradictory goals, but pretty strong ones. And I think having those two forces working together is critical.” 

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Alva Noë: “You are Not Your Brain” 

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.