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Peter Rojas is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of Engadget, which is a daily weblog covering gadgets, consumer electronics and personal technology. He is also the cofounder of Joystiq, a weblog[…]

Rojas talks about how technology has made culture more widely available than it ever was before.

Topic: The democratization of cultural production

Peter Rojas: I think that one of the other, you know, big macro trends is, you know like I was saying, towards the democratization of . . .of cultural production. And I think if you look back over the course of the past 2,000 years of 1,000 years or whatever, you know there was very much about, like, the singular artist who made one art object which can be enjoyed by, you know, one person, or one group of people at a time. You know like Michelangelo making a statue of David for some rich patron. And then, you know, you shift towards mechanical, you know, reproductions so that you could make, you know, artifacts which could be distributed to masses of people. And you know but it took big, you know, media companies to, like, manufacture and, you know . . . There was . . . You had to have big media companies manufacture and distribute these things. And then we reached the digital age where anyone can produce, and consume, and recombine. And you know the very metaphors of production and distribution almost become meaningless because everything is . . . is . . . is . . . it’s become so, you know, difficult to delineate like the point of creation, and the point of recombination and all that. So I think those are like the two big macro trends, at least that I kind of see. And I’m sure there’s a bunch of others. You know and I mean obviously like the trends toward rationalization and . . . and . . . and you know science and, you know, the end of superstition. Things like that are really, really huge. _________ really did a great job of chronicling that.

I think so . . . I mean I think to be honest, this is a trend that’s been going on . . . it’s been going on for a long time. And I think the Internet might be accelerating that trend. But I also think that, like, the interesting part is . . . is that we’re starting to blur the lines a little bit between human and machine intelligence . . . and artificial intelligence. And I think that’s actually gonna be . . . That might be one of the biggest questions; the biggest sort of philosophical issues of the 21st century is like where does, you know, human intelligence end? Like where do we draw that line?

We’re gonna reach this point, you know . . . Machine intelligence . . . You know artificial intelligence is so powerful, is so good at like, you know, seeming human that we’re gonna have a tough time . . . you know especially when we start to augment our own intelligences as we’ve already started, that we’re gonna have a tough time sort of drawing that line of where doe, you know, human intelligence end and machine intelligence begin? And you know how should we treat machine intelligence? And there are gonna be . . . Machine intelligences are gonna be, you know, multiple in the way that human intelligence is singular. Like you know, we have one personality. And we exist in one place at a time . . . even when we’re online and things like that. It’s gonna be so difficult. The metaphors . . . We’re not even gonna have metaphors to like comprehend, you know, what a machine intelligence is really like. Just in the same way, like, we don’t have good metaphors for understanding, like, even what light, like really is, right? You know it’s both a particle and a wave. And it’s something that we can’t even, like, grasp with our, like, with our brains. And I think this is gonna be a huge issue. And you know that . . . in a sense it might be the kind of final frontier of this, like, project of universalization of, you know, where do we fit them in? And it’s not going to be like on Star Trek the next generation where you have, you know, Data the Android trying to like get the Federation to . . . to grant him the rights of _________ being. It’s going to be this multiplicity of machine intelligence that can exist everywhere and nowhere. And that like you can’t even really . . . There won’t be that sort of discreteness that there are to . . . that there is to human intelligence. And I think that’s going to make things really, really complicated. And I don’t know whether it’s an issue that we’re gonna face, you know . . . I mean I hope I live long enough to face it, but I mean it’s not something . . . I don’t know when . . . I mean this could be like 20, 30 years from now. This could be 50 years from now. But it’s something we’re gonna face sooner or later. And especially when we start to use, you know, biology . . . biological means to like, you know, adapt ourselves . . . to, you know, change ourselves and change our bodies and, you know, change our genome and things like that. Like it’s gonna start to get really, really messy and really blurry. And I think these are really the fundamental issues of . . . of the 21st century. You know apart from, you know, obviously terrorism and stuff like that, it’s going to be huge. But I mean in terms of like philosophic . . . philosophically speaking . . . And I think this is actually what’s interesting about like if you take the rise of Islamic fundamentalism of sort of this, like, this __________ reaction or whatever to modernism. Which is, you know, that the real ultimate solutions to the problem of . . . of Islamic fundamentalist terror is to . . . to, you know, modi . . . is to, you know, basically bring those . . . you know, bring those societies into . . . into modernity . . . into post-modernity.


Recorded on: 10/2/07