Video-interview with Ken Goldberg, Professor of Robotics at the University of California, Berkeley


Ken Goldberg, you as an expert in robotics: How do you feel about the concept of singularity?

Ken Goldberg: Well, I don’t like that term at all. Actually I think it’s a very mis-leading term. And I think it creates a lot of fear. It has an appeal from a sci-ence fiction point of view, people like to talk about it and it sounds scientific. But it is frightening, because it seems to suggest that there is this moment when computers suddenly take over, they reach a transition where they sud-denly start to become much smarter than humans. I am not crazy about the term ‘super intelligence’ either. I think that these terms dramatize the idea of an AI system that is very deeply rooted fear, everyone is concerned. That will become surpassed or irrelevant.

But that is why I have introduced this idea of multiplicity as essential, an anti-dote, our response to it, because I think that is, we have much more positive associations. And actually much more positive potential around the idea of multiplicity.

So, how can multiplicity apply in our lives, what do you mean by this?

Ken Goldberg: So, what I mean by multiplicity is the idea that: “How we work together with groups of humans and groups of machines?” We know that groups of machines can actually do better than a single machine, as groups of algorithms can work better than a single algorithm. And we also know that groups of humans work better than an individual to solve problems, to be creative often. But there is not a good science behind this. We don’t understand “Why?” and how to amplify this in the right ways. We see experience of it, but we don’t have really a theory or enough data. So it is starting to emerge and I think so, by thinking about some of the results from a ‘Sample Theory’, from statistics, things like random force, it’s another technique, so that we know we can quantify their performance. Can we apply some of these to human groups? And start to understand how a diverse group of humans and diverse groups of machines can work together?

The key is diversity here. It is very, very important to understand that diversity is essential. Not just as a ‘political correctness’ or something that sounds good, you know, in some kind of an idealistic way. It’s very practical that if you wanna get something done efficiently or creatively, that having a diverse group of humans is very valuable.

So this applies, and I think we can start to apply it in so many different things: in teaching, in education. We can use it in solving problems with our col-leagues. Companies can use is to really start thinking about how they are really essentially combining their resources: machines and the human. That, having one universal law or universal set of principles, may not be the right thing. Multiciplity would say that we want to have many different viewpoints, which seems to be the way the world is going. But those can be collectively combined in interesting ways to solve, to really move us constructively towards the future.

You say that robots can inspire us to be better humans. That’s a nice sentence, but what do you really mean with that?

Ken Goldberg: Yeah. So what I mean by that idea of robots inspiring us is that, I really believe that, when we look at robots, when we struggle to try and create robots, we gain an appreciation for what humans are very good at. That, being able to change a human diper, a babies diper, is an incredible complex task. That is not going to be solved by a robot any time soon. And I think that there are thousands of examples of this, that human dexterity, hu-man insight, human abilities to play sports, to dance, to be creative, to interact, to pick up signals from each other. These are very nuance things. So, in other words, robots inspire us, because they, as we realize how robots fall short, we gain a new appreciation for the amazing abilities of humans.

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