Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 236.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2000 08:37:06 +0100
Subject: Re: computers outsmarting humans?
In a message dated 9/11/0 A. Tripathi writes:
>Vernor Vinge, scholar and science-fiction writer, predicts that one of
>the most likely scenarios for the next 20 years is the creation of
>computers that surpass humans in intelligence.
As a fiction writer only peripherally tied-into the higher education world at
this point in my career, I found this post intriguing. Its citation of a
science-fiction author raised a question for me: were any members of Humanist
present in Chicago for the WorldCon Science-Fiction Convention over America's
Labor Day weekend? I'd be glad for feedback on the conference from this list,
One piece of good news: there was a good "academic track" at the confence,
which discussed (among other things) the need for getting the fandom
community and the academic community to talk with and respect each other. But
wanting it and having it are two different things... there's still more
competition than cooperation among these groups, it seems, if they even talk
My limited-scope appraisal of other Humanist-relevant content: It seemed
there were surprisingly few workshops or panels at WorldCon on Artificial
Intelligence and similar Internet/computing-related matters. Perhaps the
"fandom" and fiction-writing communities are still playing catch-up to the
scientific and academic ones (in what they regularly talk about).
Science-fiction fans (as a subset of "the public") generally use computer
technology and lingo extensively, but not as many are discussing the social,
ethical, or theoretical implications of present research (what you Humanists
are up to) for world economies and daily life. Do they not know, or do they
just not care? I'm not sure, personally. Case-in-point: Humanist's recent
discussion of the (Encarta) "business vs. academia" challenge is of much
greater depth and quality than the level of discussion I hear among
fans/consumers on similar socio-economic matters. Is the difference that the
fans are "playing" and the Humanists are "working", or is it more subtle than
that? Any comments or rebuttals?
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