I suppose if you’re writing a book about wasting time, empty spaces, messing around and doing nothing at all it goes without saying that you need to waste time, gaze into space, mess about and do nothing at all. I spent most of my day today watching ants.
As seen in Edinburgh this morning. Is this anything to do with Brexit I wonder? I especially like the positiong next to the defribrillator!
I’m in Oman speaking at a technology conference organised by Bank Muscat. But here’s the thing. I was doing some background homework on Oman, especially on the future of Oman. This got me looking at a project called Oman 2040 (also mentioned at the conference). Looking into this further I got into future skills and education (a subject very close to my heart – my mother was a teacher). Anyway, quite separately I’m supposed to be writing something on the future of universities for publication in Australia (I get around!). I’ve been stuck on this for weeks to the point where I was about to say that I couldn’t do it. But then two things happened (and I think this is how ideas hatch generally, which links to innovation and, serendipitously, another conference in Oman called the Global Innovation Summit. (Stay with me here it’s going somewhere).
Last week I was at another conference on AI at Cambridge (like I said, I get around). By total fluke I sat next to a film maker at dinner. (I tried to sit next to a few other people, but they told me to move!). Anyway, the film maker and I got talking about education and he mentioned the 4-Cs of education (Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity). So that idea got stuck in my subconscious.
Then today I was having dinner by myself in Muscat and after eating I had a cigar (known as a ‘thinking stick’ to a salesman from IBM that I once met). Then out of nowhere I had an idea. The 4C’s are all wrong*. It should be the Seven Cs. They should be: Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, Curiosity, Compassion (EQ) and (Moral) Character.
So, there you have it folks. That’s how ideas get born. My essay on the future of universities is now flowing like there’s no tomorrow…
- The point here, I think, is that you need to stop thinking before you can start thinking (i.e. to have an idea you have to first stop trying to have an idea). The cigar prompted a short period of reflection. I wasn’t thinking about anything, just drifting and dreaming, and this somehow sparked a idea that rose, I’m supposing, from my subconscious.
I’ve been attending a conference called the Singularity Summit: Imagination, Memory, Consciousness, Agency and Values, part of the AI and Humanity series at Jesus College Cambridge. One of the great things about going to Jesus College is you can stand in the taxi queue outside Cambridge station and shout the immortal line: “Is anyone else waiting for Jesus?”. Anyway, a wonderful two days. A few standout quotes below. BTW, one thing that really stood out for me talking to people that work in serious AI research is the degree to which they are almost anti-tech. They don’t use computers outside of work, they have dumb phones or none at all, they aren’t on social media, they avoid digital media and they like to read and write using paper (“they (digital products) scatter your brain.”).
“Experts on X are rarely experts on the future of X.”
“There is no definition of intelligence that isn’t political.”
“The robots won’t take over because they couldn’t care less.”
“The fear of the arts and humanities people is that there isn’t anything unique about humans…the fear of the (AI) scientists and engineers is that there is.”
“Rapid change makes the future harder or even impossible to predict”
“The human mind cannot merely be a matter of matter”
“Experience drives perception.”
“Humans need comfort…they need to feel safe.”
“Machines that can substitute for intelligence.”
“Thoughts change with bio-physical change.”
“Humans develop over time. Machines don’t.” *
“The fantasy (fetish?) of the asocial person.”
“Is it wrong to steal from a robot?”
“Machines that are made to suffer”
“AI is a corporate idea” (i.e. born of the military-industrial complex)
(The world is being designed by) “WEIRD people (Western, Educated, Industrialised Rich, Democratic” (to which I might add people on the spectrum).
(Perhaps we develop) “a nurturing process for robots” **
* Links to a lovely idea – software that rusts.
** Would contradict machines not developing over time. (i.e. we release robots – or embodied AIs – into the world to learn over an extended period in much the same way that humans do. It might take a (human) lifetime, but you may only have to do it once.
I’m off to Edinburgh on Friday to speak at the Edinburgh festival (12.30 Saturday, Garden Theatre). I’m inclined to somehow weave in the following quote.
“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end,… We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”
Henry David Thoreau
Interesting thoughts relating to this here.
I’m starting to think about my next book and although the illusion of progress is a fairly tempting title there’s the danger of it being mistaken for a negative position (actually the positive impact of negative thinking is interesting theme in itself). So, alternatively, I’ve been thinking again about thinking. What influences it? How can we increase the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of our thinking?
I’ve been thinking about this sitting in my favourite chair, in my greenhouse, drinking red wine and smoking a cigar.
Further to my last post about brainmail issue 100, I’m in Sydney May 16-22 for the Writers’ Festival and I’m sure a drinks can’t be too difficult. Maybe the Lord Nelson in the Rocks? Watch this blog (and brainmail).
If you’re in the northern hemisphere 21 April in London is looking like a go. Notting Hill. Details to come (again right here on the blog and in brainmail 100).
Oh and Berlin next Friday. Bit too soon, but just on the off chance.