Astrophysicist, StarTalk host, and self-proclaimed sci-fi geek Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts a round table talking about the science behind the science-fiction in GE Podcast Theater’s LifeAfter. Joining him are computer scientist and humanity-centered robotics expert, Michael Littman; leading software research expert Colin Parris; and the show’s writer, Mac Rogers. Let the tech geeking begin.
United States


00:00:04welcome to after life after this is a Roundtable discussion picking up where the sci-fi thriller life after leaves off of Neil deGrasse Tyson from Star Talk radio as you know I'm a scientist I'm interested in science both in the universe and in fiction and in any way gets delivered to our civilization and so I'm very excited to host this after show
00:00:29life after the handles very deep questions that prevalence society today then I problems we have today there cause we might have tomorrow like what happens to our digitalize when we are gone assuming we've created digital versions of ourselves in advance or could you take an online personality and bring it back to life so I'm here I can't do this alone so I bet three really good guests Mac Rogers Michael Littman and Colin Paris first if you haven't get bins on life after our conversation will probably contain some spoilers I'm just letting you know but don't worry I'll tell you why because what you learn in this conversation will enhance your appreciation and understanding of the storytelling of life after
00:01:17first at the play right you can't do this without the playwright completely responsible for this Mac Rogers welcome thanks very much ahead of me so mad how do you become a writer I was acting a children's theater plays in a little kid when I just started thinking how I'd like to write my shift it into writing plays and for many many years I've been almost exclusively a playwright but then I wrote some science fiction plays that got the interest of panoply which led into into writing these audio so I'm on my background is largely in writing science fiction for the theater and if you're here in New York City where we love our playwrights yeah so Michael Littman your professor that Brown University how about you I am not so when I was little The Cure sat came out and I thought that's cool I want to do that
00:02:17and I was just like brains are cool man let me know it's so interesting to think about how you find a razor cool okay so you made it an application to run why isn't capacitors for ever it's like the 19th century right okay and someone showed up and actually showed me a software program I could rewrite this thing in an hour I will changed also that it went to what's up
00:03:06you have been to the. She spent 20 years at IBM now a GE does the world revolves man about the children are you from the same Planet as Geoffrey Holder Trinidad Trinidad Tobago Mac Rogers what were you thinking when I got together to talk to me about doing this you know that we kicked around a bunch of ideas instead of the idea that I think really Sparks are kind of plays a production company was the idea of social media presence of a huge personalities that we manifest online that when we die now and then we're far enough into the arrow social media that people die and leave a large public identity
00:04:06what is that identity in like you know could you construct an artificial identity from the leftover social presence this story take something out the idea like what if what if an artificial intelligence could recreate voices of people positive role in which there is a fictional social media platform called voice rear people leave voice messages behind so text ones and it's recreate the voices of lost loved ones from those leftover voice message so it doesn't make interesting story, because people fear it and doing a little bit of research that's all I need to take them out of the way on the 101 guy on the conflict classes were going into basic kinds of a I guess or largely theoretical and there's no intelligent switch is like even so what you call me
00:04:59Netflix movie you want to watch next they can figure out when you engage the any lock brakes on your car are Valero Texas artificial general intelligence is intelligence that equal to a human and an artificial superintelligence is the theory the idea that Sunday there could be an artificial intelligence that surpasses human intelligence in every way I thought in this story in life after of that the most interesting route to go would be to have an AI rather than a Super Genius AI which I've seen lots of other stories I like the idea of having a very limited AI that had a mission a mission that it considered a lot of admission to sort of and all the grieving in the world right right like a bee to nectar which is what what did the Lord tell you to do to protect you from grief to protect all human beings from grief
00:05:49to convey them from this Mortal realm to a heaven where grieving doesn't exist does Orpheus NYC fit into that any of those people your family killed
00:06:01you're right being Cutler those were failures protecting my family only led to more suffering harder than it looks because it was so limited and it's reasoning capability it causes a lot of destructive things to happen because he can't take a step back and say wait a minute am I actually serving the greater good or I'm I actually just serving this one there Amish I like the idea that if it was a limited enough AI that it was sort of function too much does a weird human fanatic might and that was something really exciting me about the story interesting because Fanatics you kind of can appreciate their their Zeal but if they're kind of uncontained in their fanaticism you're right it'll almost always go bad words for everything it was never is true right right so Michael Michael Inman hi yeah your professor and a computer scientist in the Humanities Center drawbotics initiative that sounds. I don't know if I want to visit that place
00:07:01cold water for 50 years now. So what is that initiative at Brown University that's right thank you very much a number people who are interested in robotics in the eye my background is in machine learning and artificial intelligence and we thought it would be great for us to call us together and do some research together and to really just to be clear machine learning that like teaching a chest or something is that what you mean by Machine learning sewing machine learning a lot of the technology that we see now when were interacting with websites and so forth is driven by this notion of machine-learning artificial-intelligence where the idea is for example you want to train up the system to be able to recognize human voices it's hard to program that is hard to write down a set of rules that can figure all that out instead what we do is we feed lots and lots of data lots of examples and it's something that actually captured very well in the podcast Mac really nailed this he had the system learning from these boys post that
00:08:01made about to order 2000 voice post about 33 hours of of audio and that's any different from learning off of looking at faces so that you can identify the next place where that's exactly the kind of input that is provided to be good at statistics essentially like analyzing data so that you can do powerful things with it and using computers to do that so what is a Humanity Sanford robot not on kind of focused on the technology and not really on the implications of it to Rodger society and so is that these Technologies in Automation in particular impact people more tonight but I do think it's more of a it's gaining momentum now it's not been historically
00:09:01call in Paris I pronounce that last name right yes you did does Paris like the city like the city said you had enough for you General Electric software research you know we've all seen your commercials where you know cuz we think of cheese are big industrial like it just real Revolution huge machine pulleys in this sort of thing and so software is not the first thing that comes to people tomorrow because you have all those machines you have a lot of data coming out of it so just like we had that discussion before now that I have that data can I use machine learning to understand a bit more but what's happening with the machine can I use that to go to the extreme edge of its performance on know when there's something happening with a life-limiting part so I could repair it at the right time give me example okay for instance
00:10:01jet engine I'd like to know the remaining life on one of the blades spinning in the to buy me this way I can bring it in at exactly the right time and replace it. You soon. To lay eggs out of the plane from the use of the customer we have a problem if you had any of that train that only existed in digital face where you like every detail of everything you've ever observed about all those moving Parts how they interact how they degrade and you simulate all that on your virtual train so you can see if I can sing the digital train would break down like a real train and the same thing happens to it it's like having a time machine really informed pattern extrapolation instead of time travel
00:10:54don't really not like a time or are you still twin technology that we talk during a business out come out so you have to that's got to be programmed to fully understand the usage yeah and Z wear and tear right down to the molecular level exactly you do it based upon a business out the limited intelligence so I'm looking specifically at one or two things ever what a great moment it was whatever we were figuring out what the story was going to be a realizing you know that we could talk about the digital twin technology that but it also had this wonderful metaphor for the digital twin of ourselves that we create through social media it all slide very nicely into place of the storytelling it so special food for you oh yeah I love you see you know Star Wars completely off world science fiction aliens with tentacles whatever but if you're doing more like 5 minutes into the
00:11:54future type science fiction you're always going to have some outlandish stuff in the fictional story official stories are always going to distort science to make some like you know snazzy Harrell happened but you know that's the first time in history in the world that's right that's right media see if some of that is extrapolated from actual existing technological innovations are happening right now which is why it was great to be able to talk to your people about that as I was writing the script data I have to resort to some of the physics that we've already done so the physics helps and buff against alacrity that I have so you getting the data from actual wear and tear on actual card so yes but I don't know enough about the physics of those parts because I am son of molecular neuroscience
00:12:54exactly so I compensate for the lack of things I have it's like looking at the Twitter and Facebook feeds but I also go back and look at the history of the person had a good where they were born where they grew up medical records so now I can fill in the part I don't understand though I have a complete profile now I get a lot better and that's an eternally sharpening exactly exactly in real time and the more I have your background more narrow in more and more to the point where I can optimize the acid optimize the operations around it optimize a business around it so I heard this is the doing this for Bridges as well to check your voicemail you're a structural failure exactly like the planes the plates are moving an environment that a changing realized when I got up there blue was of air change so now planes are flying true flow severe that cause ice to be 4 minutes
00:13:54you'd never have anticipated that because the actual flows in the world changed so now that I have to deal with the things that change and I'm actually I need a model that can change instantly that's what I'm looking for do we have an element of metaphor to that in the scripture it's like the food metaphors from a lot of the voices of the Dead that are simulated in the story are are flawed are limited in the way because the AI the crates of no longer has the original person to model off of the only has left behind evidence do keep running up against the limitation that they don't got everything of ourselves on the computer in the story can't model it off the original like the real life is real twin
00:14:54what she does to make to science in general though because of combining some kind of Prior model that you've structurally built-in is analytical and in mathematical with data the actual empirical information and integrating those two is exactly what science is doing all the time
00:15:13and I know that's wrong
00:15:17hey I'm talking I'm talking to you
00:15:20because I know her posts cold
00:15:24this isn't one of them
00:15:27I'll repeat for the back row what's the news Rossi
00:15:34okay then I'll start my news is I miss minute if you like crazy and I can't believe how great it is to hear your voice now it's your turn
00:15:49let me get back to you Mac what is the last time anyone heard a radio play until they bumped into yours is that is that it tell me about that Medium the two that I've written for a GE or limited miniseries the message last year was Nate part series on this one life after is a 10 part series and your radio drama kind of got knocked out in the US by TV but I think what's happening now with with the Advent of podcast with the popularity of podcast his people are very busy people are working harder than ever before and they want entertainment that they can take in that they don't have to look at entertainment that they can take in when they are commuting when they're washing dishes when they're vacuum when they're doing all kinds of stuff audio is entertainment you can fit into the interstate Seas of your life that wouldn't work with television or film Aurora Theater and have a different type of Americans are in this era overweight we all have to go to fitness centers and that's a great place to just put on the headphones that is true
00:16:49this podcast on the treadmill a good piece of motivation this needs to be taking someone's mind off the pain of exercising I needed that's a pretty high bar there's a writer that's a whole other demand for the writer it was a comfy chair to do this and investigative journalism but now fiction is starting to slide in there it's a very exciting for him to write because you're abusing the listeners imaginations one of your key tools over the sound of approximate what's happening sound it sounds close enough and then you let them feel in the images in their mind you sort of make the lizard's imagination your storytelling partner that's a really exhilarating way to work as a writer welcome to GE radio Theatre Emerson well I squeeze in with Shannon and Octavia
00:17:44phone that's not running this is easy it's the program itself it's Sasha its life after
00:18:05so Michael half the people fear AI the other half embrace it I'm on the the abrasive side so are you claiming not to put words in your mouth then you are very of the eye is not scary even if others might be computer that are going to do stuff and yeah people can use technology to do terrible things to each other so we should be aware of that we need to pay attention that but the technology in and of itself can be incredibly beneficial we were right right right space and something bad happens that's the whole yeah so people are afraid of space to because of writers write I mean I give me a call and we'll talk about it so what is the most irrational fear
00:19:07yeah that's a that is a great question I tie grapple a lot with the otherwise very very intelligent people who are going around saying that any minute now the computers are going to come to life and animate themselves and then yeah and it's often very very smart people who are fearing that and I think it's because they're thinking about things so rationally in a sense that it's not really connected to reality anymore becomes really kind of I thought experiment and I think that's unfortunate I think that's it's taking things a little bit too literally I'll try to imagine a future where a eyes just with us what is that world think that one way of thinking about what a is doing for us or will do for us in the future is it helping us to change our conception of what it means to be intelligent of what it means to be social and what it means to be interacting with people and I think that that will just become enriched it's not going to be the case that everyone just simply gets replaced by this but we're going to be able to think about the world in a much more sophisticated way happening today I'd like to think machines physical mechanic
00:20:06machines have enriched Our Lives physically mechanically our software has enriched us intellectually our access to the internet we've got two computers just it at our fingertips I already see these things as enriching us and getting back to Max hierarchy of a I will someone super AI where in fact it can make better moral decisions then we can whatever that means I don't know what that means and will it one day judge that we are virus on this planet as Smith said to fill morphine Smith said to me you're not really a lot so will it come to this judgment and then get rid of her soul and then go to the Bahamas with itself and then be spied on by itself
00:21:06so I think that the issue is it's for my perspective there isn't one right way to be there isn't one morality there isn't one ultimate goal that we're all pursuing part of what we're doing in life is exploring that space and trying to figure out what is it that we're trying to do what should we set as our own goal and so to accept that you define an arrow goal narrow machines are going to always be able to do better at that one goal but to the extent of the task is to explore the space of tasks and to figure out what it's you know what the experience of life is like there's no replacing humans for that that's something we have to do as a team effort if machines become intelligent and have their own motivations to kill us all motivation their concerns me right now will is it is a very different kind of concept that just being a super intelligent computational device which we have already
00:22:06what you see dinette to fight the hackers right and then the other people do other day I so maybe I'll have 10 different systems watching each other so no one conscious arise and somebody take over the world with multiple ones looking at each other analyzing each other growing just as fast know what we have to do already thought about this already which is the idea because he gets more intelligent that if one of them has a little bit of an advantage over the other things that people actually
00:23:06something Singleton Chronicles how many writers does claim that right it is terrific with the first podcast the message and that was based around some of these Innovations of the ultrasound medical technology and then we just wanted was based around the the digital twin predictive technology to you reminding them for ideas absolutely absolutely the great thing is that stuff that I wouldn't have even known about otherwise we'll be actually being able to talk to GE people about this and being able to fun all these ideas direct me to the store he works at just working for listeners give them kind of tells him hear some new stuff that's going on then I'll shave your world is were thinking about having people shake that into that it lends the story a kind of a greater immediacy to nose like okay it a lot of the stuff that's happening this week is underway so it said it doesn't seem sort of like Outlander she doesn't seem like you know elves and Dragons it seems like it seems like you no issues that that maybe we won't be grappling with to the ferocious
00:24:06the story itself but then maybe we will be grappling with on it on a somewhat more muted level in years and decades to come I think that makes the story visceral for people to listen to it away knowing that this stuff is being worked on knowing that this stuff is coming down the pike so it is an enormous resource for a writer they got to get to talk to graduate innovators my favorite science fiction stories are the ones that just a little bit in the future damn so so yeah yeah that's going to happen yeah oh my gosh that means you're plugged into some of the deepest ideas that are out there but you're also kind of not plugged in because you're not an industry right and so you kind of do this another land I think we're as we've got calling here sitting to your right who is in the trenches
00:24:55and I am always curious what that relationship is in computer science especially right now and then a I more generally or more specifically is very much exploring better and better contact between industry in Academia so I went to the the big neural-net conference which in Barcelona few weeks ago and it was very well attended by industry people and by academics there's a tremendous amount of information and ideas flowing back and forth between them I've seen in my career I feel like there's a real sense that the industry people know that they need to be tapped into what's going on in Academia and academics very much need to be part of what's going on especially because all the cool data all the really interesting problems are happening on the industry side I serve on the board and the service of the Pentagon and in one of our sessions we made it a priority that aiba research focus of some of the frontier security research that the pain
00:25:55John does and so I think that's the pits the buzzword today but you and I could demia your pads of exploration in some ways are uncontained 3 the less contain by the writer but but in the sense that we got calling here who is got to be Hands-On at some point cuz there's a product at the end of the line and as a result you know exactly how you want to use a i and so because of this it seems to me you approach it seriously because you see how much good it can be put to use UC and you know the value of it to the business Enterprise in 10 to the veteran of life on Earth or the reality check on yes it is unlike you looking at two more Dynamic so aerodynamics these laws were created decades ago
00:26:55so you if you if you Embrace that you get an advantage so Colin can you think forward about what next developments in AI you be able to explain the trend data in order for me to actually change the model that approximates exactly what the physical I said is doing and we do what ifs so by the time you had to do it from people from the fleet from the simulations from yourself now we have a learning system that living system no allows us to take the product and the operation to the next level this is something that I actually old manse the capabilities you have all around us that's the next level if we see happening and the great thing is as new AI capabilities show up I have to data I have this knowledge you already ready for it
00:27:55you can just going to tell a chief engineer but we sing this is going to happen if you got to say well this variable temperature this water flow this pressure that's what's causing the problem then he's going to take that billion-dollar I said offline to do something else. Root cause piece is the other key piece that's vital this is what I was thinking actually is that capturing people's voices David imitate the sound of somebody is a problem that's being worked on right now and there's very very nice progress on that using a roughly the same amount of data that you positive that people would have a nice butt imitating their causal mechanism like what's making them say this right that they're saying it for a reason and as the context changes the reason my change and that change what they say that we don't know how to capture with a small amount of days that requires this back-and-forth process between depositing Ohio
00:28:55Ford model and using data too kind of fill in that bottle thanks for being on this after life after this great yeah yeah. So I've been your hopes Neil deGrasse Tyson on your personal astrophysicist we're also host Star Talk radio and I told him yes hosting here in after life after I just want to thank Mike Rogers the author of This brilliant series and Michael Littman you always need an academic an Arm's Reach otherwise and I will be lost and call and Paris you making stuff in analyzing stuff GE it's great to have you here talking about the sci-fi thriller life after from the GE Podcast Theater it's a collaboration with panoply who produced the product and that you can download whatever podcasts are so that's your thing do it
00:29:46I knew the grass Tyson signing off

Transcribed by algorithms. Report Errata
Disclaimer: The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from GE Podcast Theater / Panoply / The Message, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.


Thank you for helping to keep the podcast database up to date.