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kottke.org posts about Susan Schneider

E.T. will be a superintelligent robot

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 29, 2014

Susan Schneider, professor of philosophy at UConn, is among those researchers and scientists who believe that the first alien beings we encounter will be “postbiological in nature”…aka robots.

“There’s an important distinction here from just ‘artificial intelligence’,” Schneider told me. “I’m not saying that we’re going to be running into IBM processors in outer space. In all likelihood, this intelligence will be way more sophisticated than anything humans can understand.”

The reason for all this has to do, primarily, with timescales. For starters, when it comes to alien intelligence, there’s what Schneider calls the “short window observation” — the notion that, by the time any society learns to transmit radio signals, they’re probably a hop-skip away from upgrading their own biology. It’s a twist on the belief popularized by Ray Kurzweil that humanity’s own post-biological future is near at hand.

“As soon as a civilization invents radio, they’re within fifty years of computers, then, probably, only another fifty to a hundred years from inventing AI,” Shostak said. “At that point, soft, squishy brains become an outdated model.”

To use Elon Musk’s language, biological beings would be a “biological boot loader for digital superintelligence”. Schneider’s full paper on the topic is here: Alien Minds.