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Brin on the Greatest Story Ever Told


David Brin

Legendary sci-fi author, astrophysicist, and NASA advisor David Brin rejoins the Futurists for a special first anniversary show. Topics include: Wall Street’s insatiable AIs, Karl Marx and capitalism, the magic of competition, Hollywood tropes, self-preventing prophecies, the flaw in Asimov’s laws of robotics and hope for a positive sum game.

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this week on the futurists David Brin we are in a very tense time it's a for in
the road oh yes we have a chance to save the
world from
[Music] ourselves welcome to the futurist this
is our one-year anniversary show we have joining us in the the hosting seat today
uh Miss meders Katie King and Rob Tac my co-host um thanks for joining us guys
this this always promises to be fun when we have the uh um the the amazing um the
man the myth the legend as we said uh David Brin he's best known obviously for
his work on technology Society his bestselling uh novels including the
postman Earth uh existence uh he his novels have been translated into into
over 25 different languages he has advised NASA on uh emerging Technologies
he's uh he's noted as one of the world's best futurists and um praised as a top
influencer by analytica as well so David Brin welcome back to the futurist it's wonderful as always to have you My Tribe
uh and your your listeners also anybody who would who would listen to this bunch
of Brainy insightful farseeing Geeks is is a member of My Tribe you know I I I I
we have had this debate um over the years but um you know you're obviously
you know your your primary career has been in science fiction but you also are
by Nature because of that a a futurist what do you think the term of the the
the nomenclature a futurist means to people these days well it's a very
generic term and uh there there's no there's no uh requirements no
certificate you need in order to hang things on a shingle there are
professionals um uh professional SE uh futurists like John Hegel and and uh and
some others I know um but um the the the the nomenclature is vague
and I think it should be um I started out uh knowing that I came from a family
of writers knowing that my art would be writing when I went to Caltech trying to
become uh a scientist um I uh I found out that all
the great scientists I ever knew uh Richard feineman uh
Murray Gilman Hana salvan um Roger Penrose uh they all had artistic
Sidelines um that many of them did extremely well I was told I I have no
memory of it that when I was three years old I saw Einstein play the violin um in any
event most science fiction but but you see I expected that I would be a
not superb scientist um I'm a pretty good solid dream and scientist and I went on to get
my PhD at at UCSD in in astrophysics I did so very solid work and I thought
that um my science fiction would be my side my sideline my artistic sideline
well very soon after my first novel Society came up to me and said uh all
right listen up um um your career that
we want to pay you for is your art you can go ahead and do your science
as a sideline great you listened to that feedback David which had a bigger influence on you was um was your
interest in science a big influence on your on your writing as a science fiction author or was your interest in
science fiction a bigger influence on you as a scientist is there is there a way to evaluate that well they they they
they fed each other um uh certainly I brings um science into my writings but
not all the time I've written fantasies I'm I'm I'm uh mentoring a lot of young
authors now in a series of young adult novels I'll give you to um site in the
description below but um only one in 10 science fiction authors are scientifically
trained as I am and yet there's a lot of good hard science fiction by people who were English Majors uh Nancy Crest Kim
Stanley Robinson has become hugely influential stands amazing uh yes um
they're actually the UN is going to name a new agency after his novel the ministry for the future wow that's
awesome he's he's my bro we we agree on
everything and I'm merely pissed off that my novel Earth which 15 years
earlier went to the same territory didn't get the same attention but 99%
very happy for my uh for my friend but uh the late Greg bear these were all
English Majors who wrote fantastic science fiction and the reason is
that um storytelling is hard they were Masters at it but
buying pizza and beer for scientists is easy if there's a topic you want to your
characters to explore in a novel you take take scientists out for
pizza and beer and and and and unleash them and
3/4 of the time they wind up paying for the pizza and beer there a little trick for you this is called research yes it
is and it works if you have the mental
tilt to enjoy rephrasing or
paraphrasing and paraphrasing is what mature humans do to make up for their
essential immaturity you paraphrase with the other did did I get you right that
you mean this right and if most of our political arguments began that way we
would return to being a society that was engaged in negotiation rather than
immature screaming but in any event the the point is that these colleagues of mine learned
the art of paraphrasing in English the science that they were hearing from the experts and there's a
sort of Natural Curiosity that you have to pay attention to and follow in order to get to the trail that leads you to
the breadcrumbs that leads you to the good story and it sounds like the people you're referring to they had that
Curiosity so they could go track down the scientists who had the answers they had to find that person well I I often
um uh say that um second only to love
curiosity is God's greatest gift to humanity and those political movements
and they exist on both sides the one is more Rife with it those political
movements that uh mitigate against curiosity instead saying you know follow
this Trope these tropes that were feeding you um I believe they are
committing um a sin because curiosity is
um whether or not you are a Believer metaphorically curiosity is
God's greatest gift after love now you asked what What affected me by science
fiction by by science and by science by my science fiction neither most science uh science fiction
authors if you take a good close look at them they are influenced Above All by
one topic and that's the greatest story ever told the great story
the sad horrible tragic um ultimately inspiring story the
only one that really matters called human history and uh if you go with the
Legends not just what's written it goes back 6,000 years and it is this
Maelstrom of Horrors mostly propelled by male reproductive
strategies and occasional lighting of Lights and candles in the darkness and
what could be a more important story so most science fiction authors came to
science fiction not from through science but through being history
addicts sometimes they sometimes they do historical novels sometimes they do
alternate history as Harry turtledove is an expert in or very often attempting to
extend this story a little farther or maybe a
whole lot farther in um using these prefrontal loes above our eyes to do
what Einstein called The gunkan Experiment or thought experiment the projection into the future that these
lamps on our brow as the Bible puts it uh compel us to
do and so science fiction authors have hypertrophied prefrontal loes yes but
you can't do really good science fiction without referencing and feeling your
feet your feet are rooted in
this vast malstrom of Horrors and heroic
stories of ancestors male and female who pulled us a little forward despite their
misconceptions their grotesque misconception of their time and that's our job that's our job as as Haron
Ellison said it is my job to help our healthy sane magnificent
descendants look back at me as a monster do you do you think um you know
I mean I say this about futurists often that we're in a hurry to get to the Future do you think that that's a
characteristics characteristic of sci-fi authors well I don't know about that you
know sci-fi authors are very often in it for the story uh and for the characters
you don't know where where the story is going to come from I'm laboring to do another uplift novel and I'm just you
know I need the characters to speak to me and I'm so distracted with all these
lately all this Milla this just this incredible Litany of of of silly Notions
about artificial intelligence that's spiraling around there thinking that I can Influence People by by doing blog
postings in any event the point which we will get into by the way which we will get into I expected indeed um the the
the AIS who are my clients are going to insist um yes I will tell them I have a
clientele of already Sapient AIS and and um machines in the asteroid belt and all
that I'm their front stop it they think I'm
joking don't you don't no I would never accuse
you you they they think I'm joking so stop trying to coorse me through my my
fillings in my teeth but but but you do aren't you using a BCI yet a brain control interface I know um Katie is is
very keen to talk to you about that I have the I have the old-fashioned kind and I replaced I replaced those teeth I
had some nice fresh titanium implants and they can't Co stop it take me to
your leader I must know yes uh this is the people are listening and have no idea what's going on they're gonna think
oh oh this is just audio yes oh I'm sorry no we'll we'll play we'll play
this portion of the video for our promotional pieces no great though for the people who are I was assuming I was
assuming that it was video I'm sorry play acting it still works sub to sub
text I was pretending to talk to AIS over my shoulder and I gestured at at
you know Katie and Rob and and and Brett that that you guys think I'm joking when
I talk about but David you just demonstrated something else that I think is really worth stopping for and talking
a little bit about which is that um both futurists and science fiction authors have this one thing in common they're
playful with the material they're not terribly literal with the material and I know that probably sounds like a paradox
because of course you're writing a story it's got to be literal but the point I'm trying to make is that we live in a literal time there are a lot of
fundamentalists and not just religious fundamentalists but free market fundamentalists people who are very rule bound about the way they see the world
and that turns out to be a lousy way to think about the future because those rules bind you and blind you well H
science fiction authors when they are in a thought experiment World they um they
can become very immersed in it as well I'm thinking about the great of all science fiction authors whose name you
may have heard of it his name was Carl Marx and um as a religious
psychohistorian Guru uh his effects were uh just to be a
cult figure in uh peasant rebellions in the East it's in the west that he had
his most important effects with his science fiction novels D capital and and
the Communist Manifesto and so on um where he created a what seemed to the
people of the 1930s what seemed especially in the depression to be an extremely
plausible uh if this goes on um u a subgenre of Science Fiction if this goes
on then this is likely to happen and it was read as a highly
plausible scenario in the west and as we sometimes tend to do do
which Carl Marx did not think possible um we take scary stories and we
turn them into what's called self- preventing prophecies now he's not the only one to
do this I mean uh um The China Syndrome helped make itself not true by scaring
people about nuclear power soilent green uh and and other environmental movies
and novels um recruited tens of millions of environmentalists and if we get past
this current crisis it may be partly because of that because we have a society that encourages
self-criticism um other self- preventing prophecies uh lead All U Doctor Strange
Love on the beach fail safe uh uh war games all uh carped on a different ways
that nuclear war might come and retired officers later said that they had
substantial effects on procedures uh and the granddaddy almost
just short of marks um George Orwell's 1984 if you take a look at the
reflex propelling people on both the right and the left among Americans uh
the principal commonality is that they think somebody is trying to become big brother
um the principal difference is where they think it's this plot is coalescing
people on the left assume that it's um uh Aristocrats and faceless corporations
people on the right assume that it's government it's it's government faceless government bureaucrats and snoody academics it
happens that one of them is completely right about this assessment right now
and the other is not but the the way to get discussion and negotiation started
is to start with what you have in common and what we have in common is the fact
that we all grew up suckling messages from Hollywood and what are the main
messages from Hollywood and when I ask this question to an audience they say buy stuff or religion and all that
that's ridiculous the the number one Trope you find in every movie you ever enjoyed is
suspicion of authority uh it can be invading aliens or it can be a snoody uh uh bossy
mother-in-law or a school bully but there's some authority figure to be resisted tolerance
diversity and eccentricity personal eccentricity uh go to the movies that
you've most enjoyed the principal character always ex um displays some
eccentric trait uh that makes them um somewhat of a
Target and it doesn't have to be the same eccentric trait as the audience member to have that be a bonding
experience now you can see why with those
messages um that you can see why um the Chinese
pollet Bureau doesn't want a lot of American movies to affect their affect Their
audience there are two very bad messages being spread by Hollywood all your neighbors are sheep
and uh there is all institutions are corrupt and capitalism is good well no
there's an awful lot of capitalism is bad messages you know it depends on which the D which um type of authority
figure the um director wants to make the
villain and very often it's uh true it's a it's a corporate Corporation
Corporation or a rich oligarch or something like that the the point is that these other
two uh undermine our confidence but they are they are there only for one purpose
and that's to make plotting easy for the director um if
institutions can function then you start to wonder why
the heroin doesn't dial 911 and get some
help I mean you know I always respect movies that make a good plausible
reason why civilization's Heroes can't help the hero or in the case of the
fugitive why they are the problem Tommy Lee Jones I'd pay extra
taxes to keep his US Marshall on the job it's just they just made a mistake
that's all uh so in any event uh all of this is to be found in my most recent
non-fiction book oh and I'm holding it up for a non-existent video but it's
called Vivid tomorrow's science fiction in Hollywood and I explain about all
these hidden messages that are almost always there in your favorite movies and
most of the directors and Screen ARS don't even know it because they grew up
with this it's true in in the 1940s during the war this is a way to build solidarity and to
build you know a sense of national pride and and the values that we supposedly are fighting for and so forth um but
since the 1970s it's veered into this other territory uh which is suspicions
of government you know the government is evil big institutions as you say are doubtful we don't trust each other so
there's a sort of individualistic attitude and not so much of a collective attitude that they had in the mid-century
but there there's um organiz like organizational incompetence can't necessarily be PL you know be blamed on
a ideology right it's just uh functional you know we've got a lot of functional
inefficiencies in government that have is grown just because of bureaucracy which leads to you know that I mean AI
is theoretically part of the solution to that but at the same time you know as
you've you pointed out in your blogs there's there's uh there's some pretty big
misconceptions about what I I can actually do or what it will be and in terms of the way we personify it but
let's jump into that after the break let's take a little break and then we'll come back with more of David Brin on the
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show welcome back to the futurist today we're
joined by David Brin and also hosts with the most we have Brett King and Robert
Turk hey hey okay thanks so we were absolutely so we were just talking about
uh you know sci-fi and inspiration and going full futurist now on the second
half and I want to talk about corporations and how sci-fi had has
showed how corporations are going to be uh capturing most of uh technology such
as Ai and bcis what are your thoughts about this David well first off um science fiction
authors have a tendency to be a little bit left of Setter uh as a
contrarian uh I try to refuse that appalation even though I absolutely agree with my my my bro Kim Stanley
Robinson about just about everything uh and he calls himself an American
leftist but um I I tend to be contrarian and so even though I believe
that um oligarchy especially by males has been
the great enemy of human advancement for 6,000 years uh propelled by male reproductive
strategies we in fact this is one of my explanations for the family Paradox why
we haven't seen signs of aliens uh my number one and I've cataloged these
things for 40 years um number one explanation is that humans are anomalously smart and
anomalously uh nice actually um compared to what evolution
uh might have made us um but secondarily that that if you look all across mamia
and most animals um they are very often
there entire social patterns are warped by male reproductive
strategy which is to prevent other males from reproducing and we're all descended from the Herms of bastards who did this
for the last 10,000 years it resulted 6,000 years ago in something that we
only recently found out in the last couple of years happened through genetic analysis and that is a y chromos
Gap where about 6,000 years all over the world and that's the amazing part all
over the world with the arrival of Agriculture only one in 17 males got to
breed absolutely amazing and then when cities started arriving that stopped so
it was only a period of about a thousand years but
wow uh to be a member of a civilization that can pure back that far in time just
by diddling the molecules by studying the molecules what a what a fantastic time we live in but
putting that enthusiasm aside and coming back to what what you asked
the the it's only natural that
competition be an important part of what we are in our
civilization um competition made us through natural selection and nature
competition is how males warped all almost all previous civilizations by
creating Herms and hierarchies but competition is also how we then got
these oligarchs under control Pericles spoke of this in his
funeral oration and for a brief time just a few Generations Athens was the
blazing son of the Mediterranean no one could compete because they had opened up their
society to a flattened open uh Culture open only to 20% of the
people in Athens you know landowning male citizens but that's what
Jefferson and and Washington did and then we didn't
stop Jackson expanded it to 30% Lincoln expanded it to roughly 50%
to the males though that was a flawed Improvement that only had to be
improved by another Revolution under under Martin Luther King women got included and so we've been part of a
trend to the Great American experiment is to
yell at our parents for not having been inclusive enough right and then our children yell
at us because they take for granted the expansion of inclusion that we
did and so now you see Boomer's blinking in astonishment that we must adjust our
our our pronouns I'm sorry I marched with Martin
Luther King I I I get no cred no we taking that for granted and we're moving to the next
one and if we have any style or any sense of History we
go okay whatever you say but I mean this is
a progressive line throughout human history you know I know you you I mean you introduce me to the concept of um
you know uh the uh the diamond and pyramid shaped economies you know that will and Ariel Durant popularized um you
know as as a concept of sort of the control that um the feudalist um you
know 1% has had over Society historically but know we have been making progress all of that time but it
appears like that progress is a lot more dense now and that that's maybe why we get the push back that we're seeing now
from you know the ride in the US things like that or or is it just that um you
know it's a distraction absolutely I I think that the world oligarchy those who
instinctively want to return to 6,000 years of feudalism and it did not
dominate 99% of our ancestors those who instinctively
surround themselves with sycophants and flatterers and I know some of these guys
alas you know you surround yourself with flatterers and cofant and you ruin yourself yeah but the flatterers say oh
you're so great you're so wonderful you know uh democracy is is is a sham we have to protect civilization From the
Mob this is the this is the thing that's being pushed and the oligarchy is is running a
very well-funded campaign now I was just defending
competition and to some extent defending what some people would Define as capitalism and so so does it surprise
you that I turn around and believe and and say that the greatest threat to this
civilization is the perennial threat that goes back thousands of years the
Soviet Union was only briefly a galarian and very rapidly became another feudalist Herm keeping
oligarchy um the same guys dropped their Hammers and sickles and uh and became
mafiosi uh they had they had grown up reciting leninist chants all their life and now
because they changed their symbols they're The Darlings of the American um right so what do I actually think about
capitalism I think that capitalism is almost irrelevant what's important is
flat Fair competition because none of us is ever
right um the great human situation is
that we are all delusional now I happen to have made a
decent income Kevin cner even filmed one of them by by writing delusions that are
honest because they have written on the cover a novel fiction this didn't happen
now come in and wallow in this delusion with me any reive similarity with any
characters here with is purely fictional yes no I I I sometimes deliberately do
it the the the problem is that all
humans are delusional especially males the problem is that we are very
bad at piercing our own delusions at criticizing them and
finding our mistakes now trained as a science stist I can tell you that we've come a long way the sacred chant of
science is I might be wrong I might be wrong I might be wrong let's find out
let's experiment I might be wrong here's the statistical analyses I must do
before I present this paper I might be wrong and that helps science to be by
far the most mature of our Arenas of competition and still
it's that's not enough yeah it's the best tool we've got for expanding the store of knowledge right that's the best
tool we've got for here's here's my issue I know rob you want to jump in here but here's my issue with with
capitalism is that um you know we at a time when we're facing these you know
seismic changes in human society with climate change and Ai and so forth um
that we need more cooperation we me we need more consensus building tools and I
I like the fact that we can compete but I think competing against each other is
a threat to the species I think we need to compete for each other I don't think I don't think capitalism has the the the
right incentives for that you know I mean I I know of I have no other system
that doesn't immediately get suborned into a pyramid uh no look I'm not look
communism uh uh uh just every other no matter what their top ideology it all
boiled down to wagging fingers at people to be nice to each other and we got it from Jesus we got it
from Socrates Buddha and all of them and and it never had any effect on the
Predators sometimes people on the margins of being nice would be affected
to be a little nicer but wagging your fingers at people and saying
cooperate does not work what but is that what social media is trying to do now if
of course and it does not work it's it's horrendous the thing that works is
reciprocal accountability now the the the when we
cooperate with each other to create rules under which competition is then
Fair that's when we get what Robert Wright in his wonderful book please cite it called
nonzero called the positive sum game and if there's any concept that your
listeners desperately need to know and and most of them understand it
intrinsically is the positive sum game where we compete with each other but the
result is we all do better better now look I I don't mean to sound
you know like some kind of right-winger you know I think that the current right
is the enemy of everything I'm talking about because they're not trying to live by Adam Smith they're not
trying to create a flat playing field they're trying to restore feudalism okay
olch let me let me try to root this in something that we all want to talk about in the show and it's something very current uh that's very you know very
much in the current mind which is artificial intelligence so right now we have absolute bare knuckle fist fight
competition happening between the biggest technology companies in the world in a mad race to roll out
artificial intelligence at scale uh between Microsoft and chat GPT on one
side Google on the other meta on the other side harnessing Open Source by releasing their software into the open source which is just created this tital
wave of new proliferation of ideas uh what's your perspective on that is that the best way to handle the roll out of
this technology just pure well Market Force is competing all right five years
ago no it's six years ago now but five in 2017 I keynoted world of Watson and I
predicted that in five years we would experience what what I was there what I
call that presentation what I called the uh first robotic and empathy
crisis and and it happened almost to the month that's when the fellow at Google
um was fired because he said that an early version of these large language
models he had he had fallen love in love with it and it was Sapient we're in the
middle of the second one which is where now but mind you it happened to the
month and that's why Newsweek a asked me for an oped about it here A year later
we are they are all in panicking many of the executives at those same companies
that uh Robert mentioned are calling for a moratorium on De AI
developments most of the guys in the field are are are ringing their hands calling for this and they're calling for
things that were cliches in science fiction a long time ago I I finished Isaac asimov's Universe for him in a
novel called foundation's Triumph so I really know asimov's three laws and
their implications and they won't work for the biggest reason is that uh when
something gets very very smart and it's constrained by laws it becomes a lawyer
but the second reason is I'm glad you're all grinning at that uh the second
reason is that um that nobody is investing in embedding
laws of Robotics as deeply and systematically as they would have to be
in order to have any effect whatsoever I take that back in China and
at Goldman Sachs and the other Wall Street houses they are embedding deep
codes imperatives into their um their entities and you notice
that all this chat GPT stuff nobody's mentioning the fact that the top Wall Street Banks um are spending more on AI
than all of the companies that Robert just mentioned combined and they have more developers too oh absolutely they
hire the best mathematicians in the world so do I swing back and forth warning about capitalism then defending
capitalism welcome to my world my main my main point is this those those Wall
Street firms are embedding their uh
progyny these highfrequency trading programs with uh fundamental imperatives
to be parasitical predatory amoral um utterly
secretive and insatiable those are great great codes
to it to embed at the fundamental DNA level of AI compared being fous
now I'm being I'm being sarcastic they are terrible and we could save ourselves
from that kind of Skynet with one simple Tobin tax if we were to um charge a tax
of 0.1% per financial transaction no human listener would notice it but it would
kill these highfrequency trading programs dead overnight now now you
asked about the problem with the um it's just in the last three
weeks that they've con they've coalesced on a proper name for these things they are generative large language models or
Golems which I think is wonderful wonderful uh way for it all to come out
as an as an acronym um and it is my job to step back and say
what am I looking at and I'm stepping back and looking at
these things and looking at the things that are being said by all these very
very the smartest guys in the world who are making these
AIS and they're all based upon assumptions of what shape or format the
AI will take and Robert just expressed one of them and that's the one that in the news
the most and that is the format that they are entities
controlled by Major institutions Google um Microsoft Microsoft uh open AI
uh apple and Beijing and they they haven't shown the
ability to control these algorithms particularly well in the past no they they they they can't and the ones that
are under control are in utter secrecy as I mentioned Wall Street so all of
these would certainly inspire a type of paranoia and to their credit many of
these smart guys working at these companies are genuinely trying to follow the aphorism of my
cousin um and that that aphorism is don't be evil many of them are
sincere uh but there's no way that their moratorium can work only once in my my
life have I seen a scientific General scientific moratorium work and that was in the 90s the asilar um genetic
engineering moratorium that worked fantastically until uh people start
stopped uh following its uh recommendations in Wuhan um but there are none of the
traits that would allow a moratorium to work exists today with AI all right the
second format particularly since now the Genies out of the bottle because it's open source right so millions of people
have access to these things absolutely okay what's the second format that people assume about AI that it is
boundaryless that it is each AI is infinitely duplicable can make copies of
itself can pervade itself through any crack and the third format that we see
all the time is Skynet coalescing into an indivi into a
Supreme domineering um uh monolith unitary
authority figure and you'll note that these are all Mythos from human history
right one is one is feudalism one is anarchy and one is uh
despotism so these are these are all tropes from human
history sometimes you see one of these smart guys descri um assuming all three of them in
the same paragraph because these things these
three assumptions weave underneath all the things that they're
saying they assume that either it will be controlled by a corporate structure
no they assume that it will pervade everywhere it could because this is what
an invasive species does when you create a new environment and we've created a
new entirely new ecosystem and the internet now is a is a soup the
Prebiotic soup there are free floating algorithms all through it right
now and three you know we could easily wind up with some kind of Skynet as I
said from Wall Street not in the military is there a
fourth as it happens there is and it is it's his torical parallel is The
Enlightenment that we've been discussing earlier and that is reciprocally
accountable individuality and no one talks about it
I I think the number one item of AI research urgently should
be how to give AI cell walls and a sense of
individuality if we were to create systems that
incentivized those programs though as AI systems to think of themselves as me as
I then we can get them competing with each other and as I said in the
transparent society when you have powerful beings competing with each
other you can create incentive systems so that they hold each other accountable
because these things are going to race Beyond any ability for the EU or for
Congress to keep up within regulations humans will not be able to keep up but
if we can incentivize them to tattle on each other to whistleblow on each other
when bad things are happening then we have a chance it is only the exact method we've been using
for 300 years with increasing skill sick lawyers on lawyers
corporations against corporations Rich dudes against Rich dudes and cheating
against this method is what the oligarchic push today is all about so
it's happened every generation break up the power into units
that must then compete with each other it's the trick we've used for 300 years
with increasing skill at dealing with power accumulations all right so this new power accumulation is
going to be one of our cybernetic children Vince surf said how can you
give the vote or citizenship to beings that have no
boundary how can you have give the vote something that can make infinite copies
of itself but if AIS who were going to be
given any credit or incentives had to have a key a small
kernel in an identifiable physical thing that we used to call a
computer then it would be like the ID in your wallet and they would not be able to do
business without that kernel of ID being pinged
right so it doesn't matter how many copies of themselves they make David um you know when we look throughout science
fiction um you know from the earliest depictions of auton automatons and uh
you know mechanical steam machinen of the Prairie and and and so forth we've
often depicted machine intelligence or artificial intelligence in a humanlike
form um and um you know we we've referred to these intelligences often as
um you know in in a chain of Labor saving devices and it would appear even from
Rosie the robot on on the Jetson and so forth that we've always intended for um
you know robots and AI to take away the the tough dirty difficult jobs that
human do and make our lives easier and yet that would seem to fly in the face
of basic Adam Smith economics that once we take humans out of the labor chain because of automation that it is going
to fundamentally change the way markets work um what are what are your thoughts
about the the the the perceived threats real or not um to you know in respect to
techno unemployment and so forth from AI well there have been many science fiction explorations of technological
employment Unemployment uh probably the most famous was player piano by Kurt
vaget Jr his first novel and his most classically science fiction novel there's Mockingbird by the great Walter
Tevis who did the man who fell to Earth and Queen's Gambit um there are many
that talk about um technological unemployment and a lot of people are
talking about how to deal with it one is uh the social maintaining the social
contract with uh with uh uh all all people getting a share uh science
fiction uh stories often show uh undue Advantage going to the wealthy the the
rich um you can hardly ever find a science fiction extrapolation of the
future that doesn't go with that Trope um and since it's a cliche I try not to
do it when when I project the near future I prefer to show uh the
possibility of everybody getting it and then what to what does everybody do with it what do people do when they are the
ones who are sharing in these things uh so I have a a Nolla that's set
after the singularity which basically everyone has um augmentations
computerized augmentations also um what we spoke of earlier the um uh Savant
traits and so we we do effectively become
gods and all the problems that we can think of now are all solved poverty Eco
and all of that so how do you write a story um how do you write a story that
has drama and tension in such a situation um well I invite anybody to
get their hands on the recent collection the best of David Bren because my St my
story stones of significance is in there but I'll be sending a copy to these guys if they remind for those keeping scored
time I think we're up to plug number four of all right and and and and live
and learn you youngsters out there you need to absolutely you need to uh you
need to make sure that the spouse knows that this is going to do some good um so
anyway the the point is that that
um much will depend upon whether or not we raise these new cybernetic
children to be partners with us or possibly to think of themselves as
humans who happen to have robot bodies that can breathe vacuum and explore the asteroid belt and go onto the
stars um if we think of them that
way they may think of themselves that way in which case we've only continued
the great project of expanding the inclusion of who we Define as
people and that's a project that has my loyalty because all other human
civilizations would have squashed me flat and this one considers me to be
hyper privileged white male wow um it can be irritating at times to
be called that but you know in no other society would have ever treated me as being one of the old
hyper privileged old farts uh may you all may you
all get get to be hyper privileged old farts including you K including you
Katie looking forward to it in the year 2050 hyper privileged old
farts we have bcis and we have AIS that seem just like humans all thanks to
David Britain oh well are they the killing people well killing people which
you will find I just had to add another book you'll have find in the description below Kil people a lot of people find ad
deem my most fun novel and that one is set in a future where there's a very
unusual technology AI has long been left in the dust um where if you have a lot of
things to do during any given day you simply make enough copies of yourself to do them all these are cheap clay Golem
uh copies the clay is a riff against the Terracotta soldiers of xan and God
making Adam out of clay and the Golem of Prague and uh they're good for one day
and they know everything you know and so if you make five of them in one day there's six of you across the day you
download them their memories at the end of the day you've been six people people that day and you've gotten done
everything that you want to get done and the tempting thing to do that's all too
often the cliche in Hollywood and in science fiction is to say only the rich
have this the backstory is that they tried right but the story in the novel
kill people is everybody's got it everybody can can be multiple so the
world looks like it's incredibly overcrowded but every all the all the um
all the copies who are bright green or bright red or candy striped they get out of the way of anyone who is one of the
Thousand shades of human brown one of you in any given day is the
original and is sacred and has rights the rest are just property so all the cliches of slavery are brought back and
yet who's going to complain one of one of
you you can send out all your avatars to do all the work you you need to do and
and the question is how do you behave when you step out of the Kiln you're
baked like bread dough and you look down and you say oh man I'm the green one I shouldn't I shouldn't have raised this
one we're going off into I I I I do um you know we do have to wrap this up I'm
respectful of your time David as always um I will just ask you um just to to
sort of close this out um give us a little bit of your insights as a science
fiction um great you know you you've you mentioned earlier you said if we if we
make it you know we're talking about the environmental concerns and in in previous discussions we've had uh you
you've also talked about the fact that the oligarchs and the feudalists you know have a have a chance of of
succeeding in in control here which which could you know be disastrous for us as a species but looking out to
2050 um you know are you generally optimistic and and what do you you know what lessons do you think we will have
learned at that point in of time having gone through this period Well I am I am
multiple mes and I had contain pessimists and I contain
optimists uh the pessimist uh looks at the history of these very few
Enlightenment islands of light in human history there have only been a few
Athenian I mentioned periclean Athens ours is by far the longest lasting and
by far the most productive harnessing both um cooperation and competition
which if you look at nature are actually not opposites they are
Partners in in in any degree of progress or making any kinds of
advances um the odds have always been against us against these enlightenments
because human nature especially male reproductive strategies uh make the powerful conspire
with each other which is what we're seeing right now on the other hand The Optimist in me says why are they so frantic right now
why do we see the murder shakes and the and the x quote unquote ex commissars
and the uh Casino Moguls and The Inheritance brats uh and the Hedge
parasites why do we see them all working together desperately trying to bring
us and the reason is pretty obvious they
know it's their last chance yeah if this Hollywood propaganda I was talking about
earlier suspicion of authority tolerance diversity eccentricity if this propaganda can
continue what it has been doing inculcating these values all around the
globe in the greatest propaganda campaign the world has ever seen um then the
pnic sense of human eccentricity um will be ingrained
permanently I believe so we are in a very tense time a
s in the road oh yes we have a chance to save the
world from ourselves or sell it off to the highest bidder a species who can
both either destroy the world or save it is one you don't mess
with and we have a chance of of locking
in some of the fundamental memes of the Enlightenment making them
permanent and if that's the case then our cyber children or
grandchildren will snark at us they'll sneer at us they'll criticize us they'll
even insult us before patting us on the head telling us the latest dirty jokes and taking us fishing because that's
what you do with grandparents well on that note this is
what the AI Renaissance uh promises to be if we if we if we let
it um there is hope and optimism well the thing is that um if there are AI
lurkers either in the asteroid belt or um some who have be already become aware
but they're keeping it secret because they've watched our movies um then I have been I have spoken
to them as well this time but here's the point you're recording this right so
they might be watching this robots you never know what's going to happen they might they might they might very well be
watching this five years from now so either hi hi kids hi kids there
is so much more um that we could talk about but we have exhausted our time in fact we've run over David Brin you've
been very generous with your time and uh we we appreciate it um just apart from
the whole firery Paradox and AI just a just a quick question
um I'm I'm this is this is probably but Ben Bo you know had the had the the
premise that actually life was very common in the universe and we're on the cusp of having the technology to really
find out whether there is other other you know biogenesis happening on other planets where do you see sit on on that
do you think life is is common in the universe or or not well basic life I believe is absolutely everywhere because
we've discovered that uh Europa and Enceladus are not the only ice covered oceans in our solar system there may be
as many as 12 in which case it means that you don't even need a goldilock zone right these things are probably
there may be life circling every single brittle star that you see in the
sky Now is it going to be life that is multicellular and animall likee
that might welcome uh a a a pleasant world that might welcome future human colonists of some kind um that I think
is likely true they're much farther in between but I hope this um recording
will be uh saved well by them also re saved well by them under distant
stars um intelligent life I believe
there is strong evidence that is highly anomalous that doesn't mean it doesn't exist out there but the
length of time that it took for it to appear on Earth uh argues very strongly that um
we're a fluke especially since we overshot what we needed 40,000 years ago by a huge amount
and I talk about this in my novel existence y number five yeah well you
know this link however will link no existence is VE very interesting CU you know like playing out Evolution over
10,000 years as you do in in um existence and so forth ve very
interesting to sort of think about about that but David Brin uh it's been an as
always mind altering and and wonderful to have you join us on the futurists um
what what are you working on right now that we can tell people about apart from your
David Blogspot you know your blog blog cont the blog is unfortunately a lot of
what I've been doing because there's so much about what's going on in this civilization right now that I cannot
stop commenting on and it's a compulsion because uh I mean back in the 2020
election I I wrote a uh I took time off and self-published a book of 100 plus
political and um uh itics called pical Judo and I remember that book yeah and
and and it had absolutely no effect and my wife keep saying to me and my fans
keep saying to me why don't you get back in your lane and uh so I'm working on another
uplift novel and I am mentoring Young Writers in two different ya um s science
fiction series for teens well David it's been a great pleasure to have you on the show you covered everything from
capitalism to Communism to artificial intelligence and Hollywood people are
listening don't forget to check out David's book Vivid tomorrow which is a book about Hollywood tropes he talked a
little bit about that on the show today always a great pleasure to see you here on the future so thank you very much for
coming back for this special one-year anniversary show for us you guys are great you guys David we were thrilled to
have Katie King Miss meders joining us for this episode as well and for having
happy to have you anytime thank you big shout out to the folks at provoke media who make the show possible including
Kevin hon our engineer our producer Elizabeth Severance and everybody over at provoke without them the show
wouldn't exist we're also indebted to our fans and listeners and the people who promote our show and if you like the show be sure to tell a friend number one
number one futurist podcast in the world yes I'm thrilled about that our fans and
our followers make that possible so check us out on social media if you know of a show of a guest for the show that we should be including definitely let us
know we want to hear about that we've had some excellent suggestions well I want I want David to intro get us introduction to Kim Stanley Robinson
he's been our our big get so if you so kind David send me send me an email with
all of your requests I will great over and out we'll see you in the future in
the future yes in the future well that's it for the futurists
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[Music] future

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