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Why I tell jokes


The future: technology and the mind
Richard Gregory Scientist
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40 years ago I got really excited by artificial intelligence and I thought, incredibly naively, that we could put intelligence and we could put perception and so on into machines but, do you know what, although we failed signally to do that actually, we really did, we learned something. We learned how damn clever the brain is because the brain does things that no way can our technology do at the moment, but having said that, I think now, 40 years later, that computers have developed, we’ve all learned a great deal more in physiology and in psychology, that that dream was actually a good one and I think we should still aim at relating technology to the mind to make mindful machines, to use machines even more for teaching and thinking, tools for thinking and seeing. I think that’s going to be the answer, to live very, very much more closely with intelligent technology, if you like, and I think artificial intelligence really is part of the future. I think it's terribly important, and I think how it should go is that we need to develop computer programmes which don’t simply go through what are called algorithms, little steps of reasoning, but should assess probabilities and I think they should be created so that from past experience it’ll generalise past experience, produce generalisations which are sort of chunks of knowledge really, use these to interpret information, photo-electric cells and so on as in, you know, technologies, and then make the machine think, make it intelligent by, again, relating the available information to its background knowledge to create hypothesis and using what we now call Bayesian strategies which is really the mathematics of inferring with probabilities. And I think instead of little algorithms, this needs to be done, which is a much more ambitious project but I think if we can make that work we’re going to have really intelligent machines and then we can live with them and I think this is how it’s going to go. We’re going to have Bayesian intelligence in machines.

The late British psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol, Richard Gregory (1923-2010), is well known for his work on perception, the psychology of seeing and his love of puns. In 1978 he founded The Exploratory, an applied science centre in Bristol – the first of its kind in the UK. He also designed and directed the Special Senses Laboratory at Cambridge which worked on the perceptual problems of astronauts, and published many books including 'The Oxford Companion to the Mind', 'Eye and Brain' and 'Mind in Science'.

Listeners: Adam Hart-Davis Sally Duensing

Born on 4 July 1943, Adam Hart-Davis is a freelance photographer, writer, and broadcaster. He has won various awards for both television and radio. Before presenting, Adam spent 5 years in publishing and 17 years at Yorkshire Television, as researcher and then producer of such series as Scientific Eye and Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers. He has read several books, and written about 25. His latest books are Why does a ball bounce?, Taking the piss, Just another day, and The cosmos: a beginner's guide. He has written numerous newspaper and magazine articles. He is a keen supporter of the charities WaterAid, Practical Action, Sustrans, and the Joliba Trust. A Companion of the Institution of Lighting Engineers, an Honorary Member of the British Toilet Association, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Dyers and Colourists, and Merton College Oxford, and patron of a dozen charitable organizations, Adam has collected thirteen honorary doctorates, The Horace Hockley Award from the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, a Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Medal from the Institute of Incorporated Engineers, and the 1999 Gerald Frewer memorial trophy of the Council of Engineering Designers. He has no car, but three cycles, which he rides slowly but with enthusiasm.

Sally Duensing currently is involved in perception exhibition work and research on science and society dialogue programmes and is working with informal learning research graduate students and post-docs at King's College, London. In 2000 she held the Collier Chair, a one-year invited professorship in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Bristol, England. Prior to this, for over 20 years she was at the Exploratorium, a highly interactive museum of science, art and perception in San Francisco where she directed a variety of exhibition projects primarily in fields of perception and cognition including a large exhibition on biological, cognitive and cultural aspects of human memory.

Duration: 2 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2006

Date story went live: 02 June 2008