Monday, March 26, 2007

It was only a movie

Those of us who are not professional political watchdogs can only guess what goes on inside the sausage factory. We rely on occasional glimpses from the press and the blogosphere.

So I do not know whether the item below is someone's idea of a joke or just politics as usual. Disregarding any plausible (or Constitutional) notions of the proper role for the U.S. Congress, one of the members now wants federal funding for "computers that think but don't have any ambitions".

It was just a movie, for heaven's sake. And, what if these folks had anticipated the internet?

The follwing is via, from The National Journal (gated).

Legislating HAL and the Terminator

Is there a sensible way to legislate for runaway computers,
such as in the movies “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “The Terminator”? Even though
most scientists believe thinking machines are at least 20 years away, some
legislators and officials are pondering how to prepare humanity for them.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D., Calif.) is pushing an amendment that
would commit some research money to computers that think but don’t have any
ambitions. His effort failed in 2005, but Neil Munro, writing in
the National Journal, thinks it has a good chance of passing in a Congress controlled by Democrats (subscription required).

Ray Kurzweil, a high-tech inventor, thinks higher machine intelligence is more
likely to occur through humans linking their brains to electronic devices. His
vision has gained support from the federal government. The National Science
Foundation and the Commerce Department issued a report endorsing the promise of
that vision though nanotechnology, or microscopic machines. Mihail Roco, who
oversees the government’s nanotechnology research efforts, says the government
should protect “the right of each individual to advance” toward a merger with

Mr. Sherman says the strangeness of the topic shouldn’t
distract from its seriousness. “It’s easy to laugh and say that’s weird, but if
you’re thinking about the future, you’re thinking about stuff that’s going to be
different,” he says. — Robin Moroney