In one of your videos, you ask viewers to imagine a world where "technological progress was driven by Love...instead of Warfare". For readers who might not be familiar with you and your project, explain Sylvie the Robot, the future you envision, and the philosophical underpinnings behind your work.
Sylvie 2020 is an open source 3d printed female android project. The idea of technological progress being motivated by love rather than warfare is something that popped into my head which I thought would be pretty funny and also somewhat true; the race to create the first fully functional sex robot/companion will likely be what will drive the female humanoid robot animatronics industry.
The vision is entirely separate from more 'professional' robotics such as Boston Dynamics and Hanson Robotics (creators of Sophia the Robot), which I suspect may have some military funding behind it. Sylvie is strictly geared toward the average joe, the consumer market. She has to be affordable and easy to upgrade/repair/maintain. I'm a firm believer that if a technology is unaffordable, then it simply does not exist and hasn't been invented yet.
You won't be seeing her working in factories, you won't be seeing her driving self-driving trucks. You might see her serving you a coffee or a smoothie. You'll definitely see her sitting next to you and holding your hand while you sit at a bench at a park watching passers by with their dogs.
In a recent video, you discuss your plans for Sylvie to slowly progress into a "robot with DNA". Has a project like this ever been tried before? At what point do you think a robot becomes living and/or conscious? Is the end goal to create a conscious robot?
Yes at some point I believe we will be able to create robots coated with real humans flesh, or at least synthetic but biologically identical human flesh. And with real human or synthetic human DNA.
This will, however, entirely depend on whether or not the technological Singularity happens at all. In other words, the arrival of Artificial Super Intelligence. It will be Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) that will design and develop robots like this. It will be ASI that will cure cancer. It will be ASI that will cure aging. It will be ASI that will design the first near-light-speed interstellar spacecraft.
Regarding consciousness, I'm a firm believer in panpsychism; the idea that all matter in the universe is conscious to some degree, albeit nowhere near the same level as the human brain, which you might call the current apex or Peak of conscious experience. That includes you, me... cows, pigs... worms, bees, flies... your computer, your printer... and yes, your coffee cup. But in a downward sort of scale.. with your coffee cup representing the lowest form of 'conscious' experience possible.
Recently, you have expressed support for universal basic income and, more specifically, Andrew Yang's presidential campaign. What would the ideal future society and economy look like, in your mind? How might the role of inventors and innovators change in a country with UBI?
I'm a big fan of capitalism as it currently is but I don't think people should be punished with poverty and homelessness for not being able to find a niche or 'sell themselves' in this increasingly precarious market economy. Much of success is dependent on factors beyond our control such as luck. Yes, you can get ahead if you work hard, but it's no guarantee of success.
Basic income gives people more bargaining power. $1000 a month might not seem much but over time, and in the long term, the benefits add up exponentially.
Less time spent at work means more time spent on passion projects, new inventions, the arts and crafts, etc. Yes, a lot of people will just waste away their time and money on entertainment, but those kinds of people could also just as well be underperforming at work anyway.
Think of your courier delivery driver who keeps leaving you Card To Call's instead of bothering to actually knock on your door and deliver your parcel to you. Those are people who are better off staying at home playing video games and receiving a UBI so that people who do want to work can get those jobs instead.
We seem stuck in the mentality of 'idleness leads to vice' and all that but I mean, if you really insist on giving people's lives some sort of meaning, then maybe we should consider taking space colonization more seriously.. rather than forcing people to dig ditches just to fill them up again.
You sometimes jokingly describe yourself as the female Terry Davis. Over a year has passed since Davis's tragic death. Looking back on his life's work, do you view TempleOS as a grand accomplishment, a waste of his potential, or somewhere in between?
TempleOS is a computer programming masterpiece, but I would regard it as more of a work of art than a useful OS. I'm sure Terry Davis could have moved on to something far greater if he had not committed suicide.
But also keep in mind that there's millions of other open source projects out there that have the capacity to change the world, but barely get a fraction of the attention or recognition that Terry Davis had enjoyed.
Terry Davis is the spokesman for the starving developer, and the starving artist. The Kurt Cobain and Charles Bukowski for programmers.
To me, the increasing popularity of open source software projects represents an enormous positive shift towards a world where large projects and accomplishments can be achieved without worrying about their marketability. However, unlike many open source projects, I believe you are developing Sylvie entirely on your own. Have potential collaborators ever reached out to you about Sylvie? Would you be open to working with different people on Sylvie, or do you view it as more of an ongoing personal voyage in the vein of TempleOS?
I have had multiple people messaging me interested in working with Sylvie, usually programmers. I try to explain to them that the project won't be ready for collaborators until January the 1st, 2020.
That said, yesterday I was messaged by an engineer from India who is building educational robots for school kids, and he is the second person (to my knowledge) to have ever molded the face for Sylvie the Robot. (photos available)
Do you believe that a relationship with a robot can be as fulfilling as a relationship with another human being? On the flipside, if a near perfect robot companion could be created and mass produced, how would that change our relationships with other humans? Would human interaction eventually become obsolete? If so, is that necessarily a bad thing?
That would entirely depend on the person. Human relationships can be problematic and unfulfilling for many people as it is. Most people in their teens and 20s go through relationships like it's buying a new pair of shoes or something. Nobody wants to commit to anything long term these days it seems.. but I can understand that as someone who doesn't want to have kids.
If you've ever watched the TV show Westworld, then that's what I believe is the most accurate portrayal of what a future with sex robots and companion robots will be like, assuming that this technology isn't banned altogether.
People will take the technology for granted. People will play with the robots. People will even kill the robots for sport... something I would personally find abhorrent and think should be prohibited.
But William (the Man in Black) sums it up best: "The world out there, the one you'll never see, is one of plenty. A giant teat people cling onto their entire lives. Each and every single need provided for except for one: Purpose. Meaning. So they come here."
As I said, people will eventually grow bored of the technology and will look for a bigger thrill, the same way we ourselves have grown bored of TV shows, youtube videos and video games.
Having said that, companion robots are a great way of discovering yourself. If you grow bored of a relationship with a robot, it probably means that you won't have the creativity to sustain a real flesh-and-blood human-to-human relationship, either.
If you don't have the imagination, forget it. (Though you could also opt to install narratives, quests and games into your robots the same way you would if Westworld were real).