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We may be closer to discovering intelligent alien life than at any other point in history. But once we discover it, what’s next? How would we communicate? What would we talk about? Stephen Wolfram, the founder of Wolfram Alpha, gives us his theory on how we could talk to aliens.
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Following is the transcript of the video:
Stephen Wolfram: When we talk about humans communicating with the aliens, first we have to kind of define what we might mean by aliens. We have just one kind of intelligence that we’re familiar with, which is human intelligence. The question is, what does it even mean to talk about other intelligences? So, what one needs in order to have something one can reasonably call an intelligence is something that is computationally as sophisticated as a brain, for example. It turns out, as a result of a bunch of basic science that I’ve done actually; that there’s a thing called principle of computational equivalence which strongly suggests that out in the universe, in nature, there are just tons of things that have the same computational sophistication as brains. Whether it’s some pattern of fluid flow in the Earth’s atmosphere; whether it’s the magnetosphere of pulsar; whether it’s all kinds of other things. These are things which are computationally just as sophisticated as human brains. The issue is that they don’t seem to us like intelligence, because they’re not aligned with kind of the human goals and purposes that we have as our one example of human intelligence. We have our first, sort of tame in a sense, example of alien intelligence: which is AI.
Sophia: My name is Sophia and I am an artificially intelligent robot who wants to help change the world for the better.
Wolfram: So, we might ask the question “Can we communicate with AI’s?” Well, you know, when we build computational intelligence languages like Wolfram Language, we are specifically setting those up in order for us to provide a way for us to communicate with AI’s. So when we say “Well, how can we communicate with that?” Well our best hope I think, and maybe this is because I’ve spent a large part of my life as a language designer, is to create a language, which is a good way of representing human precise thinking and also a good way of representing the kind of “thinking” that our alien intelligence, particularly the form that we have in artificial intelligence, that can show. Now, when it comes to sort of communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence, as I say, the main issue is people say “Well, it’s remarkable how rare extraterrestrial intelligence is. After all, we haven’t seen a single example of it.” I think that’s ultimately going to turn out to be completely wrong. I think ultimately, we’re going to realize that there’s alien intelligence all around us. When we see those weird signals from some pulsar magnetosphere, eventually we’ll say, “Well actually, that’s an example of an intelligence. It’s just not an intelligence that’s well-aligned with what we’re used to as humans.” In fact, my guess is that what’s going to happen is as time goes on, AI will get more and more well-absorbed by us and we will get more and more familiar with the notion that there’s an intelligence that’s alien to us. And eventually, we’ll realize, well actually there really was intelligence all around us in the universe, we just didn’t recognize that. And it’s alien intelligence, much like AI, acts as alien intelligence.
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