1) What is your favorite science fiction movie about the future? 2) When you were a child, what did you imagine the future would be like? 3) What do you think your life will be like in 2045? 4) Imagine you could live twice as long. How would you use your time? 5) If you had the ability to modify the human body, what changes would you make?
Reading: Kurzweil & the Singularity (April, 2012)
Human civilization as we know it will end in the year 2045, according to Raymond Kurzweil. This end, or more properly, transition, is known by Kurzweil and other futurists as the Singularity. The Singularity will mark the dawn of greater-than-human intelligence. This event will be the inevitable result of the exponential technological growth of the present and near future. By the mid-2020s, Kurzweil predicts we will successfully reverse engineer the human brain. By 2045, as a result of vast computing power increases and cost reductions, artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence. Beyond this point, labeled the event horizon, future events cannot be predicted with our current means.
Kurzweil’s vision of this transformation is neither dystopian nor utopian. He admits that technologies are double-edged swords, but he ultimately places faith in man. For Kurzweil, despite the increased visibility of negative news due to modern media, historically speaking, the world is getting better and people wiser. Having accepted the unavoidability of technological progress, including the development of artificial intelligence (AI), one aim of the movement is to make the transition to the future as friendly as possible.
At 62, Kurzweil has personal motive to hope for the coming of the Singularity: he wants to have his life extended by it. What’s more, he believes technology will make it possible to resurrect his father. Among the medical advances Kurzweil envisions are tiny computerized bots operating inside the body to bolster the immune system. Concerning entertainment, similar technology would enable us to manipulate our senses, making virtual entertainment possible. This, for Kurzweil, is a reason why radical life extension would not necessarily mean radical boredom.
With unmanned military drones in the sky, the world of human knowledge stored in mobile phones in our pockets, and neural implants already in some of our bodies, Kurzweil’s future may not be so inconceivable. The movement is growing and a Singularity University has even been established. The pivotal issue they face concerns the feasibility of genuine AI. Do Singularitarians underestimate the task of duplicating the human brain? To this question, Kurzweil responds, “I don’t believe I’m underestimating the challenge. I think [the critics] are underestimating the power of exponential growth.” (361 words)
Premise 2: Wiser humans can develop and utilize AI responsibly.
Conclusion: AI should be developed.
Student A: You support this argument. Spend 1-2 minutes thinking of reasons to back up the conclusion. When ready, you may start.
Student B: You oppose this argument. Spend 1-2 minutes thinking of reasons to reject the conclusion. Your partner will start when he/she is ready.
Future ESL Lesson Plan: Twenty Questions Game
Choose a student in the class to be the robot. The robot must then think of a subject without telling the others. The other students must then put questions to the robot to reveal the subject. The robot can only answer in “Yes or No” form. The objective of the questioners is to discover the subject in 20 questions or fewer. Note that carefully selected questions will greatly increase the chances of success.
Future ESL Lesson Plan: Discussion Questions
Resources: If people live longer, it would follow that Earth would need more resources. Kurzweil believes that technology can extend resources. Do you share his optimism?
Criticism: is the Singularity a Frankenstein-like attempt by man at playing God?
Exponential Growth: is technological progress really increasing exponentially?
How would you live if the Internet went down for a month?
How do you think human civilization will ultimately end?
Future ESL Lesson plan copyright Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com
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