8 November 2017

Will Your Dog Eat Your Steak Dinner?

hungry dog
If you tell your dog not to eat the steak, will he obey you?
You throw a perfectly cooked sizzling steak on your dining room table. Then you step away for a bottle of wine. As you head towards the cellar, you pause and look at your dog. You wag your finger and say, "Buster, do not eat this steak!" Buster looks back at you hungrily, eying your juicy hunk of sirloin.
"Buster will make a decision based on what he wants," says Perry Marshall, founder of Natural Code LLC. "And when you leave, he's going to decide whether to obey you or not. However, the situation turns out, he's doing something that no computer can do – which is to want something, then choose whether to take it or not."
This attribute, Marshall insists, is exclusive to living things. Computers don't do it. Rocks and molecules don't either. The aspect of will, which every pet owner and parent is all too familiar with, is what divides living from the nonliving.
Marshall seeks to unravel life's mystery with a $5-million Evolution 2.0 Prize. "If you trace life to its very beginnings, you'll find that information in DNA is the central mystery. It's the original set of choices. Nobody knows how we got from chemicals to code. But we intend to find out."
Marshall's private equity investment group, Natural Code LLC, suspects that the same physical principle that animates life today may have also given rise to the digital instructions in the very first cell.
"If we can solve this, Artificial Intelligence stands to make a giant forward leap. Because for the first time, we might be able to make computers that program themselves, much as living things do," says Marshall.
Evolution 2.0 Prize - Logo
Evolution 2.0 Prize, funded by Natural Code LLC
  • The Evolution 2.0 Prize takes its inspiration from Peter Diamandis and his Ansari X Prize for Space Flight. It was a $10-million challenge which resulted in a successful launch of a reusable manned space capsule into orbit, twice in two weeks.
"We all know that when you talk to Siri or Alexa, there's nobody 'in there.' Everyone knows Siri is just a hunk of silicon. But what if we had a living algorithm? What if your iPhone or computer could do what your dog does? That will transform everything," Marshall says. "It will spawn new billion-dollar industries."

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