YouTube talk on Deodands
Recorded at the IoT Meetup in Waterloo, Ontario
I was recently invited out to the University of Waterloo to talk about an idea I've been working on for almost twenty years now. This is the idea I've variously called actants or, more recently, deodands. Deodands are an alternative vision of artificial intelligence, and of what AI can do for and with humanity. I started talking about these ideas in my first novel, Ventus, and have carried through with various short stories over the years, including "Deodand" and "The Desire Lines."
A deodand is an artificial intelligence that thinks it is some specific natural system--and by natural system, I mean what you think I mean: rivers, lakes, watersheds, forests, flocks of geese, packs of wolves. The conceit is that these AIs are "rational actors" in the classic (though now discounted) economic sense: they try to maximize their own advantage. What this means is that these AIs try to protect and advance the interests of the systems that they think they are.
You can watch the video here. I'm a little embarrassed by my middle-aged pot-belly, and you'll find I use a lot of "ums" and "uhs," in the first few minutes of the talk. I my defense it was 9:30 at night, and I'd driven two hours in pounding rain to get there after working a full day. Still, it was lots of fun, and you can see the energy in the room was high even at that late hour. Thanks to Ian Pilon, the meetup organizers and the University of Waterloo for inviting me out. I had a great time!