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Marshall Brain on Singularity 1on1: We’re approaching humanity’s make or break period

Marshall Brain YouTube

Marshal Brain‘s 2003 book Manna was quite ahead of its time in foreseeing that eventually, one way or another, we will have to confront and address the phenomenon of technological unemployment. In addition, Marshall is a passionate brainiac with a jovial personality, impressive background and a unique perspective. And so I was very happy to meet him in person for an exclusive Singularity 1on1 interview. [Special thanks to David Wood without whose introduction this interview may not have happened!]

During our 82 min conversation with Marshall Brain we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: his books The Second Intelligent Species and Manna; AI as the end game for humanity; using cockroaches as a metaphor; logic and ethics; simulating the human brain; the importance of language and visual processing for the creating of AI; marrying off Siri to Watson; technological unemployment, social welfare and perpetual vacation; capitalism, socialism and the need for systemic change

(You can listen to/download the audio file above or watch the video interview in full. If you want to help me produce more high-quality episodes like this one please make a donation!)

Who is Marshall Brain?

Marshall Brain profileMarshall Brain is best known as the founder of How Stuff Works which he started as a hobby in 1998. HowStuffWorks.com grew to be one of the top Web sites in the country and eventually in 2007 Discovery Communications purchased it for $250 million. Marshall is also well known as the host of the show Factory Floor which appeared on the National Geographic channel.

He is also known for the Robotic Nation essays and the book Manna. Marshall Brain is a member of the Academy of Outstanding Teachers at North Carolina State University and has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, the Dr. Oz show, CNN, MSNBC, Modern Marvels, etc. He has been interviewed for hundreds of different newspaper articles, magazine articles and radio shows.

Today Marshall Brain is a writer, a well-known national speaker and a consultant. He teaches in the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program at NCSU, and is interested in Basic Income and the concentration of wealth. Brain also serves as the CEO of BA3 and is working on EcoPRT (a envisioned automated transportation system for NCSU) together with Dr. Seth Hollar. Marshall Brain lives in Cary, N.C. with his wife Leigh and their four children.

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  • CM Stewart

    “I sure hope the coming AI won’t crush us under its heel, abuse us for research and resources, or grind us into pulp because we aren’t needed,” the man said before crushing ants in his kitchen, frying bacon from a factory-farmed pig, and going to work as a male chick culler.

    I would happily live on a preservation for humans instead of having the fate of the ants, pigs, chickens, etc, we abuse and destroy.

  • xvl260

    We should strive to enhance ourselves to AI level or merge with AI rather than being their pet.

  • CM Stewart

    Of course, given the choice is actually ours to make.

  • jasno

    How can we be sure this singularity has not already happened like 100,000 (or maybe way more) years ago? Maybe the Earth was “reset” to a pristine state and a few thousand of us left to “see what happens”. This is rather a Sci-Fi idea, of course, but what if all this UFO nonsense is really about these aliens being “us” from a distant past? Sort of a research team left behind as the intelligence moved on.

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  • TimtheBrit

    Love this guy

  • Me too 😉

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  • Dan Faggella

    Minute 16-or-so is an important consideration: What will the future of “ethics” imply? I, frankly, do not think that morality will be “figured out” or simplified, but that no solid ground will be found. Though I think it’s a friendly thought to consider some grand moral principles of friendliness coming about – I believe that ethical considerations are only going to being more complicated. Considerations like “liberty” and “equality” will either become more complicated and nuanced than we can conceive, or they will become as trivial as the “ethical considerations” of insects. Which, I do not know. Interesting interview, @singularityweblog:disqus

  • CM Stewart


  • CM Stewart

    Nikola, after reading “The Second Intelligent Species” and “Manna,” I can see how you might view a completely automated society and a computer-facilitated experience of life as a type of imprisonment, but I would counter that we are already headed towards an inevitable complete immersion in computerized technology. In “Manna,” future Australia sounds like paradise compared to future USA. Change is inevitable, and adaptation is necessary. I would gladly become part of the Australia Project.

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  • Nemo Aristos

    absolutely fascinating talk thanks Socrates for this gem

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