The European:I am still skeptical whether a computer can be more than an extension to the human mind. It is hard to see how computers could emerge as creative and imaginative entities in the near future.
George Dyson:We have to wait and see. But I am not sure whether computers are just tools. When you look at your iPhone to get directions, are you asking the phone where to go or is the phone telling you where to go? You cannot draw a strict line between active and passive information exchange. If some alien form of life came to earth, they might be convinced that there is a bodiless form of intelligence that is telling its constituent parts to turn left or right. So there is a symbiosis that works both ways.
The European:We used to have only human intelligence, and now that has been supplemented by computational intelligence. So we would expect the potential for innovation to become supplemented as well.
George Dyson:Yes and no. The danger is not that machines are advancing. The danger is that we are losing our intelligence if we rely on computers instead of our own minds. On a fundamental level, we have to ask ourselves: Do we need human intelligence? And what happens if we fail to exercise it?
The European:The question becomes: What progress is good progress?
George Dyson:Right. How do we maintain our diversity? It would be a great shame to lose something like human intelligence that was developed at such costs over such a long period of time. I spent a lot of my life living in the wilderness and building kayaks. I believe that we need to protect our self-reliant individual intelligence—what you would need to survive in a hostile environment. Few of us are still living self-reliant lives. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but we should be cautious not to surrender into dependency on other forms of intelligence. I am a historian of science, I believe in preserving the past.