Margaret tells me that she will be away this summer – making her annual trip to a remote Pacific island – out of touch from phones and email.
Now over 80 years old and a Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the Department of Informatics at The University of Sussex, Margaret Boden isn’t how you’d picture an expert on artificial intelligence. The walls of her living room are covered in collections of computer generated art from the 1960s, alongside Balinese puppets and a collection of glass from early history.
Studying medical sciences and later philosophy and psychology, she worked to develop the world’s first academic programme in cognitive science in the 1960s. Though she talks lucidly about technology, her interest and authority on AI comes from understanding the impact and relationship of AI to people.
In science fiction, robots reflect our deepest desires, needs and fears – they are our slaves, entertainment and our personal assistants – caring for the elderly, serving as companions for the lonely but at the same time threatening to outsmart, outperform and overthrow us.
According to Margaret, far away from the realms of science-fiction, AI is already transforming what it means to be human. Behind every internet search, bank transaction or online movie recommendation, AI is influencing the very fabric of the societies we live in.
Acknowledging AI’s conflicting and complex influence on people, she sees major developments on the horizon: from disrupting work and the jobs we do, to tackling currently incurable diseases and enabling “the generation of previously impossible ideas.”
Watch Margaret’s interview to hear her hopes for the future.