Interview: Robots, AI could outsmart humans in a scary future world, says Bill Bryson

Source: Xinhua| 2018-02-27 22:04:27|Editor: Jiaxin
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by Gui Tao, Zhao Langqi, Larry Neild

LONDON, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The famous Anglo-American writer who has focused on writing about the human race has envisaged a world of robots and artificial intelligence in which people are virtually redundant.

Award winning Bill Bryson, famed for books such as Notes from a Small Island and A short History of Nearly Everything, spoke about his visions of the future in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua.


Could in just 30 years will earth become a planet where AI and robots make the human redundant and could there even be a robot author scripting a book called the little planet?

"I think there is probably a pretty good chance that we will," said Bryson, adding: "I don't mean to be pessimistic about these things but I think there is a real possibility that we could create something that would be much smarter and more capable than we are."

It's certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility, added Bryson, to imagine a future when robots, artificial intelligence of some kind, could do things better than human beings.

"Where they can fly airplanes better, be better doctors, be better financial analysts and able to do all kinds of things better," Bryson predicted. "And there's no reason why they couldn't write better books than the rest of us. So it's a kind of scary prospect that we might make ourselves all redundant."

Bryson's book A short History of Nearly Everything is widely acclaimed for its accessible communication of science.

Responding to the question that could Bryson be replaced by a story-writing robot, the author said: "I just think there isn't anything that my brain does, that it does so well, that an artificial intelligence couldn't duplicate. So could I be replaced? Yes. I mean I don't look forward to the day. I'm not urging this to happen, but I think there's a real possibility where virtually all of us could be replaced by a robot that could do the jobs that we do."

Bryson, however, said he does think certainly that artificial intelligence objects of one kind or another will become great tools for the human being.

"I mean they will be there to assist us, like a doctor, if you're examining somebody and you're trying to come up something, especially if it's like a rare disease, or it's a tricky one. Having an artificial intelligence that could help you make a diagnosis, I think would be a good thing," he said.


Meanwhile away from a world of future robots, Bryson's new big project is a book on the human body.

"I'm trying to understand how the body is put together," he said. I'm very aware of the fact that I've been living in this body for 66 years and it's looked after me, I haven't particularly looked after it.

Bryson explained: "It's kept me going, and I have no idea really what goes on inside me. I don't know where my spleen is, or my pancreas is, and if I found them I wouldn't be able to tell you anything about them. So the whole idea of the book is me trying to understand how the human body is put together."

"It won't be a medical textbook, but a work that will wow readers into realizing the human body is an amazing thing," he said.

Having authored a spate of books on travel, the English language, science, and other non-fiction topics, the U.S.-born writer has been a resident of Britain for most of his adult life.


Regarding Brexit, Bryson believes Britain made the wrong decision when it voted to leave the European Union, and as a supporter of the Campaign for Rural England, he wants Britain's housing needs to see developments on brownfield sites, rather than the rich and green pastures of the country.

Enough to whet Bryson's attitude to turn his magical pen to his take on China's cities? "Well I don't know," he responded in an honest manner, "It's always tricky to write a book about a culture you don't understand, or people you don't know." But the author said he is more than happy to visit the country again in the near future.