Machines replacing humans in the workplace, four-legged animaloids, plantoids with intelligent roots, robot insects, “blade runner” humanoids, sophisticated algorithms, and artificial intelligence applied to big data controlling hundreds of robots: are these examples of the “other” species? How did it arise? Are its members capable of feeling emotions? Should we be afraid of it? What ethical problems will its existence raise? The author sheds light on goals, hopes, and failures relating to the most extraordinary cognitive challenge we have yet to address: how to understand billions of years of evolution and how to imitate it.
Roberto Cingolani, a physicist, is the scientific director of the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa. He is a former staff member of the Max-Planck-Institut in Stuttgart.