Today I was giving a talk on space exploration to the eighth grade class at my daughters school. Their theme for this period is ‘Identity,’ so we did some discovery questions about the identities of planets and stars. Then, because so much space exploration is about looking for life, I asked them about the identity of life. We got it down to the usual answers like eating and pooping and reproducing. Then I said, “I see no one suggested ‘intelligence.’ Can we have life without intelligence?” It was decided that we could.

Then I asked, “Can we have intelligence without life?” There was immediate agreement and vigorous nodding.  I did a double take, and one of them helpfully explained: “AI.”  I recovered and remarked that that was not an answer I would have gotten twenty years ago.

Tomorrow’s adults have a good idea what’s coming.

Posted by Peter Scott

Peter Scott’s résumé reads like a Monty Python punchline: half business coach, half information technology specialist, half teacher, three-quarters daddy. After receiving a master’s degree in Computer Science from Cambridge University, he has worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an employee and contractor for over thirty years, helping advance our exploration of the Solar System. Over the years, he branched out into writing technical books and training. Yet at the same time, he developed a parallel career in “soft” fields of human development, getting certifications in NeuroLinguistic Programming from founder John Grinder and in coaching from the International Coaching Federation. In 2007 he co-created a convention honoring the centennial of the birth of author Robert Heinlein, attended by over 700 science fiction fans and aerospace experts, a unique fusion of the visionary with the concrete. Bridging these disparate worlds positions him to envisage a delicate solution to the existential crises facing humanity. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two daughters, writing the Human Cusp blog on dealing with exponential change.

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