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Past Event

'The age of Em: work, love, and life when robots rule the earth' with Prof Robin Hanson

This seminar is organised by the Future of Humanity Institute, an Oxford Martin School Institute

The three biggest disruptions in history were the introduction of humans, farming, and industry. A similarly disruption could arise from artificial intelligence in the form of whole brain emulations, or “ems,” sometime in the next century.

Drawing on academic consensus in many disciplines, Professor Robin Hanson, Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University, will outline a baseline scenario set modestly far into a post-em-transition world. He will consider computer architecture, energy, cooling, mind speeds, body sizes, security strategies, virtual reality, labour markets, management, job training, careers, wages, identity, retirement, life cycles, reproduction, mating, conversation, inequality, cities, growth rates, coalition politics, governance, law, and war.

About the speaker

Robin Hanson is Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute.. He has a doctorate in social science from California Institute of Technology, master's degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of Chicago, and nine years experience as a research programmer, at Lockheed and NASA. He has 3150 citations, 60 publications, 500 media mentions, and he blogs at OvercomingBias.

About the book

Book CoverMany think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or ems. Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognisably human.

Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: an army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. In this new economic era, the world economy may double in size every few weeks.

Some say we can't know the future, especially following such a disruptive new technology, but Professor Robin Hanson sets out to prove them wrong. Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, he uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems.

While human lives don't change greatly in the em era, em lives are as different from ours as our lives are from those of our farmer and forager ancestors. Ems make us question common assumptions of moral progress, because they reject many of the values we hold dear.

Read about em mind speeds, body sizes, job training and career paths, energy use and cooling infrastructure, virtual reality, aging and retirement, death and immortality, security, wealth inequality, religion, teleportation, identity, cities, politics, law, war, status, friendship and love.

This book shows you just how strange your descendants may be, though ems are no stranger than we would appear to our ancestors. To most ems, it seems good to be an em.

Event Details

19 October 2016 17:00 - 18:30

More Information


Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School

34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets)