IAS-director and Leon Levy professor Robbert Dijkgraaf interviews networks expert Jennifer Chayes on how the world of technology will shape our future (19-01-2017)

An influential computer scientist reflecting on how networks and the world of technology will impact our future lives.

More videos with Jennifer Chayes



No video? Please use the latest version of Safari, Chrome or Firefox. Internet Explorer might cause problems.
Where are we? (00:00:00)
How did you end up here? (00:00:30)
You have been in academia, now you're in the industry. How does the world look like from that point of view? (00:01:55)
How do you feel about being so close to a technology driven force? (00:03:08)
Is technology impacting your life right now? (00:05:39)
Now knowledge is easily spread, does it change how our brain works? (00:07:22)
To which extent are we able to reach everyone and spread knowledge across the globe? (00:09:07)
Do you see it as a definition of good or otherwise? (00:10:32)
Technology is our only resource to deal with these kind of adverse effects?  (00:12:20)
Do you worry that technology becomes integrated in our lives without being very much aware of it? (00:14:46)
How are we dealing with the paradox between the good and bad in technology? (00:16:03)
You are also in competition? (00:18:22)
How will our lives be impacted by technology? (00:23:00)
Are you worried that decisions in future might be made by machines? (00:26:26)
You see the evolution of technology as an elongation of earth's and human evolution? (00:28:45)
Are humans smart enough to deal with technology in a responsible way?  (00:31:08)
What is phase transition?  (00:32:15)
The connectivity would be one of the role? (00:35:07)
If you think of technology as a force, is it unstopable?  (00:37:51)
The idea is to create a global mind, do you see that happening?  (00:39:27)
What diversity in culture means, when everybody gets connected?  (00:41:00)
Diversity only has benefits for research and development? (00:45:10)
You seem to be very adventurous?  (00:46:27)
Why you are attracted to things you don't know? (00:47:31)
Do you imagine the future?  (00:49:32)
How will life be in this new renaissance era? (00:50:57)
Will you consider yourself as a serious person or do you play with science? (00:52:08)
Do you encourage others to play and wander? (00:53:53)
Are you surprised by how you have been? (00:54:46)
Are you feeling part of something that's bigger that yourself?  (00:56:18)
Do you feel that you are passing your knowledge to the future? (00:58:06)
Talking about Virtual Reality, will we detach from each other? (00:59:49)
Is there a risk that we will detach from each other? (01:02:21)
Sheer computing power is available, what do you see happening? (01:03:37)
Talking about sheer computational power, what will be the magnitude of the changes? (01:05:15)
What will technological revolutions do to the poor half of the world? (01:08:10)
Do you feel we have the right incentives to do right things for human development?  (01:10:57)
Do you feel that we are in control of our destiny by doing the right things? (01:13:23)
What did you study? (01:14:04)
What do you dream of? (01:16:37)
You think that everybody will be in contact with each other? (01:18:54)
You feel that we first have to connect with ourselves? (01:21:15)
Do you see that we will be spreading across the universe? (01:22:20)
automatically generated captions
00:00:01 So Jennifer thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to have a wide ranging conversation so just perhaps to
00:00:08 begin with something very simple Where are we.
00:00:12 We are in the Microsoft New England research
00:00:17 and development center which is in Cambridge Massachusetts we're right next to MIT and down the road from Harvard
00:00:25 and how did you end up here. I took a strange path here just how did you end up here. Well I took a very strange path here.
00:00:38 I actually started out as an undergraduate in biology I wanted to be a doctor.
00:00:46 And then I fell in love with physics I had to take some physics to become a biologist
00:00:51 and a doctor to get into medical school and I fell in love with physics so then I did a physics major
00:00:59 and then I decided that I really didn't want to be a doctor I wanted to be a physicist so I went to physics grad school
00:01:05 and did mathematical physics and I was you know practicing mathematical physicists for I don't know fifteen years
00:01:13 or so when at the Institute for Advanced Study Nathan Myhrvold who founded Microsoft Research and.
00:01:22 Tried to convince me to go there and start a theory group there which would bring together math physics
00:01:30 and theoretical computer science and I knew nothing about theoretical computer science
00:01:35 but I went because there was an opportunity to start an interdisciplinary lab
00:01:42 and that was irresistible to me so you know here I am twenty years later having opened this lab about ten years ago
00:01:52 and that's that's how I got here and what was your experience kind of being on the other side. You have been in academia and now you're
00:02:00 You're in industry.
00:02:03 How does the world look like from that point of view well I it first of all we have a very academic industrial lab you
00:02:11 know I've had probably one hundred fifty or two hundred post docs over the years
00:02:16 and I would say that ninety to ninety five percent of them have landed up as professors so that tells you that we are
00:02:25 we are an academic enterprise
00:02:28 but one of the things that I find really exciting is that I hear about problems in a very early stage
00:02:36 when you know it's even it's difficult to formulate them mathematically and I love translating
00:02:45 and connecting the pieces so I will hear about a problem in the context of technology
00:02:52 and I will see that there are some way to view it through the lens of mathematics or the lens of physics
00:02:59 and then you know then bring in the academic community to start looking at the problem so for me this is very exciting
00:03:08 so I must also be exciting to be kind of so close to.
00:03:13 Kind of a force that shapes kind of technology
00:03:16 and actually a world you know it's if you look at it from your own personal perspective you know that that's
00:03:24 perhaps one of the big stories of our lives that we went through these enormous transition in technology particularly
00:03:31 information technology how do you relate to that yourself well I love being so close to it
00:03:38 and I think it's actually just begun I think that machine learning in artificial intelligence are going to transform
00:03:47 our individual lives.
00:03:49 Because we will start to interact right now we have our phones we have Siri and Cortana
00:03:57 and the you know different personal assistants.
00:04:00 But I think it's going to become so much deeper than that we will have beings that really understand us that relate
00:04:10 to us
00:04:11 and we will have companions for older people which is going to become a big problem in in the world we will have companions
00:04:21 for our children and then machine learning will also transform health care it will transform.
00:04:30 environmental science which is incredibly important
00:04:34 and it will also I I believe transform the more basic sciences
00:04:38 you know I believe that cosmology for example will get transformed by machine learning because of the data that
00:04:46 we're bringing in
00:04:48 and you know even how we collect this data radio astronomers work very hard to collect data far status so that they
00:05:00 don't have to orientate transform it I was just sitting in a board meeting
00:05:05 and I asked Well has anyone tried to use some of the new machine learning techniques so that we could actually measure
00:05:15 and for you transform
00:05:16 and see if we can get enough signal from that so I think you know in all aspects of this as we develop machine learning
00:05:27 we're going to be able to.
00:05:31 Really push ahead in the basic sciences the Applied Sciences
00:05:36 and the way in which we interact with the world this is already impacting your life right now if you just look at your
00:05:43 own personal life perhaps. Do you feel that you. technology is changing that Oh absolutely I mean technology is.
00:05:55 You know we we all have our phones we get very attached to our phones in fact you see withdrawal
00:06:00 if people My husband just lost his phone last week and he was that's what he was desperate he was desperate.
00:06:10 You know your phone connects you in so many different ways it also connects me socially I am actually a user of
00:06:18 Facebook
00:06:18 and Twitter it took me a long time to adjust because I was not born into them like some younger people were for me it's
00:06:27 not my native tongue it's an acquired language for the kids who are growing up today it's their native tongue
00:06:34 but I have connected with so many people people from my past scientists so I hear about different kinds of science you
00:06:45 know from scientists who are on Facebook and you know
00:06:49 and talking about new discoveries so it's it's just it it connects us all in.
00:06:58 In a really exciting way
00:06:59 and for me especially because I love interdisciplinary work it allows me to tap into these different kinds of science
00:07:09 to think about how they might be ripe for the kinds of approaches so so for me it's really I could not imagine living
00:07:20 without information technology if you think about particularly this kind of knowledge element you know the fact that you know knowledge is
00:07:26 now so easy. You can easily connect to it. It's so easy to collaborate it's easy for knowledge to spread.
00:07:37 You think that changes just the way. You know our research and perhaps even you know our collective kind of brain works.
00:07:48 I personally do think it changes everything I mean I am someone who in my career I've you know started out in math
00:07:56 and physics and I ventured into computer science.
00:08:00 And then ventured into economics and some social sciences
00:08:05 and ventured into computational biology there's no way that I could have done this without.
00:08:13 You know the world of knowledge the universe of knowledge at my fingertips to learn about different things to connect
00:08:20 with different people and also you know I sometimes get my best ideas when I.
00:08:29 Am hearing about different disciplines
00:08:32 and I get an intuition that I might be able to connect them to the lenses through through which I see the world you
00:08:40 know through mathematics and physics and phase transitions in in particular
00:08:47 and so for me this knowledge we are we're really accelerating with information technology.
00:08:58 The building of this fabric of knowledge
00:09:02 and we're breaking down the silos which existed. if you push that at little bit further there are clearly
00:09:11 Silos within academia and research that are being broken but if you think a little bit broader in terms of the world so to which extent are we
00:09:19 able to kind of reach everyone.
00:09:23 And that connectivity is that something that's helping so to say also to spread knowledge truly across the globe Well I
00:09:32 think one of the really exciting things is that.
00:09:36 You know with online courses
00:09:40 and with you know articles available on the archives and this kind of thing you know you can be a scientist anywhere.
00:09:52 Even in the developing world where you don't have very much but you have enough connectivity for a cell phone
00:10:00 and you.
00:10:00 Can tap into this so I think it it has allowed us as scientists to help spur the scientific endeavor in the developing
00:10:11 world you know I don't know how we would have done it otherwise you you can't build up libraries in subsaharan africa
00:10:18 Now obviously if you're starving you're not going to be doing science
00:10:22 but if you were not starving you might still have been isolated from this kind of worldwide scientific endeavor
00:10:30 and now you're not. so it's just such a powerful force in there you're very close to the center these big drivers do you see
00:10:39 it almost by definition as a force for good or are there also aspects that you worry about so. I.
00:10:48 See a lot of wonderful aspects of it I see that.
00:10:54 You know people are able to learn so much I see that you know we we also are able to spread technologies that help in
00:11:06 really important ways in terms of clean water
00:11:08 and things like that so as we train people in the various countries they they can do this but I also.
00:11:15 Think especially recently you know we've seen this spread of fake news.
00:11:21 And
00:11:22 and so I think this was a great shock I think everyone expected the Internet or the World Wide Web to be the great equalizer
00:11:33 and to spread information
00:11:36 and we realize that of course it can also spread misinformation so one of the areas that's being developed now I have
00:11:47 a group in one of my two labs that calls itself the fate group: fairness accountability transparency.
00:11:56 And ethics and it brings together people from.
00:12:01 Ethics philosophy law with machine learning
00:12:05 and information retrieval to look at whether there are ways in which we can use these technologies to guard against you
00:12:17 know the dark side of the Web
00:12:20 but if you think about other technologies in fact industrial development by itself of course costs lots of issues that
00:12:28 often then technology is again is basically our only resource to.
00:12:35 Deal with these kind of adverse effects so you think for information technology it will be something similar in the end
00:12:41 It's the next. Iteration of technology that will help to. I think that.
00:12:48 A lot of people in machine learning and AI are now devoting efforts to trying to stop this spread of misinformation.
00:13:02 And also of bias you know we have the the problem with machine learning is
00:13:09 and artificial intelligence is that you have the algorithm but you also have the data Yes
00:13:15 and the algorithm takes in the data and out put something and the data is created by human beings
00:13:23 and so if the human beings have bias then the outcome has bias if you are looking for an engineer the Web is more
00:13:34 likely to return a male name than a female name
00:13:38 and this is because it has learned from all the interactions so I have some people in one of my labs who said how can
00:13:48 we use technology to solve this problem to rebalance to rebalance so there are there's something
00:13:57 called word vectors which are used to generalize and.
00:14:00 broaden searches by all search engines
00:14:03 and those word vectors have implicit biases in them they associate things in a gender biased way in a racially biased
00:14:13 way in an economically biased way and so some of my researchers took this the gender bias and they de-biased
00:14:24 the word vectors so that you could feed that into the search engine
00:14:29 and get outputs which were not gender biased anymore you know
00:14:34 and so this is using machine learning using algorithms using mathematics to.
00:14:42 To deal with some of the problems that are caused by the technology. do you worry sometimes that that knowledge becomes
00:14:50 kind of integrated in our lives that we aren't even aware of it's what is doing for us
00:14:56 or not doing for instance you just said that young children they don't know the world without the internet.
00:15:04 But I'm not worried about it I'm I believe that.
00:15:10 They pick it up just like any other language it's almost as if
00:15:14 when language didn't exist in that well language started to exist slowly
00:15:18 but if you know if I have one set of children who are raised with one language
00:15:24 and another set who were raised with three languages.
00:15:28 In fact they might start talking a little later but they are going to see the world in in a deeper way
00:15:36 and I believe that children and even we who learn this not as our native tongue.
00:15:44 Use it to connect things
00:15:47 and to do things that were not possible in the past I think it's actually part of our evolution that we now
00:15:57 Are beginning to adjust to the ways in which.
00:16:01 Technology can enhance our lives. So you talked about how knowledge and information spreads much more easily.
00:16:08 On the other hand knowledge always was power
00:16:12 and in some sense Microsoft you can say this is certainly one of the centers of power so can you say something about
00:16:20 how how do we deal with this paradox that on the one hand information is spreading
00:16:25 but on the other hand some of the most powerful companies.
00:16:30 Use that kind of knowledge. so I think that this is a real problem that.
00:16:37 That these networks
00:16:40 and I think study networks I study them mathematically I study their applications in social networks and biology in.
00:16:49 Economics. Networks actually centralize power.
00:16:57 For the network providers networks are incredibly powerful people go on them and interact
00:17:05 and the network providers have incredible power Jaron Lanier is a wonderful wonderful author and technologist
00:17:13 and he wrote a book I believe it was. Who owns the future.
00:17:21 And it was precisely this question these networks while generating so much value for the world then take that value
00:17:32 and centralize it among a few individuals or a few companies and so he had a view that some would call a utopian view.
00:17:44 Attempting to redistribute that value to the people who participated in the network and created the value
00:17:53 and I'm not sure that he has come up with the right way to do that yet but I think it's something that society
00:18:00 needs to consider social good has been created but then its value has been centralized
00:18:08 and how do we bring it back what economic systems
00:18:12 and social systems can we engineer to take some of the value back to those who helped create it by participating in the
00:18:22 network. what I find fascinating though which of course you never really have an academic setting
00:18:26 but if you talk to R&D being done at these large companies
00:18:31 some of it is secret it's knowledge that is very held very closely.
00:18:37 And you're also in competition with others so how does that feel well I think first of all How much is there that we don't know
00:18:45 there is proprietary information kind of business information most of the people in my labs publish everything
00:18:55 openly so
00:18:57 and I think that's a requirement we have brought in a lot of people from academia who's for whom being able to share
00:19:06 knowledge is incredibly important that's how science is is done now so there is some proprietary business information
00:19:16 and that of course does feed this centralization of value there is also personally identifiable information. P.-I I.
00:19:28 Which includes both things like your search history which can reveal so much about you it's unbelievable
00:19:35 and also for example your health information there is nothing more personally identifiable than your genome you know
00:19:43 and your clinical health records are incredibly personal So there's a big question about how do we extract value for
00:19:53 individuals and for society from this data without compromising people's privacy.
00:20:01 And people's integrity
00:20:02 and I think this is one of the great challenges of the age of big data you know there are again some technological
00:20:13 mathematical solutions there's homomorphic encryption which is.
00:20:19 A mathematical construct which allows you to extract information from the data
00:20:27 but return something which doesn't reveal that information however it slows the typical calculation down by about ten
00:20:37 to the thirteenth OK That's not what you want to do. but.
00:20:44 There are certain kinds of calculations which it only slows down by ten to the sixth which might still sound like a lot
00:20:52 to you but what if I said oh you know you've done twenty three and Me
00:20:57 or some other service which you know looks at parts of your genome
00:21:03 and tells you your odds of developing diabetes or Alzheimers.
00:21:08 You probably don't want that information to be public
00:21:12 but you might want that information used in some ways if I slow down those calculations by tend to the sixth I can do ten
00:21:22 thousand of them in one minute would you be willing to wait a minute to know this information about yourself in a
00:21:30 completely private way
00:21:32 and you probably would so that is a price you want to pay that's a price you want to pay so so the question is What are the
00:21:39 what's the price we're willing to pay in time in calculation for privacy and I think that is something that
00:21:50 and then there's other forms of this there's.
00:21:54 Secure multiparty computation and other things so we're going to have to as a society or as.
00:22:00 Different societies with different ethical norms
00:22:05 and different social norms decide what are the tradeoffs we're willing to make we you know I don't think we can run
00:22:12 away
00:22:13 and say we don't want any of this technology because I think we're harming ourselves more than the technology should
00:22:20 harm us or could harm us so you know how do different societies strike that balance
00:22:27 and this is a conversation that I believe society should be having and then eventually.
00:22:34 You know there are legislatures can legislate about it
00:22:38 but we have to talk it out on a philosophical first on a technological level what is it possible to do
00:22:45 and then on a philosophical and ethical level and the best thing would be to have the philosophical
00:22:52 and ethical conversations combined with the scientific conversations about what's possible.
00:23:00 You mentioned already few times.
00:23:03 this kind of end of artificial intelligence machine learning machines getting smarter and smarter.
00:23:11 Just take that thought and push it a little bit further so what are we how will our lives be impacted by that say first think about
00:23:20 the next five years
00:23:22 but then also take a longer view. so I I think there are certain you know certain things that are going to be really
00:23:31 really improved by this technology I recall you know talking to my husband
00:23:36 and saying oh I might want to you know get a house here or there
00:23:40 and he says I Well we have to be careful because you know if you want to have this house for thirty years you know
00:23:46 maybe you'll be too old to you know do you want to drive to the you know to the store to get your eggs to
00:23:54 and I said Oh you don't have to worry about that we won't we won't be driving ourselves in ten years.
00:24:01 None of us will drive ourselves our cars will drive us so we don't have to worry about that so there are you know
00:24:08 things on a shorter time scale also just I really think a lot about elder care my parents are getting older.
00:24:17 I think there will be robots that can actually help us help our parents which will impact me because I care deeply
00:24:28 about them and I want them to have a life in which they're more independent which this technology will allow us to do.
00:24:38 I think in the long run I the things that I get really excited about in you know out ten to twenty years is the effect
00:24:49 on personalized medicine it's going to be unbelievable I mean we we have so many layers of information to bring
00:24:58 together we have the genome but we also have.
00:25:04 You know devices that sit on our wrists that very soon these devices will be good enough to measure your blood sugar
00:25:13 just through your skin from whether you're you know hemoglobin is oxygenated or
00:25:20 or not they'll be able to tell how much glucose you you have.
00:25:27 You know they can tell your gait
00:25:28 and whether as a person ages whether there's something wrong with the way in which they're walking
00:25:34 and then you start to combine that with clinical information with diagnostic tests of various sorts you know each of us
00:25:43 has.
00:25:44 Thousands of codes of diagnostic codes associated with us over our lives if we could put that information together with
00:25:55 continuously collected information and genomic information then.
00:26:01 Information that a doctor records in his
00:26:04 or her notes which will be able to access via natural language processing we will be able to increase the quality of
00:26:13 life tremendously we will be able to prolong it
00:26:16 but for me I think the most important thing is increasing the quality of life so that really excites me on an
00:26:25 intermediate time scale. Are you worried that in the end the kind of decisions
00:26:29 and sense of the place where all this information will come together will not be the human mind right it will be in
00:26:37 it might be in a machine
00:26:38 or it might be some combination so I am not someone who is worried about the singularity which is who's worried
00:26:47 about the machines taking over I know a lot of very good technologists are worried about this so it's not I mean it's
00:26:56 not.
00:26:58 Something that can just be dismissed but I but are you not worried about in the sense it's fine with you
00:27:03 or are you not worried in the sense you don't see it happening I see that there will be.
00:27:12 An integration of human knowledge in the human mind with these what I view is enhancements of the human mind I I am
00:27:25 not particularly worried that these will turn on us and.
00:27:33 And you know
00:27:34 and take over because I think that they are really extensions of us you know you might have worried I don't know in the
00:27:43 in the time of the first printing presses that if the masses get this knowledge from books well first it was just the
00:27:50 wealthy people who got the knowledge and then over time the masses that there would be a restructuring of society
00:27:58 and indeed there was a restructuring of society.
00:28:00 but that was because there was so much more value that we could actually improve a lot of more of society
00:28:11 and I my hope is that as we.
00:28:16 Integrate humans with computers
00:28:20 and with technology as enhancements of ourselves that again there will be a lot of value you know we still have half
00:28:29 the population on this earth which.
00:28:33 does not live as well as the developed world
00:28:37 and so we could really use value creation in this world to improve the lot of those people if you take the long view
00:28:46 and you think of the billions of years of evolution of life you know even the hundreds of thousands of years of human
00:28:52 evolution and now we are in this phase where technology is some sense. Happening.
00:28:58 You see this as some kind of a continuation of what nature's doing but then
00:29:02 at a different level at a different speed I do see this as a continuation of what nature is is doing
00:29:11 and in fact you know if you look at all of.
00:29:16 All of human evolution so far you know we started out as hunters and gatherers
00:29:21 and then we began to farm and what did we do well we harnessed other you know.
00:29:29 Other organisms for our own good you know
00:29:32 and we we interfered with their genomes not by going in there on a cellular level
00:29:41 and interfering or on a molecular level but we bred certain plants for and animals and
00:29:50 and so I see this as a natural evolution I see it as a way in which we are harnessing other kinds.
00:30:01 Of power
00:30:01 and I honestly expect that there are probably others in this universe who have already done this So you say we are kind of domesticating
00:30:11 technology we're domesticating technology we're domesticating technology it's our creation
00:30:17 but it is also something that we domesticate you know we have we have created species honestly so and I think provided that.
00:30:31 Science as it develops and technology as it develops is. Is done in concert with ethics.
00:30:46 Then we will be fine OK So I think it's very very important that we have ethicists philosophers.
00:30:57 Legal scholars sociologists anthropologists participating in the creation of this science
00:31:07 and technology. is that a big if in the sense that you know we can kind of survive technology you know if you honestly
00:31:13 look at previous episodes not that long ago like nuclear arms etc there were some close calls very close calls so it's not
00:31:22 that it's not an obvious fact that humans are smart enough to control
00:31:28 and deal in a responsible way with technology I think it's definitely not an obvious fact
00:31:34 and I you know I don't know how much I would wager that we will be here ten thousand years from now we could destroy
00:31:43 ourselves with nuclear weapons I think we are laying the foundation to destroy ourselves with climate change so I am
00:31:53 hoping that we will wake up to some of this and we will be. Able to use technology to.
00:32:05 Help correct some of the things that we have already done
00:32:10 and help us to survive what we cannot correct. Jennifer we were talking about the kind of specific time in human evolution
00:32:20 that we are right now where kind of restarting this kind of symbiotic relationship with technology
00:32:26 and you're about to tell us this is something that reminds you of a phase transition What's a phase transition so a phase
00:32:34 transition is something that everybody experiences when water freezes going from liquid to solid
00:32:43 when water boils it's going from liquid to gas these are qualitative changes we have quantitative changes as you know
00:32:53 water goes from ninety seven to ninety eight to ninety nine degrees it hits one hundred degrees Celsius
00:33:02 and there's a qualitative change of state
00:33:06 and so phase transitions are those qualitative changes that occur at specific values of a parameter
00:33:16 and yet for me I mean I study phase transitions mathematically
00:33:21 but they're also one of the lenses through which I view the world sometimes that can be sometimes you know these lenses
00:33:29 can be made incredibly mathematically precise and other times they're only a metaphor and you know this case.
00:33:36 I see points in human behavior in in human evolution as phase transition points I see the shift from you know from
00:33:50 hunter gatherer to domestication as a qualitative shift in you know what homo sapiens.
00:34:00 Could do
00:34:01 and I do believe that we are very near another one of those cusps where we are going to be able to integrate the technology
00:34:15 and the knowledge with our own minds and with our own bodies and we're going to be able to.
00:34:24 Do things we were never able to do before
00:34:27 or that we were never able to do for the vast majority of people before and
00:34:34 and I think that you know if we're still around ten thousand years from now
00:34:39 and somebody looks at the different ages you know where we domesticated animals or the industrial revolution.
00:34:50 I think that this roughly around this time people will identify. Another.
00:34:58 Change another phase transition in which we interact with the world
00:35:05 and with each other in a different way. one of the pushing that metaphor a little bit one of the effects of phase transition
00:35:12 that certainly you get kind of connections correlations over very different kind of skills
00:35:18 and we were talking about this kind of connectivity is that would that be one of the kind of hallmarks of this kind of
00:35:24 new phase of human kind where it's no longer us as individuals but it's us together
00:35:32 and with machines do you see a role of that. I see.
00:35:36 A definite role I'm one of the so what I love about phase transitions is that local interactions create a global effect
00:35:46 yes local interactions between the water molecules lead to a change from liquid to gas as the water boils
00:35:56 and so I believe that we are and typically you see. The the. The onset or the disappearance of long range order.
00:36:09 You know when we learned to write things down.
00:36:14 We could do much more than before we were able to write things down right we couldn't have we could pass information to
00:36:22 other generations we could pass information to other generations we could have an economic system between us in which we didn't
00:36:31 just barter but you know I gave you grain today and you gave me some animal tomorrow because we could write it down
00:36:42 and our minds have the capacity to only deal with a certain number of people they say it's about one hundred fifty
00:36:50 or so deal with a certain amount of information some of us can remember more than others but there's a limit
00:36:58 and so writing things down qualitatively changed the size of the domains in which humans could interact
00:37:11 and I believe that we're at another transition now where we're going really to a global scale of interaction
00:37:21 and we've talked about global scales for years with planes
00:37:25 and economy and you know the stock market of one country connected to that of another
00:37:32 but I think this is the going to be the deep manifestation of it that our knowledge base is becoming universal is
00:37:42 becoming long range so we're seeing the onset of long range order in our knowledge. if you think about this as a force
00:37:54 is it kind of unstoppable is that somehow an autonomous development I think it is definitely unstoppable.
00:38:03 Actually there there are. There are.
00:38:09 Systems where there's kind of a driving force that then leads to a critical transition there's something in mathematics
00:38:18 that I
00:38:18 and physics that I worked on many years ago called self organized criticality So that was driving you towards a certain
00:38:24 kind of phase transition
00:38:26 but the driving force there was just you know the deposit of certain particles here there is a driving force I
00:38:36 believe in human beings to connect with each other
00:38:41 and that force is leading us towards this transition I don't think it's stoppable in any way.
00:38:50 You know no one you you know this no one is going to stop you from trying to learn more about particle physics
00:38:59 or for me trying to learn more and you know it just it's not going to happen
00:39:03 and on so many different levels on emotional levels on intellectual levels on levels of survival we are driven to
00:39:15 connect and I think
00:39:16 but these are local interactions Yes And I think that what's happening is that technology has facilitated.
00:39:24 The onset of long range order here so the title of the series is the mind of the universe.
00:39:33 And the idea is really that in some sense this connectivity is creating a mind that's going to
00:39:38 at least a global mind or something is I think you see that the kind of happening.
00:39:45 Our individual being becomes much more part of a global ensemble. I very much believe this is happening
00:39:53 and I find it so exciting Yes I believe that we are part of this global ensemble I see.
00:40:00 You know I start to work I come up with a you know theory of phase transitions for deep learning
00:40:06 and before I know it there are people in other parts of the world that I thought were disconnected I thought the their
00:40:14 research was on something different and they find they find the paper on the archives and they or they hear a talk
00:40:23 and all of a sudden we're connected we're connected we're connected
00:40:26 and it happens so much more rapidly over obviously you know world scale geographical distances
00:40:36 but also intellectual distances are shrinking you know we are we are able to connect across what previously were
00:40:46 intellectual divides so it's a world scale but also it's. Our.
00:40:54 Our knowledge is is becoming integrated at an incredible rate. Can you speak also I mean there's knowledge in terms of different
00:41:02 fields or subjects
00:41:04 but I guess there's also something like the culture from which you approach this cultures has been developed in various
00:41:10 countries now it could be gender based or various ways to look at the World.
00:41:17 Talk about what this kind of diversity means once we start connecting these various points of view because not
00:41:24 everybody has the same point of view.
00:41:27 I actually love the fact that not everybody has the same point of view in you know my career what I've done is I have
00:41:37 brought together different disciplines because I believe that the most exciting things happen at the boundaries of
00:41:46 disciplines you know you bring the insights and the lens
00:41:50 and the specific techniques of one discipline to bear on another and it it just.
00:42:01 It's accellerates the the understanding of of a different subject so so much I believe also we should have different
00:42:12 cultural backgrounds.
00:42:13 Now in fact in the different fields we really do have different cultural backgrounds a physicist views the
00:42:19 world very differently from an anthropologist
00:42:22 and I I see these these different views coming together over time
00:42:28 but you know I also have people from many different countries in my lab they have different social norms.
00:42:39 I love this because then we step back and we consider the differences in social norms in information technology.
00:42:49 There are so many questions around privacy the social norms in Germany
00:42:55 and the Netherlands are so different than in the U.S. You know we always in the U.S.
00:43:00 Err on the side of free speech and I hope we continue to do so.
00:43:06 And you know and in Germany they err on the side of privacy and so when we bring Germans
00:43:14 and Americans together we have to deal with these differences and we have to stand back
00:43:20 and try to understand how those norms formed why they formed and what are the benefits of each
00:43:29 and under what circumstances we retain which norms which is you know almost a kind of international law.
00:43:37 And then finally you know I I think gender balance is incredibly important.
00:43:44 In my labs we happen to have a lot of women some people say to me how do you get so many women
00:43:52 and I said well I guess we just scare the men away.
00:43:56 Or certain men we scare the ones who are uncomfortable with gender. You know with gender diversity away.
00:44:05 You know and I I think also women when they see a woman leader they say OK there's a there's a place for me here.
00:44:13 But I think that. These are sweeping generalizations but I think that women.
00:44:21 Sometimes tend to be more into collaboration sometimes tend to be more into taking their mathematics for example
00:44:29 or their computer science and applying it to the real world and veer
00:44:34 and as I say it's sweeping generalisations because there are many men who really care about the social implications of
00:44:40 their work but I think it just it just as you want to bring different cultures from different countries
00:44:49 and from different disciplines together I think you want to bring different genders together and different racial
00:44:56 and religious backgrounds together because it just causes you to step back
00:45:03 and see the world more broadly which is I think the way to really push science forward so you would argue this
00:45:12 really just benefits research
00:45:14 and development by itself to have this greater diversity absolutely I feel that way I think that.
00:45:21 Just you know if you're always with the people who come from the same background.
00:45:29 You know if you just have this is they ask the kinds of questions that physicists ask which are wonderful I mean I was
00:45:37 you know raised a physicist but I love the fact that I talk to a biologist and I and I begin it
00:45:46 and it takes years actually to appreciate people think you have to learn the techniques of a different field
00:45:54 but I think you really have to learn the values of the different field and what are the kinds of questions they.
00:46:00 Ask what are the things they care about in a different field before you can have a deep
00:46:07 and incredibly impactful collaborations
00:46:11 and in the same way having gender balance having you know nationally cultural balance allows you to broaden your view
00:46:22 and which ultimately allows you to go into something more deeply. if you just look at your own personal life story
00:46:29 and you know your professional development you seem to be very adventurous you know going into new cultures
00:46:37 or something you know how did that feel was it something you had from the very beginning.
00:46:42 You know it's it's really funny because I. How were you as a child. I thought I would be scared of things.
00:46:51 I actually am scared of things sometimes but there is this other I Somebody once told me I was counter phobic.
00:47:00 Anything that scares me I rushed towards so sometimes my initial reaction is a little bit of fear I don't understand
00:47:07 that at all you know and I think but then if I don't understand it it has power over me so I'm just going to rush in
00:47:16 and I'm going to try to understand it
00:47:19 and try to absorb it because then I can absorb that power that way of looking at the world so I land up
00:47:29 and I just got excited about it. why are you so attracted to things you don't know what's.
00:47:35 I think you see each time I also as I get older come with things that I do know now so.
00:47:46 Now when you're when you're first a graduate student you actually come with very little you know
00:47:52 and so it's really hard because you're coming to these very difficult questions and you have very few bows
00:48:01 You know you have very few ways I mean I've you you have your own mind and your own creativity and that's wonderful
00:48:08 but you have very little perspective and now as I move into different fields there's the initial fear
00:48:16 and there's the activation barrier of having to learn not only the techniques but also the values
00:48:23 and the questions of that field but then I bring my probability theory distribution perspective to it
00:48:32 or I bring my phase transition perspective so I bring all these different perspectives you have all these different arrows now
00:48:37 and I have all these different arrows
00:48:40 and all of a sudden I'm so much of a better graduate student than I was the first time around you know.
00:48:47 You know
00:48:47 and hopefully I still retain some of my creativity I think it also really allows me to retain creativity because I
00:48:55 think when you enter a new field.
00:48:59 You have to create something yourself to understand that field and
00:49:05 when you stay in a field sometimes you just hone the details of what you know which can lead to remarkable
00:49:14 breakthroughs
00:49:15 but this excitement of Oh now I understand something I didn't understand before this rush you get mixed with the fear
00:49:24 that you get as a graduate student.
00:49:28 I guess must be addictive to me because I keep doing it again
00:49:31 and again. do you kind of imagine the future do you imagine somehow what's out there in the areas that you don't
00:49:38 know. Do I imagine the future Well you know my one great sadness is that I won't be able to you know I won't be
00:49:46 here to see all of this unless I'm wrong in my religious views
00:49:51 where you solved these pesky problems in biology. Although God forbid then for
00:49:57 all the people who are on the earth. But I.
00:50:00 I do I magine the barriers in science in the different sciences being broken down much as the you know we've seen it in
00:50:13 economics we have one economic system throughout much of the world
00:50:19 and I I believe that we are going to move towards a time
00:50:25 when science is more unified So for me this is really really exciting that we can kind of re-enter a renaissance you
00:50:34 know the Renaissance had all the sciences together and then we specialized and we went apart
00:50:40 and now I believe this new knowledge base which we all share
00:50:47 and this new ability to communicate will bring us back you know to a post modern Renaissance where the sciences are
00:50:56 more united. How will life be in this
00:51:02 New Renaissance era? well I'm not sure how I mean I I hope that some of the inconveniences of life will be removed
00:51:10 you know having to drive myself somewhere when I'm tired
00:51:15 or having you know We're now stuck in between epochs where we have to sit on the phone
00:51:22 and press buttons press one press two you know hopefully that will be removed to all these pesky little things that
00:51:29 interfere on the other hand I hope that. You know we will not remove our ability to.
00:51:38 Walk by the Charles River and you know and see the boats and see the birds and
00:51:45 and feel connected to the universe in other ways I hope that we can retain the physicality which brings us great joy and
00:51:54 peace and which I think is necessary for creativity of all kinds and yet. We can remove some of the.
00:52:04 Less enjoyable aspects of physicality. What about. You said there's this incredible force that drives technology and.
00:52:16 Another element in that is just the joy of finding things out, there's this playfulness to it. yes
00:52:25 technology and science and research are serious business
00:52:29 but do you consider yourself a serious person? I always play with science I always play.
00:52:38 You know it's interesting when I was a member at the I.A.S. for the first time.
00:52:45 Enrico Bombieri asked me how it was going and I'd been there for about a month
00:52:50 and I said well I'm not having ideas
00:52:53 and he said Are you worried that your ideas aren't great enough because this happens to people
00:53:00 when they spend a year at the Institute for the first time
00:53:03 and I said Yeah maybe I am. Maybe I should just go back to playing with mathematics to just you know I don't know
00:53:12 where I'm going I'm just wondering around and I just started doing that again
00:53:17 I started playing I started saying it doesn't matter I don't have to have a great idea today you know I'm just
00:53:24 playing and it was actually during that year that I made the connection between statistical physics
00:53:34 and theoretical computer science I played I talked to people I found all these connections so I think wandering
00:53:43 and playing.
00:53:46 Are really necessary for scientists. They're serious business. they are serious business. Is that something you encourage in others
00:53:55 I very much encourage wandering in others.
00:54:00 I have many postdocs in my labs at a given time ten or fifteen of them
00:54:06 and I very much encourage them to talk across disciplines to step back that you know to play because that forms their
00:54:21 worldviews for later you know
00:54:24 and the more they play the broader their worldview so I very very much encourage this I sometimes tell people you're
00:54:34 writing too many papers you know you're not you you should relax this is a time to really figure out what kind of a
00:54:44 scientist you're going to be.
00:54:47 If you think back. we started our conversation with you as a young girl you know having certain dreams.
00:54:56 Looking back. Everything you have experienced, that you have seen happening in your own life and in society.
00:55:04 Are you surprised by that? I'm completely surprised you know I'm I'm very driven in a way I'm playful and driven
00:55:11 and so I'm always driven toward something I always have some I mean right now I really want to understand cancer
00:55:18 immunotherapy because I'm starting a project with Arnie Levine at the I.A.S.
00:55:23 I'm always driven and so I am rushing towards some goal but then I take a turn.
00:55:32 And I start going towards another goal you know
00:55:35 and so all these turns have you know have taken me on a path I never would have imagined
00:55:43 and I also try to encourage the young scientists I mentor
00:55:47 and I work with to just not to to always have great goals because I think it's important.
00:55:55 But to always be open to the opportunities you know to to.
00:56:01 Grab that brass ring that you know that might just appear because you never know where that is going to take you
00:56:10 and it's not as if you're not bringing all of it along with you you know you're bringing all that you've
00:56:17 done. Are you feeling a part of something which is much bigger than yourself in that.
00:56:22 Absolutely I'm very much feeling a part of this as I said to you earlier I believe that the world that barriers are
00:56:32 being broken down in science and I'd like it to extend even further I'd like it to extend to ethics
00:56:41 and you know law and these other areas and that's why I get very excited every day
00:56:48 when I see some other little barrier falling you know.
00:56:55 Robert Frost said you know something there is that doesn't love a wall and I do not like walls
00:57:01 I do not like walls and so I see them break down on small scales
00:57:07 and then all of a sudden there's a phase transition because there is not a wall
00:57:12 and so then a lot of people are passing between two disciplines at first only the ones who are willing to climb over
00:57:20 the part of the wall that remains do that
00:57:24 but then it gets it gets broken down enough that you see unifications of different parts of science
00:57:31 I know it's difficult on a day to day basis but are you an optimist? Oh I'm very much an optimist I mean yes on day to day
00:57:38 you know oh my God I'll never be able to prove this or. But.
00:57:45 You know
00:57:45 on medium to long range scales I'm very much an optimist which is also why I love mentoring young people because I'm
00:57:56 optimistic about their futures as well and I feel that's a way in which. You know.
00:58:02 I can have a piece of this science that goes on. Because if you think about it
00:58:07 one of the great things is you said
00:58:09 when people start writing things down they were passing things to the next generation and then you know the knowledge that we
00:58:16 are enjoying right now is from many many generations before us
00:58:19 and do you feel you are also passing this along to the future? I feel I'm very much passing it along I mean my the grad
00:58:27 students with whom I work
00:58:28 and the post-docs are you know perhaps what I am proudest of I mean I'm proud of particular pieces of my own work but.
00:58:36 You know I probably have over a hundred well over a hundred of my ex students
00:58:44 and postdocs sitting at top universities around the world and
00:58:51 and I see an element of what they do they're approaching things in a slightly different way because of the
00:59:00 environment I helped to create for them
00:59:03 and the world view I helped to give them a little piece of so I mean that's you know.
00:59:09 That's definitely my greatest legacy. You talked about how we're forming this kind of great network.
00:59:16 This kind of global intelligence.
00:59:19 That's in space but do you also see this kind of extending in time? absolutely extending in time
00:59:26 and you know I won't be you know leading labs a hundred years from now certainly.
00:59:33 But they and their disciples will you know they are just
00:59:39 and they are going to do things that I cannot imagine which is very exciting to me
00:59:46 Undoubtly you tried so. OK Jennifer I want to go into some of the more specific technologies that are driving these
00:59:55 tremendous changes. The first thing I want to talk about is virtual reality.
01:00:02 You told us about how we're going to live in this kind of new world.
01:00:07 Probably a lot of what we will experience in that new world will not be direct experiences as we do right now
01:00:13 but probably in a virtual form so what do you see happening there. So I think that virtual reality
01:00:20 and actually augmented reality which is the projection of some virtual elements into your physical space.
01:00:33 Are just going to be wonderful I mean I think it you know it will have all kinds of applications from obviously
01:00:43 games and amusement to many people being able to travel to other countries to which they haven't been able to travel
01:00:50 while sitting in their chairs you know to travel in the universe you know fly through the universe
01:01:00 and see various stars to very concrete things like.
01:01:07 A doctor in the United States being able to guide operations in the developing world so it you know it it will have very
01:01:20 practical applications and it will also be magical in so many ways
01:01:28 and I feel like I I get to travel all the time for my work.
01:01:33 But I feel bad for people who can't travel so many of them will have a lot of these experiences
01:01:41 and in augmented reality and virtual reality these are essentially visceral experiences.
01:01:48 Perhaps in some sense our reality is already
01:01:51 augmented right because you know our brain is processing what we see, is adding stuff to it. Absolutely I definitely
01:01:58 think that my reality is.
01:02:00 Augmented because I project. What you know
01:02:04 I project what I know I project my views I you know I see networks I see phase transitions.
01:02:14 You know
01:02:14 and so I have kind of these parallel views going on. Is there a risk that we will kind of detach from the world
01:02:23 and detach from each other. I don't think we will detach from each other I think there is.
01:02:33 That it is really inbred in us to want to connect with each other.
01:02:39 The World Wide Web started at first there was just information on the World Wide Web. What became the most popular
01:02:51 things on the World Wide Web It was social media it was connecting it was Facebook
01:02:57 and Twitter and Instagram it was not just passively interacting with some knowledge
01:03:06 or some entertainment it was interaction so I believe that we will always want to interact. We are just kind of a social animal
01:03:17 and this will be just enhancing that. yes
01:03:20 and it would take many many many millions of years for us to evolve into something other than a social
01:03:29 animal. So I believe that we will continue to remain fundamentally social.
01:03:38 One of the things that is driving all of this. We also talked about artificial intelligence and machine learning
01:03:43 and virtual reality is the sheer computing power that is.
01:03:51 Now available
01:03:53 and often this is kind of a semi secret how incredibly strong these resources are particularly in the private
01:04:00 industry.
01:04:01 But what do you see happening in computing in particular we are now in the phase where quantum computing
01:04:08 is getting closer
01:04:09 and I know Microsoft is heavily betting on that. So what will that do to us. Well you know for many years now people have
01:04:18 been worried about the end of Moore's Law You know the doubling every year and a half
01:04:24 and so we are going to need new computing paradigms I think quantum computing will be one there are different kinds of
01:04:33 quantum computers. Mike Freedman at Microsoft he's a wonderful topologist is you know looking at topological quantum
01:04:44 computing there are other kinds of chronic computing one could consider Adiabatic quantum computing which would
01:04:53 have different realizations.
01:04:57 I'm just starting to work with some people in Holland on this actually
01:05:00 on adiabatic quantum computing possibly to create hardware that learns So you know there are we need people
01:05:10 thinking about what are the next generations.
01:05:14 But try to kind of get us a feeling of the magnitude of these changes you know what will be possible what's not possible
01:05:21 right now just in terms of sheer power computational power. Well you know I think that.
01:05:29 We are going to be able to conjure up. One of the things that is really.
01:05:36 Computation intensive is image
01:05:39 and graphics OK And we spoke about virtual reality well virtual reality will not be possible without a great deal more
01:05:51 computing power so we really need many generations more of computing power for you to be.
01:06:00 Able to be in this room
01:06:03 and yet walk among the pyramids you know to interact with each other there will be things that you know where a
01:06:11 hologram of someone else is in the room with you a little bit like Star Trek.
01:06:18 I very much hope I think everybody who travels very much hopes that virtual meetings will get much much better so that
01:06:27 we don't have to keep hopping on planes and wasting our time
01:06:32 and destroying the environment so all of these things are going to be facilitated
01:06:38 and then also you know precision medicine we want to integrate so much.
01:06:45 Your genome right now we're only looking at certain parts of the genome we're going to be able to look at so much more
01:06:52 and we're going to be able to take in the genomes of so many more individuals right now
01:06:59 in many diseases we don't yet have enough signal to be able to say anything. So you say we just kind of miss the
01:07:08 computational power. We miss the computational power. To attack these kinds of issues right on. Absolutely there are so many
01:07:17 diseases where.
01:07:20 We don't have enough samples we don't have enough computational power on those samples to be able to get a good signal
01:07:28 and as we do that we are going to be able to .
01:07:34 To really allow people to live very productive lives with mental illness with many other conditions which we really
01:07:44 can't touch now. We are in a very primitive place our treatment of cancer is incredibly primitive we you know
01:07:52 poison the whole body most of the time in order to try to cure someone of cancer so really we're in the dark ages.
01:08:00 medically and in order to realize the promise we're going to need many more generations of computing power
01:08:10 Let's go back also to the theme of technological progress and inequality
01:08:16 or equality. So clearly in the beginning phase this is benefiting a small group
01:08:22 but you're indicating in the end you see this as kind of spreading So what will these kind of technological revolutions
01:08:28 do to the poor half of the world and also perhaps. In many countries there are.
01:08:37 Places that are so to say very close by but they're very far away in terms of the spreading of ideas
01:08:44 and technology so what what do you see changing there. so I think there are very many people in technology both you
01:08:54 know people who have made their fortunes in technology
01:08:58 and people who are currently doing technology creating technology who care deeply about inequality. I think we need to
01:09:08 get connectivity to all parts of the world and we need to get inexpensive devices to all parts of the world I think.
01:09:18 We need energy sources that will enable us to power those devices without destroying our climate so we need
01:09:29 renewable energy sources and we need nanotechnology in other areas that will really allow us to to do that.
01:09:39 We'll be able we will be able to.
01:09:45 Transmit knowledge so that to help people you know create clean sources of water to help in agriculture
01:09:54 and we can be applying machine learning to agricultural data.
01:10:01 And really improving the food sources for a lot of people in the developing world.
01:10:08 We can ultimately once we have gotten the medical and nutritional.
01:10:15 Requirements dealt with we can start to teach people in other parts of the world and hopefully.
01:10:24 Virtual meetings will be much better right now we do have online classes but I hope there will be a time
01:10:31 when you know someone from subsaharan Africa can really you know his
01:10:36 or her hologram can be in the classroom with someone at Cambridge University or Princeton University.
01:10:45 You know and we can really begin to deal with the fact that.
01:10:52 If people are not together it's hard to give them equal access. Do you feel we have the right incentives both in the
01:11:00 academic world, in government but also in the private industry to do these kinds of.
01:11:08 Right things for human development. So honestly I feel that some of the incentives are wrong OK.
01:11:17 And I think that's one of the big questions in society is you know.
01:11:24 How do we create incentives for social good or for what a game theorist would call social welfare.
01:11:33 And I think right now we have swung a little too far in the United States this is my own private view towards
01:11:44 centralization of power centralization of finances.
01:11:52 Wealth creation and you know we're hearing about it all the time and I think.
01:12:01 We're experiencing a lot of instability globally because of this so my hope is that.
01:12:11 The pendulum that seems to be swinging one way will swing back the other way towards.
01:12:18 Towards a little more regulation which would allow us to share the wealth more
01:12:25 but for this I believe it's also really important that we have social scientists interacting with scientists
01:12:33 and technologists on a fundamental level and figuring out Jaron Lanier had you know had suggested that maybe any.
01:12:46 Knowledge creation through following people in their movements on the web instead of all of the wealth of that going to a
01:12:53 centralized power some fraction of it should trickle back to the people who help to create the data that powers these
01:13:02 great advances so you know I'm not sure whether that's the answer but I believe that we will have technologists
01:13:10 and economists and anthropologists and ethicists looking at these questions
01:13:18 when the world becomes sufficiently unhappy with how far the pendulum has swung. So in some sense fundamentally you feel
01:13:25 that we kind of control our destiny in that respect by doing the right things. I think that we.
01:13:34 You know that that human beings learn and I don't think anybody is comfortable with the instability now
01:13:44 and so in learning to decrease the variance and to decrease the instability.
01:13:52 We're going to swing a little bit back towards equality
01:13:57 and then you know we'll probably swing back again because we are. We're a dynamical system.
01:14:04 Coming back to that. I don't dare to say the word phase transition because all the technology will collapse
01:14:09 but let's briefly go back to your own.
01:14:16 Earlier life where you were much more focused on your original I would say kind of academic love in mathematical
01:14:24 physics so can you just tell us a little bit how did you start out in science and what did you exactly study
01:14:31 and what did you do. so in my early career I studied phase transitions.
01:14:38 In what are called disordered systems systems with some noise in them there were realizations of this
01:14:47 in laboratories and some nice materials have special properties because of the noise.
01:14:57 What was interesting is that although this was certainly not the reason that I went to Microsoft I went to found
01:15:05 interdisciplinary groups because they were willing to support me on that but when the Internet started to take off
01:15:14 and the World Wide Web started to take off I saw many of the same structures in these self organized
01:15:23 but very noisy networks and so it really there was.
01:15:31 The mathematical models I could take
01:15:35 and I could look at these huge networks that we were creating So it was very much you know it was this lens through
01:15:46 which I viewed phase transitions I mean I found inequalities on critical exponents
01:15:53 and various various esoteric things in these systems I studied.
01:16:00 But then I could go over to these other systems and see the same structures I think as scientists
01:16:09 when we're young we learn that we put on certain lenses
01:16:14 and no matter how we try those are always the first eyes with which we view any new problem
01:16:22 and what got me so excited about technology is that occasionally they were very good eyes through which to view
01:16:30 You could see things that others couldn't see that others couldn't see yes.
01:16:35 That's terrific. perhaps you know just wrapping up a little bit I want just to circle back to kind of the
01:16:41 big picture and you know with all the lovely things we have seen happening in terms of technology
01:16:47 and just come back to looking to the future so if you kind of close your eyes
01:16:54 and you envision this world of tomorrow.
01:16:59 Tell us just what comes up
01:17:00 what bubbles up what do you see in this in this dream. so one of the things for me that would be very exciting I have
01:17:09 collaborators all over the world and I love to see them and I think they like to see me and.
01:17:17 It is just so frustrating because we have to carve time out of our schedules and we have to get on planes
01:17:25 and you know get jetlag.
01:17:29 And I really believe that at some point in the not too distant future I'm going to be able to be sitting in a room with
01:17:39 you but you're not going to be here Or I'm going to be able to be standing at a you know blackboard with you and writing
01:17:47 and we're both going to write and we're going to see each other's stuff
01:17:50 and we can have somebody from yet another place interacting with us so for me as a scientist
01:17:57 when I get an idea being able to connect with anyone in the. World at any time essentially.
01:18:04 Is something that I'm really looking forward to and you know for others who do their own thing who are artists
01:18:11 or who are musicians you know can they you know can you have a string quartet with four people in different countries
01:18:21 you know wouldn't that be lovely. So where where it's not a degraded a terribly degraded form of reality
01:18:32 so for me.
01:18:35 You know this technology moves towards greater connection for me
01:18:39 a scientific connection for others it will be artistic or you know your family is in Holland wouldn't you love to be
01:18:47 able to sit down and have a dinner with them when you're sitting in Princeton you know. So you see this.
01:18:58 If you then take the long view and you see human beings how they started probably living you know with just a handful.
01:19:05 of very small isolated groups and we grow and now we have this incredibly complicated world getting closer to each
01:19:14 other in some sense connecting more so we will have.
01:19:19 Some transition to a phase where basically everybody is in contact with everybody as much as you want
01:19:23 You think that will happen? I think it will be. It will be sparse in the sense OK so a sparse graph is one in which.
01:19:34 You're not connected to a positive fraction of everybody else in the graph I don't think I'm going to have a billion
01:19:41 people with whom I'm interacting
01:19:43 but they can be anywhere that distances are just going to shrink so physical distances are going to shrink intellectual
01:19:53 distances are going to shrink and so we will have. A much more
01:20:00 unified connected world
01:20:03 and I think you know all of us strive whether you're you know a particle physicist actually striving for what you call
01:20:10 grand unification or you know whether you are someone like me who wants to see certain aspects of physics and biology.
01:20:20 Connected to each other.
01:20:23 You know I think we all strive for that and that the technology will allow us to do that
01:20:30 and we're seeing some of the intellectual connections before the physical connections but virtual reality I think
01:20:38 when it's done right when you can really read someone else's emotions and you can. You can relate to them.
01:20:48 Will allow us to also break down those you know barriers of distance. I'm not sure about the rest of the universe I mean
01:20:58 I believe there are other I truly believe there are other sentient beings in the universe.
01:21:05 So Also it would be very nice I think if we could connect with them without having to travel long distances. You feel we
01:21:16 first have to connect with ourselves in order to make that next step? Yes I do actually
01:21:23 and you know I don't know we are probably limited by the speed of light but.
01:21:28 But you know I actually believe that within a distance that we can see there are other sentient beings you know that I
01:21:41 can see in my lifetime. Do you see us pursuing that exploring the universe in the end. I hope so. Will we do it
01:21:50 As physical beings or will we do it through our technology. I think we'll do it through our technology I think we have
01:21:58 inherent limitations as
01:22:00 Physical beings
01:22:01 and what this technology is going to do is free us from the physical limitations so that our almost unlimited drive to
01:22:16 understand
01:22:17 and to connect can truly be unleashed. If you then look at the timeline of human beings spending a few billion years
01:22:26 on Planet Earth Life as we know it.
01:22:30 But then at some point we'll be spreading across the universe is that what you see happening? I think we might especially
01:22:36 if we ruin the earth which is a distinct possibility.
01:22:42 But
01:22:43 but I also believe that maybe we'll connect with other parts of the universe without actually physically going there so
01:22:52 which might be easier I mean you know right now we're physically going just to the other side of the earth
01:22:57 and you know last month I went to Europe three times from the US and it just.
01:23:06 It's too much right it's too much and I certainly you know wouldn't want to try to leave our solar system.
01:23:14 One of the big frustrations in life is that you can't unify with
01:23:20 another person.
01:23:22 But somehow you are sketching a future where science and technology will allow us to do so. I believe so
01:23:30 you know in my own personal life I have tried to do that. you know my husband and I work together
01:23:37 and we write papers together we do research we run labs together so I do try to do this because I like to do many many
01:23:45 things
01:23:45 and I also like to be connected with people which means for my husband we must work together because we're going to
01:23:51 spend too much time working and you know wouldn't it be nice if not quite to that extent
01:23:57 but connection is possible because I believe.
01:24:01 That scientifically you know very very often the whole is greater than the sum of the parts
01:24:07 and so we need to break down both the intellectual barriers and the physical barriers
01:24:14 and the part that technology has not realized for us yet are the physical barriers you know it's still I mean I know we
01:24:23 can we can have a Skype call and it's wonderful relative to not having a Skype call
01:24:29 but we still fly to see each other if we really want to work together you know and I'm really hoping that we can.
01:24:39 Feel the other person's presence and.
01:24:43 Not be inhibited by this barrier and be able to work together
01:24:50 and you know do science together. I'm so happy I flew over here to have this conversation. Thank you very much.
01:24:59 Can you imagine having this all the time. Yes. that's terrific.
TV Get inspired and watch tv episodes of The Mind of the Universe, made by Dutch public broadcaster VPRO
  • Browse through over 30 hours of interviews
  • Download the interviews, including subtitles
  • Remix, re-use and edit under CC-BY-SA license
  • Start exploring