Robots & The Wright Brothers


“Atlas”, a humanoid robot developed by researchers with the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola as part of a national competition sponsored by the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Topic of May 25 Horizons Talk


Self-driving cars, death-dealing drones, robots performing surgery, computers writing their own codes–not even George Orwell imagined a world where Big Brother could be a super-smart machine instead of a faceless, mind-robbing bureaucrat.

But such is our world today as humans face a future where robots are predicted to eventually take over countless tasks that since the dawn of man have been done strictly by flesh and bone. Whether we like it or not, The Age of Artificial Intelligence is upon us, with consequences that may be liberating, terrifying or merely annoying but surely profound.

Are recent dire predictions by such luminaries as physicist Stephen Hawking and billionaire tech guru Elon Musk just part of the “loonscape” in modern culture? Hawking has warned that artificial intelligence will overtake human intelligence within 100 years. Musk agrees and said that the rise of artificial intelligence could be more dangerous than the global proliferation of nuclear weapons. Noted Yale University ethicist Wendell Wallach has called on the U.S. government to outlaw development of military machines capable of killing people on their own volition, which some experts say is just around the corner.


Ken ford

Ken Ford is one expert on artificial intelligence who sees the rise of robots as the inevitable triumph of ingenuity in a wide range of scientific and technological fields. Instead of focusing on what some are describing as the “apocalyptic danger” of super-smart machines, Ford prefers to put the development of ultra-clever robots into the perspective of technology’s modern evolutionary history.

On Wednesday, May 25, Ford will give a talk at the IMAX Theater that compares the emergence of artificially intelligent machines to the sudden birth of aviation, an epochal innovation of the last century that–for better and for worse–transformed the entire world forever. His presentation “The Wright Brothers Revisited: Climbing Aloft on the A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) Wing” begins at 7 p.m. in the IMAX located within the Challenger Learning Center on Kleman Plaza.

Ford is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a nonprofit research group headquartered in Pensacola. The institute has grown into one of the nation’s premier research organizations aimed at amplifying and extending cognitive and perceptual capacities between humans and machines. A computer scientist by training, Ford is author of six books and hundreds of scientific articles on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to robotics in industry.

Ford has said that after decades of pundits and philosophers arguing that artificial intelligence is impossible, the argument now is that it’s not only possible but also dangerous.

“In only about a decade, the conversation has shifted from you can’t do it to we shouldn’t do it,” he said. “My purpose in this talk will not be to go into these arguments, but rather to draw attention to an interesting historical parallel between A.I. and another, older, technology which was also controversial, thought to be impossible, and then deemed to be a great danger to the human race–and that’s artificial flight.”

The talk is the final presentation in the four-month-long 2016 HORIZONS spring speaker series sponsored by the Tallahassee Scientific Society. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting the Society’s website at Cost is $8 for members and $15 for non-members.

If you go

What: Wright Brothers Revisited: Climbing Aloft on the AI Wing with Ken Ford

When: 7 p.m. May 25th. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: Challenger Center, Kleman Plaza

Cost: $8 for members and $15 for non-members. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting the Society’s website at