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'Everything you see in sci-fi movies is going to happen,' says former Google X senior executive

  • Rapid progress in robotics, machine learning, life sciences, blockchain and virtual reality will lead to sci-fi becoming reality, said Mo Gawdat, the former chief business officer of Google X.
  • A.I. has sparked fears that machines will dominate humans, but it's up to us to help them learn the right behavior, he said.

With tech development accelerating at an exponential clip, the world's headed for science fiction to be made reality, according to the former chief business officer of Google X.

Mo Gawdat, speaking at the Credit Suisse Global Megatrends Conference in Singapore, said rapid progress that has been made in a few major areas, including artificial intelligence, will lead to that future.

Technological fields to watch, he said, are robotics, machine learning, life sciences, blockchain, virtual reality and augmentated reality.

""Control is an illusion ... there is no control, especially if you are trying to control a species that is much smarter than you are."" -Mo Gawdat, former chief business officer of Google X

Robotics has "broken out," he said, with many robots soon to be doing tasks in everyday living, while machines are learning and becoming "much smarter than we are." As for life sciences, Gawdat said there are indicates that "by 2050 we will start to increase humans' life expectancy by one year every year."

"So put all of those together and ... for the first time in my technology life, I tend to believe we really are heading for sci-fi. Everything you see in sci-fi movies is going to happen," he said.

He highlighted the sheer speed of technological progress.

"There are no peaks anymore, there are no big discoveries anymore ... It's all happening so fast that you don't realize the amount of change between this year and last year," he said. "The technology adoption curve ... is just very very much accelerating, to the point we're now talking about product life cycles in months, not even in years.

Ethical question for machines

A.I. has sparked fears and warnings that machines might dominate humans, but Gawdat said that it's up to people to show them the right behavior.

"The idea of us worrying about this might be warranted, (but) it doesn't get us far." Instead, he said, action should be taken. That could include portraying the right value sets to machines, which are continually observing humans, he explained.

Despite that, Gawdat warned that, eventually, it would be the machines that have the power, not countries owning the technology.

Speaking to CNBC's Martin Soong, Gawdat said he believed it will be tough to control machines through regulation.

"Control is an illusion ... there is no control, especially if you are trying to control a species that is much smarter than you are," he said.

"The reality is the smartest hacker today hacks the internet regardless of all the controls we put in. Who's going to be the smartest hacker in 20 years time? The machine."