The fifth episode of our podcast, Atlantic Talks, is now available. This week’s guest is Arlindo Oliveira, Professor at the Instituto Superior Técnico, of which he was president, and expert in areas such as algorithms and complexity, and Machine Learning. He is the author of several books and more than a hundred scientific articles in these areas.

His interest in computers began in the 1980s. Like some young people at the time, he had a ZX Spectrum – a rarity, obsolete at the present times – when he joined Instituto Superior Técnico to graduate in Electronic and Computer Engineering.

In 1984, he was sending emails, another rarity in those times. Ten years later, he completed his PhD in Computer and Computer Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

In this episode of Atlantic Talks, Arlindo Oliveira – a self-confessed fan of science fiction – explains why he thinks reality will continue to surpass fiction in the coming decades, and gives as an example some of the classics.

“In science fiction films such as the 2001 Space Odyssey and other good films, most of these innovations were not there. These technologies have all taken people and researchers by surprise, and I am convinced that in the coming decades, whatever these technologies are, they will continue to do so.” – Arlindo Oliveira

The conversation went through the infinite complexity of the brain – which he does not believe we will fully know – and the ability of the human being to create an intelligence, different from the way the human brain works.

On data privacy, another topic that he closely follows, Arlindo Oliveira believes that the more conservative approach on the European side will have a face-off with reality, when a deeper crisis forces the use of other technologies. And that consumers’ expectations of maintaining the privacy of their data when they use search engines like Google is a mirage.

“Data privacy is a mirage. Anyone who thinks they can have privacy in the current situation, who thinks that their data is properly protected, when going to the internet and Google every day, when using Gmail, whose emails are all read by Google machines …” – Arlindo Oliveira

As for the future, more than a world taken over by artificial intelligence – as in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous ruthless terminator – he fears the social impact and the inequality caused by advances in these technologies. We need to start thinking about solutions now, he argues.

“If we really have more and more capable artificial intelligence systems, big companies will be able to do more and more, with fewer and fewer people. (…) There has to be a social response. We have to think of ways to distribute the proceeds. I don’t know if it’s unconditional basic income, different taxes, if it’s taxing robots as someone has already suggested, but I think society has to actively combat this concentration of income.” – Arlindo Oliveira.

To listen to this episode just select one of the following links or search it where you normally listen to your podcasts.