Bill Maher and Ray Kurzweil Debated AI on a New “Real Time”

Also on the schedule: Maher’s dating advice

Bill Maher on "Real Time"
The latest "Real Time With Bill Maher" covered AI and dating advice, among other subjects.

“There’s nobody like you. I want people to understand that.” That was one of the ways in which Bill Maher introduced guest Ray Kurzweil to his audience. Kurzweil is best known for writing about the Singularity before it was a ubiquitous concept in tech circles. He has a new book out this year, The Singularity Is Nearer: When We Merge with AI, and Maher initially took on the role of eliciting expert advice on technological matters.

“The only time I ever thought about AI was the one Spielberg movie I didn’t like,” Maher said — hence bringing Kurzweil on to offer his perspective on the issues surrounding AI and how it might affect human development.

Maher also brought up Kurzweil’s penchant for taking supplements. “You look good, Ray!” Maher said as Kurzweil took the stage. “Are you still having 200 pills a day?”

“I’m down to 70,” Kurzweil replied.

Kurzweil was relatively optimistic about the possibilities of AI, though he did state outright that the technology has its limits. “It doesn’t create art the way a master artist would do,” he told Maher. He also explained the concept of hybrid intelligence, telling Maher, “It’ll be just like we are now, except we’ll be a lot more intelligent than we were before.”

At this point, Maher grew a bit more skeptical — especially when it came to the potential issues with nanotechnology and AI, such as a life-threatening “grey goo.” Kurzweil pointed out that nuclear weapons pose a threat that hasn’t yet come to pass. Maher, for his part, was more skeptical, noting that there isn’t an AI version of mutually assured destruction.

Maher also seemed skeptical when it came to the effects of AI on labor. “What about….jobs?” he asked Kurzweil. Kurzweil stated that technology has always had an effect on certain industries, and argued that new jobs would also be created. Despite Maher asking him for his predictions on what those jobs might be, Kurzweil didn’t address it, instead arguing that he didn’t see the matter in terms of humans versus AI.

Both here and in the episode’s final segment, Maher brought up dating and sex — and asked Kurzweil how AI would change the latter.  “It’ll become better,” Kurzweil said. 

“I’m not sure for everyone,” Maher replied.

Quoth Kurzweil: “You’ll have a much richer imagination.”

Maher brought up a few other concerns over AI as well, including the possibility that a life lived mostly virtually could be bad for human bodies. “I don’t even know if I want to live in this brave new world,” he said.

The interview closed on a note of optimism, though. “I hope I have you back on the show in 20 years,” Maher told Kurzweil. That’s one prediction for the 2044 season of Real Time With Bill Maher in the books, then.

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Other notable moments from the episode:

  • Most episodes, Maher begins his monologue with an “I know why you’re happy” joke. That was absent this episode; instead, he went straight into a discussion of this week’s presidential debate.
  • For the panel, Maher was joined by Chris Matthews, and Tulsi Gabbard; both of whom have recent memoirs out in the world.
  • Matthews made an impassioned case for why the losing candidate in an election must concede:  “You have to say, ‘I lost.’ It’s what makes the system work.”
  • Maher brought up Gabbard’s recent support for Donald Trump: “He lost the election and he’s not conceding it. That’s your guy?”
  • Gabbard then argued that Hillary Clinton had done the same thing in the wake of the 2016 election, to which both Maher and Matthews understandably grew annoyed. “That’s a preposterous statement and you know it,” Maher said. Another memorable quote came from Maher in the same exchange:  “It doesn’t bother you that he just pulls things out of his ass?”
  • New Rules took the form of, in Maher’s words, “a TED talk on how to get with women.” His advice included not wearing shorts on a date and avoiding Crocs and “creepy facial hair.”
  • Maher is also not a fan of sending dick pics. “The absolute best picture you can take of it is still a hate crime,” he said.
  • Real Time will be off next week for the holiday. The show is set to air for the next two weeks, and will then take a month-long break.

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