Koen Hendrickx Interview to Rudy Rucker for Planet Internet (ISP) based in Antwerp. Erasmus, Belgium.

Q: There seems to be a central theme in your science fiction: Artificial Life forms resemble biological life forms because they both reproduce themselves and they both evolve according to the laws of the survival of the fittest? A: Yes, this idea was implanted in me by the mathematician Kurt Gödel, who remarked that although it is absolutely impossible to design a machine as intelligent as oneself, it is possible to bring about a situation where such a machine can evolve. Of course at this stage in history, we are still nowhere near the limits of the intelligence of the machines that we actually can design. But in some far future, it will be necessary to use artificial evolution to go beyond what we can design. I might remark that I was a little over-optimistic in setting Software in the year 2020, which is now just around the corner. Q: In your Ware tetralogy, Artificial Life and biological life increasingly coincide. With Software, you were way ahead of your time, but writers like Hans Moravec and Kevin Kelly have done much to make your ideas more acceptable in America. Do you think that people distinguish too much between human and machine? A: I remember when I was writing Software, I was wrestling with the notion of whether a machine can ever be alive like a person. How can chips have soul? But then I hit on the idea that the “soul” is a universal mystical jelly that imbues everything. A rock is already alive like a person. This said, of course there is a big difference between a machine and a person. But if machines became soft and wet, that would be a step toward being more like us. That’s why in Freeware I liked having the moldies. Q: One of the sites in the Ware tetralogy is a colony on the moon, built by robots. The Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels works on a similar idea in the project Euromoon (http://www.estec.esa.nl/euromoon/), but the ultimate goal of Euromoon is human settlement. Is human presence on the moon necessary? A: It would certainly be interesting to have a human colony on the moon. I went and looked at that the Euromoon page of Wubbo Ockels — what a wonderful name he has! The page refers to the discovery of ice at the lunar South Pole; this is indeed something which is very encouraging. As a practical matter it would be easier in the near future to have a human colony on the moon than to have a colony of selfreproducing robots. But a middle path might be the best: to have robots with fairly low level of intelligence that are instructed by the (slow) remote link to people on the Earth. Given that there’s a several-second-lag in the communication with Earth, the robots have to be smart enough not to fall off a cliff, and so on. I think this could be a very popular form of entertainment, to rent time running an actual lunar robot, especially if a good Virtual Reality interface were in place. Q: Studly in The Hacker and the Ants is a speaking household robot you can relate to as a friend. Do you think there’s a real chance that such a tool will be developed in the next ten or twenty years? A: Oh, yes, I think so for sure. Descendants of the Furby. Your robot friend would not really have to be so very intelligent. We humans anthropomorphize relentlessly and can already easily image ourselves to be having a conversation with, say a cat or a dog. Why not a machine?