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New Thriller By St. Louis Native James Rollins Probes Unsettling Aspects Of Artificial Intelligence

James Rollins joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss his latest novel, "Crucible."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

“Crucible,” the latest release from best-selling author James Rollins, is billed as a book that wrestles with deep questions about the future of humanity – a subject Rollins himself finds particularly disconcerting.

“Doing the research [for the book] frightened me,” the St. Louis native told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “And as a novelist, that’s one way I get to sort of work through some of my fears – put it down on paper, try to make sense of it, try if I can to craft a happy ending, find some path through what’s coming next.”

As the thriller came together, Rollins interviewed about two dozen people whose research focuses on artificial intelligence, or AI – and the author says that many of those experts seemed frightened, too.

“We’re right at the cusp of a very scary time of humanity … right now AI already is deeply integrated in our lives – it’s what’s called narrow AI, and it’s just a rudimentary form of AI … but we’re talking about the next stage – what’s coming next,” Rollins said. “And that is what’s spooking a lot of the AI researchers.

“And they spooked me enough that my final question to the lot of them was, ‘Well, when do you think we’re going to cross that threshold, where we actually develop an intelligence that’s self-aware – that is as intelligent as we are, if not superior in intelligence?’”

Their answer? On average, Rollins said, the AI researchers predicted that threshold will be crossed within another five to 15 years.

Listen to the discussion:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.