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AI skeptic on humanists’ paradox

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Erik Larson at the Atlantic (May 2015):

Questioning the Hype About Artificial Intelligence

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has openly speculated that humans could be reduced to “pets” by the coming superintelligent machines. Musk has donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute, in a self-described bid to help stave off the development of “killer robots.” At Berkeley, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) is dedicated to addressing what Bostrom and many others describe as an “existential threat” to humanity, eclipsing previous (and ongoing) concerns about the climate, a nuclear holocaust, and other major denizens of our modern life. Luminaries like Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have also commented on the scariness of artificial intelligence.

One of these days, they’ll predict an apocalypse that actually happens. Just keep predicting enough of them, and it’s a done deal.

If common sense remains valid and computers ultimately must lack real intelligence, then hype about smart robots can only do harm, by self-consciously imperiling our own standards, and our own intelligence. Lanier suggests that when progress in artificial intelligence becomes our benchmark, we begin acting in subtle, compensatory ways that place our tools above ourselves. It’s these subtle shifts away from our own natures, say the New Humanists, which lead us astray. It happens, perhaps, much like falling in love: first slowly, then all at once. The deafening silence of a world without human excellence at its center is a picture almost too chilling to entertain. If New Humanists are right, though, we’re already on our way. The lesson of AI is not that the light of mind and consciousness is beginning to shine in machines, but rather the dimming of our own lights at the dawn of a new era. More.

Larson considers social media as evidence of imperilled standards, doubtless correctly.

3 Replies to “AI skeptic on humanists’ paradox

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    A couple years back, I read an article about Nigeria in which it was noted that as far as the Nigerian government is concerned, 85% of the population of the country is “excess to needs”. That is, 15% of the population run the pieces of the country related to the money-making petroleum business, banking, and government itself. The rest of the people could disappear tomorrow and the only effect would be a reduction in government handouts.

    The article went on to mention that many other countries are in a similar position. The only difference is what resource or business produces the local profits.

    America is already in the position that the “White ghetto” is the “fly over states”: the vast portion of the US between New York and Los Angeles that the movers and shakers pass over to hold face-to-face meetings. The response to the White ghetto is simply to tell the remaining small town, small business folks to pack up and move to a large city where there might be jobs. The Fly Over states are as equally worthless to New York and Los Angeles as most of Nigeria is to Lagos.

    And someone has a robot that can make 300 hamburgers and hour…

    The threat of war machine robots set on full-auto going about the mindless execution of billions of humans is not as real as the threat that 85% of ALL of humanity will shortly be “excess to current needs” because the talented and educated and networked 15% can get what they want either from each other or from intelligent machines.

    It would then be logical to get rid of the 85% if only to reduce pollution.

  2. 2
    EDTA says:

    Mahuna @ 1

    The Fly Over states are as equally worthless to New York and Los Angeles as most of Nigeria is to Lagos.

    As a proud denizen of Flyover Country: where are our coasts and parts of the rest of the world going to get their food? We grow it as efficiently as anyplace on earth. They might miss us.

  3. 3
    Robert Byers says:

    Elon Musk is the reason we should welcome intelligent machines cleaning up humanity.
    Its just stupid what he says or anyone about thinking machines.
    They don’t think. They only memorize and only what is told to them to memorize is all they do. AI is a boring subject.
    I welcome machines to do all of mans work. We just do the thinking and pocket the money.

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