Less kvetching, more asking “So what?”

An article at TechRepublic, “The 7 biggest myths about artificial intelligence” prompts several questions, from the grumpy — “How clumsy can listicles get? Whaddya mean “Biggest!?” — to the more compelling and profound. Among the latter, we might ask: do we spend too much energy asking if robots are going to take our jobs; if AI can be intelligent without possessing consciousness; and even the most hubristic question of all: could AI replace God? Meanwhile, little attention goes to asking “So what?”

Not “so what” in the sense of “mehh, boring” or “suck it up, dude, it’s inevitable”, but in the spirit of “so what can be done to benefit from the incoming tide that can’t be turned back?” Are we so confident in the perfection of human existence that there’s no point in looking at how wealth is created and its benefits distributed; to ask of any outcome if its genesis is compromised if its process was not self-aware; or to re-examine the presumptions of religions to represent some spiritual endpoint?

This is about more than fatalist kvetching or post-rationalising the genies’ irrevocable escape from their bottles. Curiosity in both sciences and arts is often predicated on the contemplation of the previously unthinkable. Being conscious of thanking God for the fruits of our labours is neither in its parts nor its whole an absolute or historically necessary alchemy in any species’ pursuit of existence. It’s just the way that things evolved for us. And as a feature of our intelligence, we will continue to evolve.

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