One of the highlights of the CODE Conference that is concluding today in California has been the concern expressed by Bill Gates that, although these are exciting times for innovation and technological accomplishment, there are at least two considerable challenges. One concerns the threat that evolving AI represents to a wide spectrum of human jobs. The second is summed up in the sub-heading to the article linked to above: “The real challenge is ensuring humans stay in control.”
Is this really so? Maybe humans should retain control, but it is more than just a question for parlour, pub, or philosophy colloquium. A reflexive “Yes, of course they should,” is all too easy, but a slower and reflective “Yes, although . . .” would give us a chance to consider the assumptions we live with, and the direction that Life on Earth is taking, possibly independently of whatever it is we think we want.
How are we doing with the control we’ve got? In the miniscule percentage of 1% of the history of Planet Earth during which time humanity has been the governor, how have we done? And who are “we”? By humans do we mean a thoughtful, informed, judicious and circumspect collective of incorruptible and accountable grown-ups? Or are we talking about the United Nations? Or a chaotic inferno of babbling rabbles? If, alternatively, we are talking about smaller, indeed singular subsets of humanity, are we happy with the definitions of power that history has distinguished among the self-entitled 1%, or our kings, priests, plutocrats, and other monomaniacal psychopaths?
Must the limit of our ambition for Life on Earth be constrained by the limitations of our own humanity, or do we ourselves adapt in pursuit of a higher intelligence? Is it better that we retain control and fail, or can we give full reign to an emerging intelligence that assumes more executive control as we evolve a higher wisdom? It may be that “control”, as the watchword for the 100 millennia during which Homo sapiens has struggled for planetary dominance, is exchanged for “co-operation” as the key to a happier future for humanity and for the planet. And to the extent that control retains a role, it might best be applied to our own self-destructive impulses.
Lively Stuff from Planet BAM!
- Might Christopher Hitchens have had deathbed doubts?
As this summary of a recent furore makes clear: almost certainly not. The best tribute to the famous atheist is to read his work. The application of reason to evidence, once done, is done
- What people can learn from algorithms, and vice versa
A despatch from the frontier of co-operative cognition: our brains apply algorithmic thinking
- How to be a diagnostic hero in .02 seconds
Excellent profile of data scientist Jeremy Howard ends with a punchy take on AI radiology