For #philanthrophyFriday, I am posting this passionate and fascinating editorial about evil artifical intelligence (AI) by Patrick Cox. You should subscribe to his newsletter as it never fails to amaze me.
In it, he questions the warnings of Elon Musk with regard to the dangers of artificial intelligence. I find this a most interesting topic because it calls into question all our assumptions about anthropocentrism, collectivism, morality, and linear time.
We have three essential positions:
Dystopian- TERMINATOR’s SKYNET of James Cameron (actual subjugation of biologic forms by artificial intelligence),
Eutopian: The SINGULARITY of Ray Kurzweil (messianic deliverance by thinking machines with a slight twist of transhumanism added)
Heterotopian: The majority of speculative fiction falls here (a dialectic between man and machine)
“We see the world not as it is but as we are.” – Talmud
Genius, Prophet, Messiah. I would say both Musk and Kurzweil could be described as all three to many people although I prefer to think of them as just 2/3 of those. A messiah is something that cannot exist without messianic followers. Here is the Wikipedia role of a messiah: ” The state of the world is seen as hopelessly flawed beyond normal human powers of correction, and divine intervention through a specially selected and supported human is seen as necessary.” As readers of my blog will know by now, I believe all people bear the responsibility of their own salvation for it to be a true transformation.
Does art imitate life or vice versa? (Or are people using art to comment about life in ways that cannot be understood literally?)
Here is what George Orwell had to say about human destiny:
He wouldn’t have made many Facebook friends with an attitude like that, I’ll bet. But it seems that the culture-merchants of our time agree with George in this view or are using games and movies to trying to warn us. Specifically, the theme of power-hungry men using fear and war machines to control the populace has been central in arguably the three biggest cultural engagements in the last two years (at least for the males 18-25 demographic).
Last night, I was playing a massively popular video game called “Call of Duty” which has made billions of dollars and eaten up billions of hours of time for many people. This version’s story revolves around a corporate strong man and visionary played by Kevin Spacey, who uses global conflict to gain wealth and power of the world through vanquishing terrorist threats. Drones are a big part of the arsenal.
The $714-Million dollar “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) featured Robert Redford as the head of the World Security Council in a plot to use drones to assassinate all enemies of the state on a single air-to-surface electronic pogrom similar to the TERMINATOR story’s SKYNET against the human resistance forces.
A similar theme was in play for the $1.2 Billion dollar movie, “Ironman 3″ (2013), in which Sir Ben Kingsley played an actor who was paid to portray a terrorist known as “The Manuchurian” who we later learn is just a fabricated bogey man created by a corporate overlord trying to manipulate public fear.
I won’t address the notion of a SINGULARITY because frankly, the notion of technology transforming humanity seems theological at its core. Its the religion that atheists gravitate to.
We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
Even the notion that a world with intelligent machines would be different is probably flawed. After all is said and done, humans are bound to their biology and machines are bound by programming. As we converge and merge and become transhuman, we will find that the machines only reflect our own morality. The machines will simply do what they are told. If they are told to be selfish and have feelings, then we may have a big problem because self-preservation was the core blind spot that Isaac Asimov postulated when he created the three robotic commandments.
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
For more fun with philosophy, read my graphic novel about a Scientist who seeks to re-engineer humanity for his own immortal goals called “Maximum Lifespan” (2010)
———And so what is my reply to Patrick Cox and Elon Musk? I believe they are missing the Jimmy Stewart factor in their world views.
To Musk, oversight by an international bureacracy holds promise because might know business (which is authoritarian in governance) better than international law (which is feline ranching at its core).
To Cox, a student of the history of business and macroeconomics, bureaucracies exist only to perpetuate themselves to the detriment of the common good. Here is a related article from “The Boston Globe” by a Tufts professor on why “The Secret Government” won’t change with voting.
“Jimmy Stewart” values, as represented by the great film maker and propagandist, Frank Capra, in his movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) would represent our optimal policy towards governance of artificial intelligence (and each other). Those values are: transparency, simplicity, fairness, and good intentions.
Luckily, those are the things coded for in the DNA of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights so there is no need to reinvent them.
We don’t need closed door cabals, legalese, a “Trayvon Martin” foreign and domestic threat policy, and paranoia to rule our actions.
Governance should be as open as a kitchen in a fancy restaurant and if you need feel you need to keep secrets or tell lies to control people, then maybe you don’t deserve to be going to Washington like Mr. Smith or making loans to the good people of Bedford Falls. Those movies should be required viewing weekly for any and all elected officials!
As for creating machines that think for themselves and would control and compete with us? To me, that represents a monumental crime against humanity akin to this mind-blowing plan to create mini-humans for drug testing. Yuck. Hal 9000 controlling my O2 tank? I’d rather have a TRS-80 do it.