Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People by Maciej Cegłowski is the most important piece on AI I have ever read, period. Yes, seriously - I am using the word "ever". A simple reality most people forget and his talk is a remainder to those.

This business about saving all of future humanity is a cop-out. We had the same exact arguments used against us under communism, to explain why everything was always broken and people couldn't have a basic level of material comfort.

We were going to fix the world, and once that was done, happiness would trickle down to the point where everyday life would change for the better for everyone. But it was vital to fix the world first.

I live in California, which has the highest poverty rate in the United States, even though it's home to Silicon Valley. I see my rich industry doing nothing to improve the lives of everyday people and indigent people around us.

But if you’re committed to the idea of superintelligence, AI research is the most important thing you could do on the planet right now. It’s more important than politics, malaria, starving children, war, global warming, anything you can think of.

Because what hangs in the balance is trillions and trillions of beings, the entire population of future humanity, simulated and real, integrated over all future time.

In such conditions, it’s not rational to work on any other problem.


People think that a superintelligence will take over the world, so they use that as justification for why intelligent people should try to take over the world first, to try to fix it before AI can break it.

Joi Ito, who runs the MIT Media Lab, said a wonderful thing in a recent conversation with President Obama:
This may upset some of my students at MIT, but one of my concerns is that it's been a predominantly male gang of kids, mostly white, who are building the core computer science around AI, and they're more comfortable talking to computers than to human beings. A lot of them feel that if they could just make that science-fiction, generalized AI, we wouldn't have to worry about all the messy stuff like politics and society. They think machines will just figure it all out for us.

Having realized that the world is not a programming problem, AI obsessives want to make it into a programming problem, by designing a God-like machine.

This is megalomaniacal. I don't like it.


So what's the answer? What's the fix?

We need better scifi! And like so many things, we already have the technology.

This is Stanislaw Lem, the great Polish scifi author. English-language scifi is terrible, but in the Eastern bloc we have the goods, and we need to make sure it's exported properly.

It's already been translated well into English, it just needs to be better distributed.

What sets authors like Lem and the Strugatsky brothers above their Western counterparts is that these are people who grew up in difficult circumstances, experienced the war, and then lived in a totalitarian society where they had to express their ideas obliquely through writing.

They have an actual understanding of human experience and the limits of Utopian thinking that is nearly absent from the west.

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