Prematurely Putting Civilization On Auto-Pilot

kasparov345678Another year, another Edge question: “What do you think about machines that think?” With 186 individual responses. Here is my absolutely biased summary:

Machines that think are here and we should care. The most interesting question about artificial intelligence isn’t what we think about it, but what we do about it. More powerful minds have bigger real-world impacts. More and more, the decisions machines make are consequential. Will they make us better people?

We built them, but we don’t understand them. Paradoxical as it sounds, we call “intelligent” to a species characterized for being equally and randomly stupid and smart.

Humans do not even know what they refer to when they talk about “intelligence”. It is in fact quite funny that they want to construct systems with “artificial intelligence” which should match their intelligence, but what they refer to as their intelligence is not clear at all. This is one of those many stupidities that has haunted the human race for ages. (“An Extraterrestrial Observation About Human Hubris”)

We reject they are here. By any reasonable definition of “thinking,” we should accept that computers do indeed think. Man-made machines increasingly do things we previously considered thinking. If we don`t do anymore is simply because now machines do also those same things:

Humans weren’t very good at accepting that the Earth was not the center of the universe, and they still have difficulties accepting that they are the result of chance and selection, as evolutionary theory teaches us. Now, we are about to lose the position of the most intelligent species on Earth. Are people ready for this? How will this change the role of humans, our economy, and our society? (“Distributed Collective Intelligence: The Network Of Ideas”)

Because if computers think… then thinking isn’t the unique province of human beings. Is there something else about humans that makes us unique? What will be the place of humans in a world occupied by an exponentially growing population of autonomous machines? Maybe we should consider the future world as one of multi-species intelligence.

Either we like it or not, we are already transhuman. Organic intelligence has no long-term future, because of the limits of biological intelligence. So, Welcome to the next phase of human evolution!

Are things going too fast?

After centuries of hard-won understanding of nature that now permits us, for the first time in history, to control many aspects of our destinies, we are on the verge of abdicating this control to artificial agents that can’t think, prematurely putting civilization on auto-pilot. The process is insidious because each step of it makes good local sense, is an offer you can’t refuse.


What’s wrong with turning over the drudgery of thought to such high-tech marvels? Nothing, so long as (1) we don’t delude ourselves, and (2) we somehow manage to keep our own cognitive skills from atrophying. (“The Singularity—an Urban Legend?”)

I was sorry that Big Blue beat Garry Kasparov at chess!

One comment

  1. […] Machines increasingly do things we had previously considered intelligent thinking. So far, once a machine has been able to perform a given activity / solve a problem better than us—be it chess or jeopardy or finding a route—, such activity has stoppted being considered proper intelligence any more. Because if computers can think better than us, then what’s unique about being human? […]

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