Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Artificial intellegence: A threat to human existance?

“Don’t Fear Artificial Intelligence: Two great thinkers see danger in AI.  Here’s how to make it safe”  Ray Kurzweil (author of “The Singularity” and esteemed technologist and scientific entrepreneur.)  Time magazine Dec. 29, 2014 – Jan. 5, 2015.
While most of us focus on nuclear weapons, pandemics or bio terrorism Stephen Hawkings and Elon Musk have both offered serious warnings about AI. 
Stephen Hawkins:  “Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own and redesign itself…the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
Elon Musk: “I think we should be very careful about AI.  If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that…We are summoning the demon.”
Hollywood has made dozens of movies and billions of dollars portraying the evolution of technology endangering our species.  [See: Terminator.  The Matrix}.  
As much as I admire Ray Kurzweil's intelligence I’m convinced his optimism dominates his wisdom. 
Any rational observation of humanity’s growing capacity for mass murder, escalating destruction of our vital biofilm, and our persistent lack of empathy for our fellow human beings would conclude our species is not fit or even likely to survive.   While we collectively excel at creating technological advances our capacity for moral action is stalling and our capacity for rational cooperation appears stuck. Some might believe AI will provide the wisdom we need to avert what many see as inevitable breakdown of our life support system, our civility, or our species very survival.  
Kurzweil says “Ultimately, the most important approach we can take to keep AI safe is to work on our human governance and social institutions…The best way to avoid destructive conflict in the future is to continue the advance of social ideals, which has already greatly reduced violence.”  I’m not sure Mr. Kurzweil follows the statistics on the  rising number of terrorist attacks, IEDs, beheadings, proliferation of WMD and now, the risk of AI turning on human kind as a defective and destructive species.
I’m confident Mr. Kurzweil would agree that all governments should hold the protection of human rights superior to protecting national sovereignty for short term government or corporate gains.  Kurzweil wisely states “We have the opportunity in the decades ahead to make major strides in addressing the grand challenges of humanity.”  But he loses me when he says “AI will be the pivotal technology in achieving this progress”.  I believe he vastly underestimates the commitment of a few dedicated to mass murder and the role advances in technology will offer them in achieving their mission.
I continue to believe that the social technology of government, specifically that of a federation, is the only technology capable of creating the structures necessary to sustain our species. 
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently said “structure is destiny”.  Unless we develop an effective global government structure to manage human relations within our species as well as the fragile structure of our life support system, we may never get the chance to see which of these three wise men are right about AI.


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