I came across so much good content on artificial intelligence between Friday and this morning, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s also getting hard to reconcile the arguments—often from the same people—that AI will simultaneously turn our economy of its ear, potentially grow intelligent enough to threaten humanity and, of course, be great and bring great innovations.
Perhaps the key to understanding why we get all the signals we get about AI boils down one word: capitalism. If something will drive profits for corporations, then they’re going to invest in it at all costs. Or perhaps it’s that many of the people working on, investing in and/or thinking about AI are simultaneously realists and optimists. The prevailing logic being that we can’t slow down progress in AI, but with enough attention to the risks, we should be able to harness it mostly for good.
It seems that what you never hear from AI thought leaders or researchers, despite so many doom-and-gloom predictions, is that we should put the brakes on it. If only to give business leaders and policymakers a little breathing room to think about the future they want to see.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think we can or should slow down AI research, if only because advances in fields like medicine, agriculture and climate science could turn out to be truly revolutionary. I also don’t expect (as regular readers have no doubt figured out) that AI is going to have extreme negative effects that lots of others predict. Some of those reasons have to do with technological limitations and human ingenuity, some have to do with legal/regulatory checks, and other have to do with a (perhaps very misplaced) optimism that people will eventually figure out that just because we can automate something, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should.
If the populist wave sweeping across the United States and Europe really is about the economy, jobs and disillusionment, then, eventually, something has to give when it comes to automation. There are plenty of very bad outcomes for the future of Earth that won’t emerge from AI research labs, but rather from billions of people feeling hopeless.
Now that you have my two cents, check out this collection of news and interviews with much smarter folks on what they want, fear and expect from AI.
Warren Buffett has mixed emotions about AI
About the jobs and the global economy …