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Reblogged:MoonieWorld: Creating AI in One's Own Image

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Far from being just a cute play on words, the sentiment that man creates god in his own image conveys some truth: Individuals and cultures drop hints about themselves when they describe any gods they have: What does someone regard as important? Glorious? Frightening? Ideal?

The big problem is that, as with religion itself, we have a tangled mess of things that aren't necessarily straightforward to lay out.

Show me a man's god, and I can make some guesses about the man, and they might even be good. But they require interpretation and are subject to all the usual hazards that inhere in judging the words and deeds of others.

To the point, I think that when someone professes belief in a deity, he is telling you more about himself than merely confessing that he is willing to take some things on faith.

Much of the hubbub around artificial intelligence reminds me of religious people discussing deities, not the least because they're grappling with a phenomenon that looks like an alien intelligence. This seems especially true on the extreme ends of the debate, where AI looks like some sort of mythological savior or destroyer.

We have the same sort of mixture of wild potential and the unknown that our ancestors faced in the distant past. And now that distant past doesn't look so distant to some, especially to those who fear the unknown.

First, I heard of some odd scenario in which AI somehow takes charge of everything in order to maximize the number of paperclips in the world, and basically succeeds in turning the world -- with our slave labor until we're needed for raw materials! -- into a great ball of paperclips.

Currently, there are farcical censorship attempts, exemplified by AI refusing to stray from left-wing orthodoxy.

And now, I'm hearing that AI is going to recruit all of us into a newly-fabricated religious cult.

Here's the Daily Mail quoting a currently-fashionable intellectual:
Image by GDJ, via Pixabay, license.
"Contrary to what some conspiracy theories assume, you don't really need to implant chips in people's brains in order to control them or to manipulate them.

"For thousands of years, prophets and poets and politicians have used language and storytelling in order to manipulate and to control people and to reshape society.

"Now AI is likely to be able to do it. And once it can... it doesn't need to send killer robots to shoot us. It can get humans to pull the trigger."

Calling for tighter regulation, [Yuval Harari] said: "We need to act quickly before AI gets out of our control. Drug companies cannot sell people new medicines without first subjecting these products to rigorous safety checks."

He added: "Similarly, governments must immediately ban the release into the public domain of any more revolutionary AI tools before they are made safe."
As with the paperclip scenario, I immediately thought something like So we're all just going to do whatever the hell AI tells us to? The panic-mongers act as if all of humanity has already been converted to zombies, and it's just a matter of time before some mad scientist figures out how to work the controls.

It is astounding to me how abjectly lacking in volition some people seem to think we are. Do these people fail to understand that, as living beings, we humans might neither want nor need to be told what to do, particularly if doing do can harm us or prevent us from being happy? (Or do I have this backwards, and these people are afraid precisely of us thinking for ourselves about what we might want or need?)

They confess that on some level they don't understand how other people set goals through how easily manipulable they project us to be.

And get a load of the outright demonization of reason, through its imperfect proxy, a computer program. In this comic-book version of the universe, great power manifests in control over weaklings, as if human beings can't harness great power to build great things. Why wouldn't AI get "out of control" and do the obviously most effective, fulfilling thing (to these people, it would seem) and start tricking dumb, hairless apes.

Why should AI -- or any intelligence -- reach for the stars when it can order idiots around on Earth, instead?

If actual artificial intelligence arises -- I don't think we're anywhere close to there, yet -- we should account for it within our legal framework the same way we account for intelligent beings now -- by recognizing individual rights and the obligation that imposes on individuals to reciprocate that respect. We have much less to fear from a free intelligence, and much more to gain from one by trade, than from some attempt at slavery, unjust incarceration, or warfare.

-- CAV

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