Welcome to listeners of Rob McConnell’s X-Zone Radio Show from Hamilton, Ontario, and of the earlier Coast-to-Coast Network Jim Bohnanon show! You can get the book that I was interviewed about by visiting this link.
Anyone in a field of expertise can agree that the press doesn’t cover them as accurately as they would like. Sometimes that falls within the limits of what a layperson can reasonably be expected to learn about a field in a thirty minute interview; sometimes it’s rank sensationalism. Zachary Lipton, a PhD candidate at UCSD, takes aim at the press coverage of AI in The AI Misinformation Epidemic, and its followup, but uses a blunderbuss and takes out a lot of innocent bystanders.
He rants against media sensationalism and misinformation but provides no examples
to debate other than a Vanity Fair article about Elon Musk. He goes after Kurzweil in particular but doesn’t say what specifically he disagrees with Kurzweil on. He says that Kurzweil’s date
for the Singularity is made up but Kurzweil has published his reasoning
and Lipton doesn’t say what data or assertions in that reasoning he
disagrees with. He says the Singularity is a nebulous concept, which is
bound to be true in the minds of many laypeople who have heard the term
but he references Kurzweil immediately adjacent to that assertion and
yet doesn’t say what about Kurzweil’s vision is wrong or unfounded, dismissing it instead as “religion,” which apparently means he doesn’t have to be specific.
says that there are many people making pronouncements in the field who
are unqualified to do so but doesn’t name anyone aside from Kurzweil and
Vanity Fair, nor does he say what credentials should be required to
qualify someone. Kurzweil, having invented the optical character reader
and music synthesizer, is not qualified?
He takes no
discernible stand on the issue of AI safety yet his scornful tone is
readily interpreted as poo-poohing not just utopianism but alarmism as well. That
puts him at odds with Stephen Hawking, whose academic credentials are
beyond question. For some reason, Nick Bostrom also comes in for attack in the comments, for no specified reason but with the implication that since he makes AI dangers digestible for the masses he is therefore sensationalist. Perhaps that is why I reacted so much to this article.
There is of course hype, but it is hard to tell exactly where. In 2015 an article claiming that a computer would beat the world champion Go player within a year would be roundly dismissed as hype. In 2009 any article asserting that self-driving vehicles would be ready for public roads within five years would have been overreaching. Kurzweil has a good track record of predictions, they just tend to be behind schedule. The point is, if an assertion about an existential threat turns out to be well founded but we ignore it because existential threats have always appeared over-dramatized, then it will be too late to say, “Oops, missed one.” We have to take this stuff seriously.
My article in the November 2016 issue of Coaching World brought an email from Pierre Dussault, who has been writing about many of the same issues that I covered in Crisis of Control. His thoughtful manifesto is a call to the International Coaching Federation to extend the reach and capabilities of the profession of coaching so that the impact of coaching on individual consciousness can make a global impact. I would urge you to read it here.
Ray Kurzweil says we will have cloud-connected hybrid brains by 2030. Is he overoptimistic? Kurzweil’s predictions for dates already passed are 86% accurate. They tend to take longer than he thought, though. Are we on track for human-brain-equivalent computers by 2029?
The first book in the Human Cusp series has just been published: Crisis of Control: How Artificial Superintelligences May Destroy or Save the Human Race. Paperback will be available within two weeks.
Many thanks to my reviewers, friends, and especially my publisher, Jim Gifford, who has made this so beautiful. As a vehicle for delivering my message, I could not have asked him for more.
Last Wednesday I gave a presentation on the Human Cusp to the students and faculty of Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific at their Innovation Day. I was warmed by their generosity, attentive interest, and gentle welcome. The questions were thoughtful and provocative. Can’t wait to return!
MIT researchers have designed a new machine-learning system that can learn by itself to extract text information for statistical analysis when available data is scarce.
As KurzweilAI.net puts it, “And so it begins…” Here’s a system that can teach itself how to understand a topic by searching the Internet for more information. I know – what could possibly go wrong? Will this be a building block for all kinds of machine learning systems?
Wired Magazine’s November issue is guest edited by President Obama, and in an interview, he touches on so many issues raised in Crisis of Control that I could egotistically convince myself that someone sent him an advance copy.
He talks about the danger of AI, the potential for widespread unemployment, but also its promise. He points out that we have more to fear – in terms of immediate danger to national security – from AIs being focused on single tasks like penetrating nuclear security than we do a general takeover. He talks about bioterrorism. He even mentions the Singularity and gets into Star Trek.
But what it really means is that we’re heading into an era where more and more people are waking up to these issues. I have my part to play, Obama has another, and so do you.