This piece is a few years old but it’s really good – sci-fi author Ted Chiang on the dangers of AI. He thinks the dangers of AI that people fear say more about the nature of tech companies than AI itself- that’s the true problem, and it’s not a future one.

“Consider: Who pursues their goals with monomaniacal focus, oblivious to the possibility of negative consequences? Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? This hypothetical strawberry-picking AI does what every tech startup wishes it could do — grows at an exponential rate and destroys its competitors until it’s achieved an absolute monopoly. The idea of superintelligence is such a poorly defined notion that one could envision it taking almost any form with equal justification: a benevolent genie that solves all the world’s problems, or a mathematician that spends all its time proving theorems so abstract that humans can’t even understand them. But when Silicon Valley tries to imagine superintelligence, what it comes up with is no-holds-barred capitalism.”

“The fears of superintelligent AI are probably genuine on the part of the doomsayers. That doesn’t mean they reflect a real threat; what they reflect is the inability of technologists to conceive of moderation as a virtue. Billionaires like Bill Gates and Elon Musk assume that a superintelligent AI will stop at nothing to achieve its goals because that’s the attitude they adopted.”

Along similar lines, I’ve long thought it was interesting how many (most?) sci-fi movies that take place in the future assume a dystopian destiny. I don’t think this reflects our judgment of technology. It’s really a reflection of how we view human nature.

Somewhat unrelated, but it fascinates me what has turned out to be possible and difficult in AI. Generate a super realistic 60-sec video based on nothing more than a text description: possible. Build a robot that can reliably climb up and down a flight of stairs: extremely difficult. When the robot apocalypse comes, just hide on the second floor where they can’t climb up and close the windows so the drones can’t come in. You’ll be fine.

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