Intelligence, artificial and other: our ruling class


The Council on Foreign Relations is widely regarded as a leading institution of the American ruling class. His colleagues design politics and his members, drawn from Wall Street, academia and elite journalism, rub shoulders with government ministers and even the occasional president. But its star has fallen with the demise of the old WASP establishment and its replacement of its two-party deliberative style with the crass rudeness of the present.

He can still attract a few famous names, even if the quality of the speech has declined somewhat. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Theranos board member Henry Kissinger last Monday sitting down (via Zoom) to discuss artificial intelligence (AI) – the subject of a new book they both wrote with Daniel Huttenlocher, the first dean of the Schwarzman College of Computing at MIT. The conversation, like the book, was a strange amalgamation of Schmidt’s technological enthusiasm and Kissinger’s central European gloom who largely accepted the breathless claims of AI promoters as fact.

The project began several years ago when Kissinger overheard a talk about a computer that had been programmed to play the extremely complex Go game. (Was this the first time he had heard of it?) Kissinger apparently began to worry about what all of this meant for the future of mankind, and wrote down his concerns in a 2018 item in Atlantic. AI, Kissinger said, meant the end of the Enlightenment (which, to tell the truth, hasn’t looked too healthy for some time). “Human cognition is losing its personal character. People turn into data and data becomes king.

Big so true, as they say on the Internet. That machines can be so good at playing chess or Go may say more about these games than the potential of AI. Despite their complexity, the scope of these games is extremely limited and, for example, nothing compared to the seemingly mundane complexity of driving a car.

I’ve been following the advancement of AI for twenty years or so and the story has always been the same: a handful of successful examples portend a vast payoff that’s still just around the corner, but no never quite happens. Claims for autonomous vehicles are particularly grandiose at the moment. Not a day goes by that Elon Musk does not extol the autonomous driving skills of his Tesla. The reality is quite different.

“Fully autonomous driving” a long way, says CNN reporter Michael Ballaban show just a few weeks ago, with his attempt to let a Tesla drive him safely along a treacherous passage on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue, a densely populated and chaotic stretch of road that I fear the perils of every time. time I navigate it. Only his intervention kept the car from driving him into an oncoming UPS truck, and that was just one of many near misses. The Ballaban misadventures come three years after an autonomous Uber killed a pedestrian in Arizona. It took several fatal seconds for the software in that car to figure out that what it initially thought was a bicycle was actually a person. He finally decided to brake far too late. Obviously, the software hasn’t progressed much since.

In their book, Kissinger, Schmidt, and Huttenlocher do a lot of GPT-3, the latest iteration of an AI project that can produce words that look a lot like human speech. He has many dazzling abilities and can even write believable prose like this Guardian item. Well, not exactly. The machine spat eight different attempts, which the editors turned into a publishable article by picking “the best parts of each.” And GPT-3’s answers to simple questions are often stupid, wrong, and even racist, but these embarrassing parts are rarely featured in public events, either out of incitement to normal technology or out of a desire to impress venture capitalists.

Just for a moment, let’s give the point that AI is something big that is changing the way we live. Schmidt and especially Kissinger are worried about what it means to be human. (It’s strange when the architect of the secret bombing of Cambodia becomes the humanist of the program, but such is the policy of elite organizations.) Over the next 15 years, Schmidt argues, computers will increasingly establish their own program, exploring ways and producing results beyond the intent or comprehension of their human programmers. What is it going to do to our sense of ourselves, Schmidt asked, “if we are no longer the smartest person when it comes to intelligence?”

An answer might be, “Well, maybe don’t let them go?” But the authors will have none of that. “Once AI’s performance exceeds that of humans for a given task, failing to apply AI, at least as a complement to human efforts, can increasingly appear perverse or even negligent,” they say. Are we going to delegate our warfare capabilities to the machines, not only to guide the weapons to their targets, but also to decide whether to attack first? Schmidt apparently thinks so, although he recognizes that there are some complexities. “So you’re in a war and the computer correctly calculates that in order to win the war you have to let your aircraft carrier sink, which would kill 5,000 people, or whatever….” Would a human make this decision? Almost certainly not. Would the computer be ready to do it? Absoutely.”

In one review of the book, Marc Rotenberg complains that all of Kissinger’s skepticism of Atlantic the article disappears in the techno-euphoria of Schmidt and Huttenlocher. That is not exactly correct; the book presents the occasional irruption of Kissingerian sadness and heavy reflections on Descartes and Spengler. But it is above all true, and he is right to distinguish this “perverse or even negligent” passage as symptomatic of the “unchallenged assertion of inevitability” of the two technological authors.

Oddly, however, at the CFR event, Rotenberg asked how AI could be designed to “strengthen democratic principles.” Democracy is meant to be about transparent deliberation and debate, for which AI doesn’t seem like a good solution. For answer, Schmidt relies first on Kissinger, a man whose democratic sensibilities are nicely summed up by a remark he made As the coup against the democratically elected Chilean President, Salvador Allende approaches, “I do not see why we have to sit idly by and watch a country become communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people. On the question of the democratization of AI, Kissinger admitted having no idea: “I think it needs to be studied, but I don’t know how to approach it yet. Resuming, Schmidt acknowledged that we needed to think about the subject, but quickly turned to criticism of Europe’s penchant for regulation.

Reading the book or listening to the CFR session leaves a little wiser about the technical realities of AI or its political implications. Kissinger and Schmidt are right that we need to talk about these things, but an Imperial master architect and what software engineer and AI skeptic Dwayne Monroe calls “a hype man for a super busy advertising company.” aren’t the ones leading the conversation (although Schmidt left Google, he still owns about 1 percent shares of the company).

In the words of a computer scientist Jonathan bennett, “The real danger is not that the AI ​​acquires superhuman powers but rather that we are convinced that it has them, and we will cede to it important tasks of reasoning that it is not able to accomplish . As the sophistication of AI salon tricks increases, this possibility increases with it.

AI projects like GPT-3, like Luciano Floridi and Massimo Chiriatti Argue, should be seen as tools that humans can use, and not as something that seriously resembles human intelligence: “GPT-3 is extraordinary technology, but as intelligent, aware, intelligent, aware, insightful, insightful, sensitive and sensitive (etc.) like an old typewriter. Maintaining such a perspective, rather than giving in to the inevitable domination of our silicon masters, is the starting point.

One consolation: it was satisfying to hear Kissinger the day after a socialist was elected president of Chile, in part by promising to undo the five decades of reaction launched by the coup that Kissinger had planned a lot. . I wanted to ask him the question, but only members of the CFR are allowed to ask questions during these events. Journalists are there only as passive receptacles.


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