Kevin Kelly: “The AI Cargo Cult: The Myth of a Superhuman AI”
Kevin Kelly often annoys me (see his What Technology Wants, but this is rather good, not least because it argues that the biggest flaw in the ‘superintelligence’-as-existential-risk argument is its assumption that intelligence is a one-dimensional attribute. Nobody who has read Howard Gardner can agree with that proposition.
Terrific interview with the Harvard historian and New Yorker writer. Contains this wonderful passage:
“I only ever wanted to be a writer. I love history, and I especially love teaching history, but I never intended to become an academic, and I’m baffled by the idea that reaching a wider audience involves using smaller words, as if there’s some inverse correlation between the size of your audience and of your vocabulary. You don’t talk about, say, technological determinism to a freshman the same way you talk about it to a colleague, right? Is it easier to talk to a freshman? No, it’s harder. Is it more important to give that student a clear explanation of the concept than it is to chat with your colleague about it? I think so, though I suppose that’s debatable. I love the challenge of explaining things to other people, in the same way that I love other people explaining things to me. I love being a student. Nothing is so thrilling as diving into scholarship I’ve never encountered before and trying to get my bearings, learning what so many scholars have been piecing together over a very long period of time, and trying to figure out how to bring that learning to bear on a problem that I, like a lot of people both inside and outside the academy, happen to be struggling with. The hitch is getting the scholarship right. I always worry I’ve missed something, or distorted something, or failed to understand the big picture. That’s the downside: missing something crucial. Nothing is more concerning, or more discouraging, than getting something wrong; there’s no real way to right it. It’s horrible; it kills me.”
Terrific, thoughful essay on the dystopia we have been building. ANd what we might do about it.