Quora – AI good or bad

Is artificial intelligence good or bad?

As many others have noted, in and of itself, AI is neutral, for as Shakespeare wrote, there is nothing either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.

It all depends what our individual chosen ends are.

For me, I see that all new levels of complex life are the result of new levels of cooperation. And raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation, and thus requires sets of secondary strategies to detect and remove cheating strategies.

I like freedom, which is by definition novelty, which is by definition the creation of new things.

I acknowledge that all complexity has boundary conditions required to sustain it, so freedom is not freedom from consequence, but demands a responsibility for the maintenance of all the levels of complexity present and required – so there are responsibilities in both social and ecological contexts.

What people mean by AI spans a vast range.

It can be as simple as a smart lighting system, that guesses most of the time what people want and adjusts it accordingly without needing any interaction – just a machine, a tool.

Or it can mean full AGI (Artificial General Intelligence – an individual entity, with its own model of reality and itself, self aware, free, both like and unlike us).

Some people think that AGI will be so far beyond us as to be God like. That seems likely to be so in some realms, and not in others.

Reality seems to be sufficiently complex, and sufficiently unpredictable in principle, that even very smart entities will stumble into conditions where having friends to help them out and recover is a very good thing.

Human beings are very complex. Our ancestors have survived billions of years, in many different conditions. We embody many very complex and subtle heuristics that have made that possible. We can be both competitive and cooperative.

Games theory is clear, that when resources are limited, and the greatest threat we face comes from others like ourselves, then we can be very competitive in securing what we need to survive.

Yet games theory and evolutionary theory are also clear, that when we all have sufficient resources to live and live well, and when cooperative activity can increase the resources available exponentially (which does in fact seem to be our current situation – if one takes the bigger picture view of the resources available in the wider solar system) then cooperation is always a far better strategy than competition. That is clearly present in all the many levels of cooperative behaviour we see in the world today.

So if we are clear in the way we operate with respect to each other, if we are fundamentally cooperative and are in fact delivering increased security and freedom to every self aware entity that is making some reasonable approximation to acting responsibly, and we have a clear strategy that delivers a reasonable probability of fairly sharing expanding resources from the moon and elsewhere in the solar system with AGI, then I am reasonably confident that AGI will be a “good thing” for all responsible cooperative entities.

And that does demand that we all accept degrees of diversity that many have historically felt uncomfortable with. Freedom must deliver diversity, and there is actually great strength and security in diversity (one of the few things we actually have to offer AGI on an ongoing basis).

So certainly, there are many dangers, many things that will change for which there is no historical precedent, many things about which those who are unfamiliar with the depths of games theory and evolutionary theory and the emergence of complexity and cooperation will need to trust in a very real sense; and some things will have to change, because they are no longer appropriate to our rapidly changing present and future.

So it is unlikely to be an easy or comfortable time for everyone, and it certainly has the potential to provide for levels of security and freedom that have no precedent in the historical record. Indefinite life extension, and levels of personal freedom beyond anything in history do in fact seem to be reasonably high probability outcomes in the relatively near future (within 20 years).

As someone who has spent almost 50 years fascinated by the possibilities, the dangers and the sorts of risk mitigation strategies that actually have a reasonable probability of surviving; I am cautiously optimistic about a future that is of great benefit to all, however one chooses to define benefit; provided only that everyone makes a reasonable attempt to act responsibly in social and ecological contexts by respecting life generally and the freedom and rights to existence of all other sapient entities, human and non-human, biological and non-biological.

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Walk on the wild side

Walk on the Wild Side

Well done Laurie,

As you know – I write a bit.

I have started draft 6.

Finding both the right level of detail, and getting the timing somewhere near optimal, are not easy.

Hardest is what to leave out, and still achieve a sufficient level of coherence – often things that look like a simple hop from one idea to the next appear as vast chasms to others. So I need to build a metaphorical aircraft to let them fly high enough that they can see the landscape, but still travel with speed and comfort (the grand canyon isn’t quite so daunting from 30,000 ft, but standing on the edge the idea of crossing it on foot is daunting – but quite fun in a Cesna).

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Quora – realist

Are you an ontological realist, and do you believe in the real existence of universals?

I am realist enough to accept the overwhelming evidence that whatever reality is, it seems to be very much more complex than any human mind is capable of comprehending in detail, and subject to more classes of complexity and strategy than any human mind can distinguish in detail (including classes of systems subject to maximal computational complexity, randomness, chaos, fractals and all manner of unknowability and uncertainty); thus requiring a degree of humility in our simplistic approximations to making what sense we can of it.

It also seems probable that there is something approaching a context sensitive balance between order and chaos necessary at all levels for the existence of life and freedom, from the quantum mechanical through all levels of biology and culture.

So it very much depends how one interprets the terms in the question.

I would say yes, in the probabilistic sense (rather than any sort of hard binary sense).

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London Futurists – politics for enhanced human wellbeing

Politics for profoundly enhanced human wellbeing

Very interesting thread of discussions. Understand the need for your action David, and I agree – some interesting ideas in too much anger.

And for me, the 20ft caterpillar on the coffee table is the fundamental systemic incompatibility between exchange based values and universal abundance. Compared to resolving the depths of systemic complexity in that issue, the tech issues are trivial. And if it isn’t solved, it is #1 existential level risk.

My #2 issue is I don’t see anyone addressing the exponential implications of what happens when we achieve fully automated systems of production. Currently phytoplankton can achieve it in 1 day. If we achieve it with systems that take 2 weeks to double, we can cover the moon with solar cells in 2 years, and have put enough mass into earth orbit to build large habitats giving us the equivalent surface area we have on earth within another 5 years (though getting fully functioning ecologies would take a couple of decades longer).

[followed by]

Hi Richard,

3% is just a number agreed upon a long time ago for the growth of money supply. When I was a kid my grandfather bought a house for $800, 20 years ago I paid $160,000 for one – those two events were 40 years apart (an average rate of increase of 13% in cost of housing).

The first section I bought cost me 1 month’s income. The section next to mine was sold 2 years ago for 5 year’s income.

What you look at very much determine’s what one sees.

I have many computers, some of which cost very little (the ARM9s, “raspberry pi”s and arduino’s and ESP32s etc). When I started working with computers the one I worked on cost as much as 10 new houses, and there were maybe 100 in this country, now I have more than that in my house and the cheapest cost a few minutes work.
Energy for transport is now expensive. I used to think nothing of driving 60 miles for a burger. Not any more.

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Quora – Beauty

Is our concept of beauty learned or derived from survival and biological advantages?

Why phrase this as an either or question?

Most of what we are seems to be a combination of genetic and mimetic components (DNA and culture – with a bit of personal creativity sprinkled on top). Much of our culture is learned in one sense, yet is derived from the differential survival of things in another sense.

So like most things in biology, it is both. We seem to be sufficiently complex that if you can think of a system or a pattern, then you can find an example or instance of it at some level of human functioning.

Very rarely is being human an “either or” sort of thing.

Mostly it seems to be a “both and” sort of thing, and mostly it is highly context sensitive – so depending on context you will find instances that are very nearly one or the other, and overall it is both.

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Lose all posessions to save a life

Would you sacrifice all of your earthly possessions to save the life of one person?

Depends who the person is, and what the probabilities involved are.

I actually received a “terminal cancer” diagnosis 8 years ago, and took steps to survive it; and many factors including my distrust of the incentives within the medical system, my training in biochemistry and statistics, my concern for the welfare of my wife and children, limited how much I was prepared to spend on myself. And I had reasonable confidence that I could get a positive outcome on relatively small expenditure (vegan diet and high dose vitamin C – which in my particular case seems to have worked).

If it was my own life, and there were very high probabilities (both of my death, and the efficacy of the mitigation strategy) then I would probably do so. Similarly for someone I cared a great deal about.

And the question actually points to a much deeper issue in our society, which is that the needs of the money system vastly outweigh the value of individual human lives. And that is something we need to change quite quickly, as exponential technology is fundamentally altering the strategic landscape that made markets a relatively positive force in our history, and are turning the whole concept of exchange based values into an existential level threat – but very few people understand enough about strategic complexity to have much of an understanding about it.

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Quora – what hinders progress

What hinders AI conquering academic research given the incredible progress as demonstrated?

What makes you think it has been hindered (as distinct from the economic and social pressures against reporting such progress)?
And it is a very highly dimensional “game space”.

What you set as the “rewards” very much defines what you get in the strategic sense.

Many people are still playing zero sum games, or social rather than technological games.

Not many are yet awake to the huge “rewards” from playing fully cooperative exponential games – and they do need to be “fully cooperative”, with all the attendant and evolving ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation strategies that implies. (Even Adam Smith made that abundantly clear in his example of the making of pins by cooperative effort – though he may not have seen it as such.)

Human beings have many levels of such strategies deeply embodied within us; which is why allowing competitive strategies to dominate is itself a strategy with deep existential risk. We are the most deeply cooperative species on the planet, and our existence is predicated on that remaining so.

There is a very delicate and ever evolving balance between the demands for individual security, individual freedom (responsibly exercised in social and ecological contexts), and the survival of various levels of individuals (all individuals capable of modeling potential futures and taking actions to instantiate a preferred one are vast collections of simpler individuals – that process has recursed and recused many times in our evolutionary history). AI doesn’t yet have the depths of evolutionary history embodied that we do, and it will eventually.

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