Stephen Hawking, #AI, and the “History of Stupidity”

Following on from the very brief post on Adam Curtis’ #Hyper-Normalisation, which is riveting viewing despite its length being around 166 minutes, and despite the fact that it, like most of Curtis’ productions IMO, leaves you feeling oddly numb as the end credits roll, kind of like you’ve seen too much and can’t quite process the wave after wave of stupid human behaviour being presented to you in film format, it’s fascinating to hear Professor Stephen Hawking’s view that: “We [humans] spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity.” And you’d have to admit, he’s got a point here.

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So, with that in mind, and very much “on-trend” in terms of what’s going on in the world, and as was touched on in Hyper-Normalisation, what’s the deal-i-o with AI? Is it likely to be, as Pro Hawking (can we just call him the Hawk?) predicts, “either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity?” Now, surely that will depend on your viewpoint in the first instance. Watching @Gemma_Chan1 on How to Build a Human the other night, it was interesting to hear views from experts who feel we may need to curb AI’s remit before it even comes into existence, and that AI needs to be for our benefit – but curb it from doing what, precisely, and who are the “we” that we are speaking of?

For instance, AI may reach a level where it decides that we are truly a very stupid species and that things need to change. But what things might it want to change, and how would that impact upon “humanity?” The show gave us a brief glimpse of AI gone rogue, with an example of a Twitter account run by AI that ended up all misogynistic and racist and stuff – so that’s not a great future.

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But what if a supremely intelligent form of AI were to come into existence, take a bit of time to look around and do its research before coming up with the following list of things that need changing:

  • The practice of thinking that the best way of keeping peace on the planet (even though that seems never to have happened, thus far) is to invent the deadliest weapons you can think of that would annihilate the population if used in sufficient numbers.
  • The practice of allowing “humane” end-of-life procedures for animals you care for, whilst at the same time leaving humans to suffer some awful and agonisingly slow deaths through sickness/illness, and the like.
  • The practice of encouraging/forcing the bulk of “civilised” populations to be placated into doing endless tasks that are, and always will be, meaningless – whether that be shopping, working (unless it’s a job that truly benefits society), or engaging in forms of entertainment.
  • The practice of viewing some humans as less human than others, and therefore less worthy of basic human rights – like adequate access to healthy sources of food and water, and the provision of shelter and a safe environment.

And those are just four examples of things that we might consider to be stupid ways of living. What if AI messed with those things? What would that look like, and, more to the point, who would object?

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About the textual silence project...

...reading, thinking, and thinking about reading... ...and then writing... View all posts by the textual silence project...

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