Humans nowadays dominate the planet not because the individual human is far smarter and more nimble-fingered than the individual chimp or wolf, but because Homo sapiens is the only species on earth capable of co-operating flexibly in large numbers.‘Homo Deus’ by Yuval Noah Harari, pg. 132
My top four take-aways from reading this densely-packed book:
ONE - Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) Is Not The Killer App
Prior to reading this book I thought humankind had a significant time buffer between now and when machines posed a significant threat to the human race, given my belief that AGI appears to still be a dream that will not be fulfilled anytime soon. However, after reading ‘Homo Deus,’ I now no longer think that AGI is the killer app to fear. It seems that super-intelligence, or super-intelligent algorithms, is the killer app that humans should fear the most, and that is here today. Dr. Harari calls this the decoupling of intelligence from consciousness.
Humans are in danger of losing their economic value because intelligence is decoupling from consciousness….Only conscious beings could perform tasks that required a lot intelligence, such as playing chess, driving cars, diagnosing disease or identifying terrorists. However, we are now developing new types of non-conscious intelligence that can perform such tasks far better than humans. ‘Homo Deus’, by Yuval Noah Harari, pg. 314
TWO - Humans will not be made into slaves by Artificial Intelligence. Humans will made irrelevant by Artificial Intelligence.
In the last podcast I discussed the possibility that humans could be made into slaves by our super-intelligent A.I. overlords. After reading ‘Homo Deus’, however, I think that humans will not have any utility whatsoever, which seems much worse in some ways.
In the twenty-first century we might witness the creation of a massive new unworking class: people devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society.‘Homo Deus’, by Yuval Noah Harari, pg. 330
‘The Future of Employment’, by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, surveys the liklihood of various professions getting replaced by computer algorithms.
THREE - Androids may not be so important to the creation of AGI
In our last podcast, I argued that Androids would be a pre-requisite for the creation of AGI because computers would need to interact with the real world in order to collect necessary data about real life in order to achieve human-level consciousness. What I overlooked was the concept of the hyper-connectivity of the Internet-of-All-Things concept. If all things are connected to the network already, there would be no need for a computer to assume human form to interact with the real world. The network would become the real world.
FOUR - The ‘Modern Covenant’ sounds like a deal with the Devil
With each passing decade we will enjoy more food, faster vehicles and better medecines. One day our knowledge will be so vast and our technology so advanced that we shall distill the elixir of eternal youth, the elixir of true happiness, and any other drug we might possibly desire - and no god will stop us.‘Homo Deus’, by Yuval Noah Harari, pg. 202
If it sounds too good to be true, then that’s probably right. Just like using Google and Facebook for free…the cost is your personal privacy and freedom.
Besides, humans don’t need yet-another covenant. If the first and second covenants of the Judeo-Christian belief are not sufficient, then a covenant with modern technology seems unlikely to suffice.
The New York Times recently ran an article called: ‘Can Silicon Valley Find God?’. I was a bit surprised to read an article about how people, humans, are trying to rectify their theology with super-intelligent A.I. algorithms. It almost seems reminiscent of the time the ancient Hebrews made a Golden Calf for themselves to worship. I can understand why God is largely absent from Silicon Valley and technology in general. God is not logical and does not compute. But that does not necessarily mean that the religions of the world are suddenly irrelevant and meaningless compared to our man-made, super-intelligent algorithms, for that does not seem logical either.
OK, So What?
I think automation and super-intelligent algorithms are a good thing. I think technological innovation can be, and is, a good thing for mankind, but not at all costs (and I am no Machiavellian). I don’t think God is dead, but I am an agnostic and still seek proof on the matter. Furthermore, I believe we humans need to start changing the narrative on what our relationship with super-intelligent algorithms, or AI, will be in the future. What we conceive and believe, we will achieve. Mankind’s future does not have to be one of irrelevance and dominance by technology, but I would never be so arrogant to think Homo sapiens should seek to become gods either. That path seems to lead to destruction, as it has throughout history.
Plus, The meek will inherit the earth.
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