Forget about artificial intelligence, extended intelligence is the future – WIRED, 24th April 2019, Joi Ito
Digital dystopia mustn’t happen
“Last year, I participated in a discussion of The Human Use of Human Beings, Norbert Weiner’s groundbreaking book on cybernetics theory. Out of that grew what I now consider a manifesto against the growing singularity movement, which posits that artificial intelligence, or AI, will supersede and eventually displace us humans.
The notion of singularity – which includes the idea that AI will supercede humans with its exponential growth, making everything we humans have done and will do insignificant – is a religion created mostly by people who have designed and successfully deployed computation to solve problems previously considered impossibly complex for machines.”
Through the WI lens
The term singularity has been described as “a hypothetical future point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization”. It’s the point when machines run away with learning, leading to an explosion in intelligence that leaves humans at the mercy of computers. According to Joi Ito, who is director of MIT’s Media Lab, it’s the wrong way of thinking about how computer intelligence will evolve. Followers of this cult – “singularitarians” – are guilty of reductionist thinking by assuming that artificial intelligence will defy the multiple systems that govern our response to the changing landscape around us. The nub of Ito’s argument is that machines should be integrated with humans in what he dubs ‘extended intelligence’. Belief in an intelligence that takes over is misguided. What does this all mean for us mere mortals in the pursuit of wellness? Put crudely, AI must be our servant not our master. Those designing applications of technology – whether in the form of a fitness app or a ride-sharing tool – mustn’t think they can control our natural systems or re-engineer them. They need to remember that the ultimate goal is improving human wellbeing.
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”