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.
“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.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.
This is not the testimony of any ordinary victim of Covid-19, but that of virologist Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and one of the scientists who discovered Ebola back in 1976.
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Before Times and After Times. Is that how we’ll come to see the Covid-19 pandemic in the fullness of time?