Learning from Jaron Lanier

| Tags: Business, Sustainability, World

It is always worth listening to Jaron Lanier as he explores the relationship between humanity and technology. At the root of his insight is that humans create technology and technology simply connects human stuff to other human stuff. AI is not “alien intelligence” it is moderately good algorithms that mash up what that is already on the internet, at massive scale. Rubbish in, rubbish out, as we used to say.

Maybe we could rebrand machine intelligence as human stupidity. The kind of venal idiocy enabled by social technology already existed in our world  and has been amplified a little by technology. It is unsettling but not the end of the world.

The scary thing about AI is not that it is SKYNET, with an independent sentience that can turn against us, it is that the wrong people are using these technologies in ways that can harm us. Facebook is a stand out example of this.

A gun in the hands of a good man is a useful thing, a gun in the hands of a bad man is a bad thing, to paraphrase Charlton Heston (I think). In the hands of a bad person a car is a lethal weapon. Lanier exhorts us to think rationally: technology increases human power. It is humans that are controlling the technology, humans that need describing in good or bad terms, not the technology. These technologies are not “alien intelligence” they are the product of human intelligence and it is the humans that need regulating.

So, be skeptical of AI and understand that the focus should be on why it was developed and who developed it for what purpose. You cannot hold a machine accountable, it always has to be the human who created and used the machine that is responsible.