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Where is AI driving us?

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We humans have got to get a whole lot smarter, says Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla automobiles and CEO of SpaceX rockets.

Musk is not merely reacting to humanity’s recent tendency to elect lunatics to lead our countries. Rather, he’s trying to warn us about the rapid rise of a radical new technology: artificial intelligence. AI essentially has evolved to become an electronic brain — a web of ever more complex supercomputers interacting as one cognitive unit that can program itself, make decisions and act independently of the humans who’re creating them. These thinking machines are rapidly increasing in number and geometrically advancing their IQ, prompting Musk and others to view AI technologies in apocalyptic terms. As algorithms and systems inevitably grow more sophisticated, he says, “digital intelligence will exceed biological intelligence by a substantial margin.”

In graphic terms, Musk warns that profiteering humans are “summoning the devil” by creating a new superior species of beings that will end up dominating humanity, becoming “an immortal dictator from which we would never escape.” What’s weird is not his dystopian prognosis (other experts confirm that runaway bot intelligence is a real threat), but his solution. The way for us human beings to compete with AI says Musk, is to merge with it — surgically implant AI devices in human brains with “a bunch of tiny wires” that would fuse people with super intelligence. What could go wrong with that?
And consider self-driving vehicles. An army of corporate lobbyists is rushing to legislative halls, literally changing the rules of the road to allow full deployment of these vehicles.

What about the hundreds of thousands of professional drivers who’ll lose their jobs? Not our problem, say the financiers and AI barons who’ll profit from a mass bot-mobile conversion. Besides, as one AI champion coldly asserts, those drivers get sick, take vacations, etc. “People are messy,” he notes; “machines are straightforward.”

Indeed, so straightforward that these 2-ton, non-sentient “drivers” will be driving straight at a world of defenseless pedestrians — already, one of Uber’s experimental cars killed an Arizona pedestrian last year.



We can fix that, says Andrew Ng, a prominent AI investor: They just have to be reprogrammed. By “they,” Ng doesn’t mean the self-driving machines — he means we pedestrians must be reprogrammed! “Please be lawful,” he scolds, “And please be considerate” of the computer-driven vehicles.

So, don’t just prepare yourself for A Brave New World of automation — prepare to be re-educated so you interact properly with machines and don’t get in their way.

You can contact Hightower at jimhightower.com.

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