The Machines Won’t Destroy Us

Terminator HeadThere's been a hell of a lot of doomsday movies and books over the years, chronicling mankind's fall at the hands of the machines we've created.

While I find these stories to take on the position of the Luddite, I often find them entertaining. But it's always worth pondering their message: Will the machines one day rise against us?

Advances in neuroscience are coming on in leaps and bounds. We're entering a new dawn of artificial intelligence, combined with astonishing improvements in microtechnology. These will lead to better and smarter machines, and maybe, eventually machines that are smarter than us.

It's why a number of scientists, innovators and thinkers (not least of all Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk) have expressed concerns about where this is all headed.

It's not a new worry. Every time new technology supplants old, we wonder what the tragic human cost will be. In the short term, we often see people lose jobs and so on. But factoring out what economists call “creative destruction”, basically we do okay in the long run. Things get better, and innovation leads us to a better place.

As machines get smarter, I can't see them wanting to wipe us out. Many of the top neuroscientists in this field seem to lean to the same conclusion. While we'll make strives in creating machines that share many of our emotional traits, most of the innovation that we have seen and will see in the future, will be in the neuro cortex area, dealing with logic, reasoning, and knowledge.

Machines will be able to pass on lots of knowledge, and store more information than you or I could ever possibly hope to. But that's not the same as “feeling” or anger, hate or any other traits. Machines will learn from past experience, and then (just as slowly as us in many ways) discover new ideas, and work out how effective they are.

Even if they have ideas about destroying us, and replicating themselves without needing us, the logical part of the neuro cortex programming will almost certainly always lead them to one reasonable conclusion: “Humans made us. They innovated and brought us to be. If the goal is to grow and advance, they are our best hope for precisely that kind of innovation and advancement.”

With this in mind, I don't think we have much to worry about from the technology we're creating.

Skynet's not going to be coming for us any time soon.

 

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Andy Jones TV Season 5 Episode 3

The trouble with the philosophy of Objectivism is that many have a hard time divorcing it from Ayn Rand, the philosopher who advanced the concept. I think that’s a mistake – and leads to a lot of misunderstandings about an essentially decent and moral philosophy:

Why Libertarians Win. Always.

Matt Ridley - The Rational Optimist

Matt Ridley – The Rational Optimist

I’m currently re-reading Matt Ridley’s incredible book, the Rational Optimist. It’s another timely reminder that it’s very good to be a libertarian right now. In fact, being a libertarian has put you on the right side of history and reason since the dawn of mankind.

What’s great for libertarianism, is that in the 100,000 year-or-so history of our breed of hominids, we have been winning the moral and factual argument in the real world. Our brand of reality is actually the real one, not merely the one that we’d like in theory to exist. Conservatives and modern so-called ‘liberals’ (I prefer the term ‘socialist’ or ‘social democrat’ to describe them) cannot – and have never really been able to – say the same thing.

The moment homo sapiens first evolved from their homo dynamicus ancestors, we started to learn the relative value of trade (i.e. I value item A but I value item B a tiny bit more. For you, it’s the other way around, so we trade on mutually beneficial terms). In countless tests, our gorilla, chimp, bonobo and orang-utan cousins can’t pull off the same trick. None of the hominids before us could quite do it either. Our brains were about the same size as our father-species. We were weaker and not necessarily smarter than the neanderthals. But this understanding of trade was what separated us. It’s what made us the sucess we are today.

And on it goes. Everywhere around the world, at an ever faster rate, the human race is living in an increasingly freer, happier, and more beautifully hyphenated and mongrelised world. Almost everything is getting better all the time. Or to state it differently, almost everything is getting more libertarian all the time.

In fact, the only significant area where we seem to be losing the argument, is in the size and scope of the government. In the West, it appears that the unproductive sector is getting increasingly larger relative to the size of the productive sector. But libertarianism, like gravity, is a fact of life. And it will only be a matter of (possibly prolonged) time before this one minor blip in the libertarian road is finally paved over. The size of government will eventually have to come down, just as every aeroplane that has ever taken off has eventually had to land.

The only real question is, will it be an orderly, rational and safe landing, or will it be a “brace for impact” kind of affair?

I hope everybody comes to their senses long before we have to prepare for a bumpy fall to earth.