you might find, after reading a bit, that there is a certain urgency to my communications on this site, about the need for informed, empowered human agency during this critical juncture in our history. That is because I find most of humanity to be either totally unaware or unwilling to admit the power…
What is Power? What is Control?
The power that AI a) holds over our lives already, c. 2022, and b) is poised to hold over us in the very near future, as it powers through its ascension from clever software to required system to lethal weapon to… control.
So what I want to articulate in this particular post is one very simple truth.
The AI Tsunami
does not have to be something
that happens to you.
You have innate human agency. The ability to make choices, take actions, and be responsible for your siutation. You don’t have to be an unfortunate casualty of this event — though many will be.
How to embody Human Agency
Rather than be blown away by the impact, you can plan, you can train, and… (following the metaphor) you can SURF this wave… and, perhaps, have the time of your life doing it.
So, right here and now, I want to give you the gift (and your natural birthright) of agency:
YES, this collision of civilizations (biological vs. machine-based life, carbon vs. silicon, meatspace vs. cyberspace) is pretty much inevitable… but what YOU… your particular ROLE is in the ensuing drama… that of victim or hero or somewhere in between. That decision, that choice… is entirely up to you.
Once again, to drive the point home, I will refer to the words of the imminent Max Tegmark, one of my favorite thinkers on the topic. What follows is my paraphrased / enhanced version of his original questionnaire, excerpted from the preface of his superb book, Life 3.0:
Questions you should be prepared to answer
- When considering your own human agency, what areas of your life do you wish to remain in control of? What parts of you comfortable handing over to hyper-smart machine intelligences?
- Realise that most of these intelligences will answer to powerful corporate and government authorities. Does this change your answer?
- What sort of future do you want?
- Should we develop lethal, AI-powered autonomous weapons systems?
- What would you like to happen with the automation / robotic replacement of jobs? [Note: this is not just speaking to so-called “blue-collar” jobs. AGI is equally, if not more effective, at traditional “white collar” analysis, paper-pushing and decision making than it is with repetitive factory, transportation, and manual labor work]
- What career advice do you want today’s children to have, given the coming wave of automation across all fields of work?
- Would you prefer new forms of work replacing old ones, where everyone has “work” that serves a “purpose,” or do you envision a jobless society where everyone enjoys a life of leisure via machine-produced wealth & abundance*?
- [*this is often called a “technological utopia”; see post on the topic]
- Looking a bit further down the time tunnel, would you like humanity to create some form of hybridized “Life 3.0” (some synthesis of human consciousness and machine intelligence) and spread it beyond Earth, beyond the Solar System, into the broader cosmos?
- Will we humans control the coming wave of intelligent machines, or will they control us?
- Do you think that super-intelligent machines will most likely replace us (as a species), peacefully(?) co-exist alongside us, or in fact merge with us in some sort of novel cyborg lifeform, a seamless integration of biology and silicon?
- What will it mean (theologically? ontologically? teleologically?) to be human in the age of intelligent machines? [Kurzweil does an excellent job exploring this question]
- What would you like it to mean, and what can we do today to help ensure that the future of human agency turns out that way?
Human Agency: The Conversation
As Max also mentions, this discussion of human agency, autonomy and choice may be the most important conversation of our entire lives, if not the entire history of humanity.
You need to be a part of this conversation.