LISTEN TO TLR’S LATEST PODCAST:
By Joshua Dietz
Like welfare, green technology, and Katy Perry, artificial intelligence is a government program. But what exactly does that mean? Essentially, taxpayer money is funneled into the hands of a select group of corporatists, thus protecting them from the vicissitudes of the free market. Thanks to all the government cheese they get, the Silicon Valley nerds can ply their trade without having to respond to market feedback. The result? These tech robber barons form a dangerous relationship with politicians and various regulatory agencies, all to the detriment of the average American. Given the (un)success of most government programs, I believe there’s sufficient reason to be troubled by a state-run artificial intelligence system. In the following paragraphs, I would like to offer two arguments against AI.
There are two major problems with artificial intelligence: one is economic, while the other is moral. As it stands, the libertarian, free-market argument for artificial intelligence has not yet sufficiently been made. It is not entirely clear that the free-market even wants artificial intelligence. And yet, the intellectual and technological leaders of the world insist that the public must make way for a project that they never asked for, nor voluntarily contributed to. Artificial intelligence is a statist program, no different from welfare, education, and immigration, economically speaking.
It is hard to justify the redirection of taxpayer money to such programs, given the relatively destitute living conditions that millions of Americans experience every day. An argument could be made that the money the government uses to prop up tech companies could be better spent on infrastructure, education, and medicine. Or it could simply be returned to working Americans in the form of a tax rebate.
It’s taken as a given that the introduction of dynamic artificial intelligences will disrupt the job market. What remains to be seen is just how many workers will be unemployed by the arrival of these hyper intelligent robots. Robo-journalist. Robo-salesperson. Even robo-therapist! We cannot know what the effect of this technology will be, or how far-reaching in its ability AI can get. Our country is already experiencing an asset management problem of human capital, what would that challenge look like with artificial intelligence?
If this wasn’t bad enough, tech-schmucks like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg don’t want to just displace workers, they want to displace the entire economy. They have both publicly supported a universal basic income, in a stunning display of the Dunning-Kruger effect. It should come to no surprise that futurists like Elon Musk don’t understand how economics work, given that the sinking ship known as Tesla was recently bailed out by the California state government. Here we see another problem of statist programs: they are never allowed to fail. Failure of the individual programs inevitably leads us to the conclusion that statism itself is a failure.
This is to say nothing of the fact that the ethics behind artificial intelligence have not been clearly articulated. Bill Gates once laughably suggested that the robots of the future should be taxed. Does this suggest that they will be given the same rights as naturally intelligent beings? Will we be seeing a #RobotRightsAreHumanRights campaign on the Twitter of tomorrow? There is a distinctly anti-humanistic quality to the rhetoric of these futurists. It is almost as if they can no longer recognize the unique value of human life. Their reductive and materialistic ethos gives them the impression that all ‘intelligences’ are created equal. This is a flawed premise, as we are still not clear on how human intelligence is accomplished. And now for my second argument against state funded-artificial intelligence.
The second argument against AI technology is one of morality. Innovators and futurists seek technological solutions to moral and existential problems. The answer to the problems of the world will not be found by stepping over man’s potential for moral reasoning in favor of computer chips. The presupposition that artificial intelligence is necessarily better or more efficient than human intelligence has not been fully demonstrated.
Mankind has not yet achieved a culture of self-actualization, nor do we have a full appreciation of what intelligence is. The kinds of intelligence that make societies cohesive are not necessarily the kind that lead to technological innovation. This lack of respect for the value and uniqueness of humanity drives the desire for artificial intelligence, and may in fact prove to be our undoing.
The problem with amoral solutions to moral problems, is that they provide the false sense of achievement while the true problem metastasizes. Human problems of suffering, which are vast, must be solved at the human level – that is to say, interpersonally. Economic, political, and social maladies are all rooted in human pathology. Pathological human behaviors are all the result of genetic and environmental factors, and that is where we should be applying the technologies of human innovation. We should strive to improve our own lot, rather than disposing of human frailty in favor of metallic superiority.
I haven’t even brought up the Darwinian argument. What evolutionary sense does it make to invent ourselves out of existence? It is a totally perverse and misguided application of human ingenuity, and seems to border on something altogether more insidious. It is truly the mark of a diseased culture, where the most capable among us seek to strap on the metaphorical jetpack, and rocket away from the disaster they created. Unlocking human intelligence is the answer – not subverting it to the sexy droid from the Svedka commercials.
I’m not some anti-innovation, Neanderthal throwback. I like technology; the internet and air conditioning are fantastic. But we need to apply the vast body of knowledge our species has collected to better ourselves. Humanity didn’t make it to the 21st century by accepting our limitations and shirking our responsibility to mature morally and spiritually. The skepticism that great thinkers like Sam Harris and Stephen Hawking have toward artificial intelligence should give us reason to pause. Fans of my podcast will know of my personal feelings towards Mr. Harris, but when the man is right, he’s damn right. The era of man is not yet over, rather it’s just beginning. Don’t let the nerds take it away from us.