Thank you for the careful response.
Mike Meyer

Mike — the good thing about your reply is that it has clarified your thinking to me. Below, I have added a number of comments to yours to clarify why we are miles away from each other. But in the interests of not just pointlessly locking horns, I ask you to consider that my criticisms of your position are not really unique to AI; they are more to do with a sort of cultural blindness I see as regards what is really of merit amidst these troublesome times.

Trigger warning, disclaimer or whatever: I am pretty relentless — please do not take it personally.

Will AI replace human management? That decision has already been made and is already spreading rapidly.

This is only true if you surrender your own will to those of the corporatocracy in which we currently live. And it is surprising to see how easily someone on the left is doing that and thereby playing into their hands. ‘They’ (people of formalized power) want you to feel that the universe is deterministic and all you can do is go with the flow. I’d rather stand for my beliefs and independence, and be in a tiny minority, than go with the sheeple just because that’s what sheeple do and there are a lot of them about. Think: did you even get a say in this so-called ‘decision’, or have you accepted it from elsewhere such that you no longer question it? See how that works?

We have already made the decision to use AI in every way possible and we are already becoming unable to understand or control it. It appears that the great majority of people are unaware of this.

Who is this ‘We’. Please exclude me — especially as you detail that ‘we’ are unable to understand the very thing ‘we’ have opted to use. Regardless of any mass ignorance, it already sounds like a bad idea by your own words — unable to understand or control it.

In medicine AI is, at times, already better than humans in diagnosis.

I don’t think this is correct. It may be faster, more methodical and more impartial than specific individuals on specific days, but the data it is using is all amassed by humans. So, yes, a calculator can do complex maths in tiny fractions of a second that would take a human hours, but it does not do the job ‘better’. And as regards the medical profession, AI will actually embed much that is faulty in Western medicine — and there is a LOT wrong with Western medicine. All the evils of a profit-from-sickness system will be obfuscated and harder than ever to address.

If technology solves a real problem that people have (not an imaginary problem that someone thinks they should have) and there is workable technology that will solve that problem, people will start using it.

This is more of the same deterministic outlook that runs through all your ideas. History proves you correct. The same history has also lead us into a situation in which the runaway ‘success’ of human technology is our greatest threat. To quote even a prominent scientist on this matter, you cannot solve a problem by the same thinking that created that problem.

This is how people work.

That is a patronizing statement. I work as I work; you work as you work. I agree that in general terms all humans are very similar, but I am as entitled to frame those generalizations as you are. And I certainly see things very differently from you.

Now the hard part. We need to evolve.

Why? Evolution in any case, never involved any conscious decisions — ergo, we cannot ‘choose’ or ‘decide’ to evolve. You are bastardizing the concept to imply that our civilization needs to ‘move forward’ technologically. It is a long argument, but I keep making the case that technology has actually CAUSED many of our problems, and I keep seeing people just ignoring that argument. As someone once said, it is hard to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it.

That worked when we were hiding in the weeds from large animals but not so well now.

Indeed. We are not evolved for the crazy world we have built and we are only becoming more and more alienated. Must we destroy ourselves through ignoring the obvious here? Sure — we can change our world a lot, and have already done so. Unfortunately that has left us in a world that is alien to the one in which we evolved. AI threatens to make that even more true.

And the problem of our illusionary self requires us to think that we make decisions operating on free will when we know that is also an illusion

You discuss the ‘illusory’ self as a problem, but indirectly reassert it to say that it has no free will. I am aware of research indicating physiological changes that can be observed prior to conscious supposed decision making. If that is what you are alluding to, the mistaken thinking there is exactly to follow that idea that the illusory self could not be anything other than the conscious self. The scientists and philosophers who discuss this issue fail to see that just because they cannot find the origin of any of these changes does not imply that the origin is non-existent. These are obviously involved philosophical matters that could fill endless speculative tomes of metaphysics, but even at the quantum level we can see how the human mind jumps to conclusions — describing its science as ‘probabilistic’ simply because it fails to find any ‘hidden variables’. What is missing in all this is any concept that answering certain questions is possibly wholly beyond our abilities. Human intellectual hubris is ironically making fools of us in such matters.

Our conscious decision is the last stop on the process and simply notification to our conscious self what was already decided so it can take credit.

Decided by what? The universe? Perhaps. But if you believe in such a deterministic universe, why even bother advocating for anything at all? It is all in the stars already. All human endeavors are evidence that — correctly or not — we humans do NOT believe in such a universe. But scientism and the rise of technology as a religion for supposed human betterment has indoctrinated just about the entire human population into a complete paradox: the idea that we have freewill within a deterministic universe. Honestly, we are truly a species-gone-mad to the extent that we convince ourselves of such irrational nonsense.

Then there’s the problem of emotions. We lose control constantly and are designed to react favorably to emotional appeals even if they are fatally flawed.

Emotions are now a problem? Without them we would have perished millions of years ago. Emotions exist for clearly identifiable survival purposes. I strongly agree with you that they can be manipulated for the worst purposes. The answer is to drag that reality out of its current cultural obfuscation; not to decide that emotions are a ‘problem’. They are here to stay one way or another.

We have been able to get by pretty well but we are running out of bandwidth in handling complex, nonlinear problems.

We have become powerful through technology — more powerful than is good for us in the absence of a more mature attitude as regards just how powerful human technology really is. The problems the planet is currently experiencing can be far more accurately modeled by technology using AI, but so what? We already have pretty sound knowledge about the genesis of those problems. The real problem is not lack of knowledge or accurate modeling, it is lack of human will to actually be honest about the changes that will actually address those problems. Super hi-tech calculations of what is wrong are a complete waste of time and effort in the absence of related changes in human behavior. That lack of behavioral change is already evident, and is therefore the valid point of inquiry. Also, as looking into these matters really demands forms of introspection and subjectivity (IMHO), AI is utterly useless — actually highly counterproductive in terms of being a pointless distraction.

But it is also very clear that until we lose Miami and Manhattan and the numbers lost to heat death in Texas in August are daily news that not much more will be done.

This is exactly the problem of apathy I mention above. But unlike you, I am not defeatist on this. You may well be correct that such wake-up calls will be required, but only because many similar thinkers keep defining the human as intrinsically incapable of change without massive external influence.

At this point our evolutionary track is electronic not biological.

Again, you abuse the concept. All the electronics in the world will not feed a single individual for a single day. Evolution is inherently a biological process, possibly extending into the thought, ideas and cultural development of humans as a rather unique instance. Ignoring our biological needs, or imagining that electronics will somehow help us meet them in any significant manner, is far less realistic than the people who thought fossil fuels would simply help keep us warm.

We don’t have time for anything else.

We are short on time — agreed. But your comment is phrased as panic. Shortage of time does not support any proposed solution or deem it necessary. If I have to get to the shops in a rush and it is raining, my urgency does not stop the rain from soaking me. Like I say, this ‘must do’ mentality is right where the corporate world wants you to be; convinced that we must accelerate down this road. The same voices tell us that fracking is safe. It’s all about corporate expansion and profit.

Luckily we have been able to build machine learning systems that can figure out the details.

These systems tell us nothing we do not tell them. They just spit the info back at us in a much more analyzed version, and much quicker of course — complete with any errors we fed in in the first place. The details are in any case a distraction. The situation is actually quite simple: too many of us are consuming too much stuff that is destroying the planet for us not to face a serious negative impact. We know this. Let’s stop pretending that enhancing these basic facts with mountains of details and complex models is going to change the fact that we are already ignoring the core problems as they stare us in the face.

They are no good at the big picture but we can do that if we work at it.

This is my point. But we do not need to ‘work at’ it in the sense you mention. We need to inquire as to why a species that is well aware of the problem actively seeks to delude itself about the seriousness of that problem. Given you are a person on the left (I think that is how you might describe yourself — correct me by all means if I am wrong), I would have thought you would see the hand of corporates at work in this latest plan to steal more grant money and manufacture more crap even cheaper amidst their general indifference to the bigger picture. No?

Bill Everett Irene Brooks

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