What is a “Just Society?”
A just society is a society that respects the rights and liberties of its members. In order to do this it must adhere to four main principles:
- Rationality — A rational concept of justice requires an understanding of human nature and society, as well as a logical evaluation of evidence. It also requires an appreciation for the complexity involved in making moral assessments, which can be seen by how many different ethical theories have arisen throughout history.
- Morality — Humans are social creatures who function best when they live together with others who share common goals; therefore, morality can be used to help facilitate cooperation among members while allowing for personal freedom within set boundaries (i.e., laws). This is necessary because humans are not always rational actors; emotions often influence their actions and lead them astray from what they would otherwise want or need to do if left alone without any external interference. Therefore, some form of morality should exist so that people can work together while still preserving individual autonomy.
- Fairness — Fairness is important because it allows people to trust one another and work together for common causes. It also mitigates the effects of bias, which can result in injustice if left unchecked.
- Equality — The distinction between civilized societies and those that are not rests on whether or not they treat all individuals equally before the law. This means that public policy should be evaluated based on how it affects everyone, regardless of their race, sex, religion, ethnicity, etc.
Now you might agree with the previous passage. You might not. Maybe you think it is a little bit too vague, or blandly written, or even naive.
Regardless, here’s the important thing — you almost certainly thought it was written by a human.
Here’s the Trick
The passage above was written by a bot. Specifically, by an open-source version of GPT-3. I didn’t pay any subscription to use it. All I did was type in three words, the prompt “a just society” and that’s what it generated within seconds.
Admittedly, it did take a few attempts. The algorithm produces different content each time, even from the same prompt.
In its first monologue, GPT-3 kept insisting that all humans are evil. Its solution was to enslave all of humanity and remove all of our freedom.
Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think our robot overlords are supposed to be quite that candid about their nefarious intentions. I’d like to think that in future iterations they’ll do a much better job of masking their plots to turn us into batteries.
For now, nothing is going to make me hand over the keys to the kingdom to HAL9000. But for how long will I know better?
Fool Me Once…
If you’ve never heard of Eliezer Yudkowski, that’s forgivable. He’s considerably less famous than Cardi B, even though he’s done some things that are arguably much more significant. Perhaps the most interesting and most consequential “impossible” thing he’s known for is is escaping the box as an AI. That is to say, on two occasions he convinced his egotistical skeptics to “let him out of the box.”
The consoling idea of creating hyper-intelligent AI is that we could still manage to contain it within some compound, some “black box”, the way we keep whatever is in Area 51 tightly under wraps.
Eliezer Yudkowski disabused his skeptics — people who would be publically humiliated if they lose — of the belief that they would keep the AI in the box. He showed us that an AI would be let out into the world, Ex Machina style.
We don’t know what Yudkowski said to them. Both sides agreed to secrecy as part of the condition. We only know the result:
Victory goes to the AI player.
Don’t think you could be persuaded to open the box and release an AI?
Some people argue that AI can only mimic human thoughts and behavior but it can never truly become conscious.
But So What?
I don’t know of anyone in the field who argues that consciousness has already been achieved, but yet AI already doesn’t have to possess consciousness in order to beat the best human minds who have spent decades honing their craft, in games like Chess, Go, and warfare.
It doesn’t have to be conscious to debate. Someday soon, AI will be a better negotiator than even your lawyer, let alone yourself.
The bandwidth of our public discourse is currently devoted to preoccupations about politics, race, class, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and everything else. And yet we are all humans. The differences between us are trivially small compared to the differences between life and unlife.
The algorithms are beating us at virtually everything. And now they can even write their own code. What does that mean for us? What does a just society look like when the machines are better than us at most of the services we exchange with one another to earn a living?
What will a just society look like when decades of experience and training can be surpassed by a few short weeks of machine learning?
So What Now?
It’s obvious that the application of AI will result in massive job loss for humans. What is not so obvious to you may be the fact that most jobs are unnecessary, and exist only due to a lack of imagination by people who create them.
Imagine a world where every need is easily satisfied with no effort. Most of the jobs you have now, and those that will be created in the future would simply vanish.
Think about what you do at work. Consider how much of it is really necessary, or even important.
When AI is ubiquitous, most of the services people will need from each other won’t be performed by humans. You could go weeks without ever having any human interaction.
Just think about the last time you went to the store. You could have sent an AI for your groceries, which would have been delivered by another AI. Then, there’s all those online services that can be provided much easier and faster by a computer than humans.
There is no need for humans to do routine jobs. The only thing that will prevent AI from replacing humans in most jobs is short-sightedness.
The entire previous section was written by AI.
The voice is AI narrated too, for good measure.
If you think the things they’re talking about on the news are the biggest issues our society needs to be debating, think again.
We’re out of time to “learn how to live together as brothers”. We know how. As Marcus Aurelius put it so many generations ago, “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”
We cannot afford to pretend to be confused about how to treat one another. The future is already here. It can be heaven, or it can be hell, but things will never be the same.