Intuition Machine
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Intuition Machine

A.I. for Thinking Harder and not Thinking Easier

Steve Jobs has this analogy that computers are bicycles of the mind.

The challenge we have today is, how can we make Artificial Intelligence not just a tool that frees us from inconvenience, but one that enhances our own mental capabilities?

The new challenge we have today in a world of information overload is our exponentially decreasing ability to protect ourselves from disinformation. A pressing grand challenge is to see how AI can enhance our information immune system.

Viruses are information objects that replicate using biological hosts. Disinformation are malignant viruses where the hosts are infected minds. These are minds with a compromised immune system that are unable to recognize harmful viruses. Social media are the latest incarnation of a hive mind built on the substrate of the internet. It’s been less than 2 decades since they were introduced. Perhaps insufficient time for a robust immune system to have developed.

The way to control information systems that is virtual in nature is to introduce resource constraints. The lack of cost for information transfer is why spam was such a problem for email. Spam is an arms race between spammers and anti-spam technologies.

Few imagined that the open internet with its unlimited freedom will lead to an arms race between disinformation factories and information censoring systems. This oversight is perplexing because all biological systems have an information immune system. Perhaps we didn’t recognize the problem because many don’t think of biological systems as information systems. This is despite the basis of all life on earth being DNA and RNA. That is the physical embodiment of information.

The information processes of biology are however a lot more brutal and savage than what humans can accept. Natural selection does not spare the weak. It cannot distinguish between good and evil. It’s a mindless optimization engine that humans have always fought against.

The purpose of civilization is to insulate the weak from the destructive forces of nature. Human technologies insulate us from what is harmful out there. Thus, the effects of natural selection are muted. Darwin does not cull the stupidest of people from civilization.

Civilization is an equal opportunity employer for the least capable people of our society. Civilization is humanity’s shared technology that allows humans to thrive even with natural disabilities. We build humane societies because nature is intrinsically brutal.

Has civilization invented robust information immune systems that will prevent the intrinsic brutality of natural selection from creeping into the human condition? Have we instead created cancerous new technologies that will accelerate our own demise?

The problem with the mission of AI companies is to create motorcycles instead of bicycles. That is machines that do all the work. This is problematic. This is the reason why too many of the population have succumbed to the disinformation that exists on social networks.

Bicycles require humans to power forward. The participation of the human in the loop allows the human to also benefit from the activity (i.e. exercise). We need the same kinds of AI. Tools that exercise and increase our capabilities of reasoning through their use.

Math is a good example. It’s not easy to learn math, but those who have learned advanced math have reasoning skills that lead to the development of advanced technologies. We have smartphones in our pockets because the experts who created them took the effort to learn math.

Isn’t it very odd that the most technologically advanced nation in the world has an anti-nerd and anti-science culture? I’m surprised that nerds even thrive in this environment. I guess it might be because nerds have their own bubble and aren’t part of the mainstream.

Twitter is a hivemind tool that can be very useful for learning. It’s easier for people to see flaws in other people’s thinking that to see their own flaws. The permissionless reply system of Twitter encourages contrarian replies. Thus it’s a very good idea generation tool. So like math, the valuable use of Twitter isn’t something with mass appeal! Only the nerds recognize its value! The problem with Twitter is that monetization is driven by mass appeal when the true value of Twitter is driven by a minority of experts discussing ideas. The latter is valuable but may not make a ton of revenue!

Facebook revenue is 53 times Twitter. Facebook users are 17 times Twitter. Yet Facebook as an information resource is less valuable than Twitter. Monetization does not imply value. There’s a difference between entertainment and information. If you compare traditional entertainment properties with information properties, then the revenue of the former outsizes the latter. Instagram which has 16x more revenue than Twitter. Snapchat has 2.5x more. TikTok has 7.3x more. Twitter is not a space that the cool kids live in!

This is the problem with any product that claims to be a bicycle. It takes commitment and sacrifice to benefit the The stuff that sells, the sugar water, are the stuff that gets one instant gratification with zero calories. Our economic system doesn’t encourage the development of tools that make people smarter. It encourages the development of tools and environments that create slaves out of people. Too many independently minded and diverse thinkers are too progressive an environment to allow.

The economic value of poverty is so that there’s sufficient manpower to be exploited. Poverty is not a bug, it’s a feature. That’s why there’s no honest effort to eradicate it. Debt is also a feature. That’s why indebtedness is rarely addressed. Any technology that improves the information immune system of an individual is considered a threat to many economies.

Freedom and diversity is always a subversive idea. AI that enhances humans against disinformation is subversive. When you bring up information immune systems, the right-wing will be up in arms! God forbid we give people the tools to think for themselves! Who’s going to slave away as employees in our soul-wrenching industries? At our present stage of technological development, we have to be resigned to the reality that very many people remain tools for exploitation. Because we can do nothing doesn’t mean it is right.

A majority of the world lives outside of Elysium. Artificial Intelligence has the promise of creating a world of abundance. But the transition will not be easy. In the meantime, however, it’s our job to make it as painless as possible. Thus ideas like UBI and decentralized production lead to a more humane transition. But we may need AI that works in conjunction with human thinking to solve the difficult problems of this transition.

We are still beset with big problems like climate change, wars, pandemics, and inequalities that desperately need solutions that demand harder thinking. Humanity will get through this because we will build Artificial Intelligence tools that help us to think harder and not easier.

Note: The text here is rendered using “Bionic Reading”.

It is fascinating that:

Steve Jobs has this analogy that computers are bicycles of the mind.

is better than:

Steve Jobs has this analogy that computers are bicycles of the mind.



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