Why Won’t Anyone Just Say It?

Even Professors of Philosophy Are Afraid to State the Obvious

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A sign stating the obvious

A quote from the above linked (really excellent) piece by Thomas McMullan. I would be remiss if I did not point out that it seems man continues to have a penchant for deifying things which do not actually exist.

Atthe tail end of 2017, a feature in Wired offered a glimpse into a new“church of artificial intelligence,” set up by Silicon Valley engineer and expert in self-driving car technology, Anthony Levandowski. The aim of Levandowski’s church — called the Way of the Future — is described in papers filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.”

“It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes,” Levandowski told Wired. “But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?”

…… Neural networks are bringing superhuman levels of analysis to everything from security to finance. Last year, DeepMind’s AlphaGo Zero taught itself to play the thousand-year-old game of Go in three days. Does the self-professed dean of the Way of the Future have a point?

“No,” says Luciano Floridi, professor of philosophy and ethics of information and director of the Digital Ethics Lab at the University of Oxford. “This is just an old confusion mixed with a new mistake.”

“The old confusion is in the comparison: The sun is a billion times more powerful than humans, but that does not make it a god. The mistake is in stating that AI is smarter than humans. In any serious sense of ‘smart,’ this is meaningless. AI is immensely more powerful computationally. But this, like in the sun’s case, does not make it any more divine than a kettle.”

I suppose I should feel some measure of satisfaction from a quote like this. After all, a professor of philosophy is basically putting the lie to another ridiculous AI claim. Unfortunately, all I feel is that an opportunity was missed and utter confusion as to why he did not go all the way and just say it? “It is not in any sense of the word smart, nor is it in any sense of the word intelligent, so why are we even having this conversation? There is no such thing as AI.” The only thing I can figure is that since he is the director of the digital ethics lab at Oxford he feels he can’t just call bullshit on something that most likely is responsible for much of his salary and the fact that his job even exists. Not nearly as many philosophy papers can be written about the ethics of using modern day computing using the latest computer software and hardware to do X (an actual, real, existing possibility), compared with the number and variety that can be written about the ethics of using artificial intelligence to do Y (not a real possibility since there is no such thing as AI)

As I have been saying over and over and over again so called AI is nothing more than modern computers computing as they always have but (slightly) faster using (slightly) improved mathematical and statistical techniques. At base, they are still just programs written by humans using code input into a computer plugged into a wall somewhere. And yet here we sit today with talented writer’s like Mr. McMullan writing four part epic stories, religions being founded, billions of dollars changing hands, and fear and anxiety rising, all because of a thing which does not even exist. I would say never has such a thing happened in human history, but then I thought, oh yeah, of course it has. AI may not exist, but man’s propensity to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over is alive and well.

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Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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