8: Should we be worried about AGI?; Are social platforms programming us?; and more..
Today we’ll talk about two recent documentaries, and share other cool stuff i’ve come across last week:
We need to talk about A.I
Narrated by 2001: A space odyssey's Keir Dullea, we need to talk about AI is an invitation to join the global conversation about AI so we can ensure a safe future for humanity. Top AI researchers ,AI builders, and even James Cameron weigh in and share their views about the topic. They discuss the goal alignment; when we build an AI it is essential that we imbue it with our values and what's okay to do in order to achieve a specific goal: Say you program an AI system with the goal of achieving peace in the world. For all we know, it can go about killing all humans, for, according to its predictions and calculations, that is the only way this goal could be achieved. This for instance is an example of goals unaligned between humans and machines.
Currently, we have narrow AIs, capable of achieving a specific goal in one area, through computational prowess, and processing, but outside of this area they're good for nothing. The interviewees in the doc talk about the future of AGI, a future AI that is competent in all areas, with infinite degrees of freedom, emulating reality; an AI as intelligent as a human, and just like a human, adapts to any context/environment. The researchers argue that it shouldn't necessarily be the case that a brain can not to be emulated in silicon, cause at the fundamental level,all matter is made of common elemental particles, and there is nothing special about carbon based life forms. The laws of physics don’t prevent the advent of an AGI. Narrow AIs have been gaining new degrees of freedom every few years. IBM’s deep blue beat Kasparov in 1997, than one degree of freedom later, Watson beat Jeopardy champions in 2011, Alpha go beat Lea Sedoul in 2016, then Alpha zero came out… and now we have Gpt3. The computation power of computers is doubling every 5 years and the cost is going down. At this rate, one researcher argues, we'd be able to emulate the brain in 50 years. The thing with AGI is that once it happens,we’re past the time horizon; we reach the singularity, a point where the AI, by itself, can get incredibly smarter over night, what we call an intelligence explosion occurs, the result of which no one could predict. Fears about AI taking over the world have been going on since forever, but this time it is different because of the internet. It is not in the offing that the development of AI will take a break, cause there are huge investments being poured in and a lot of smarter people joining the field. You can not bet against human ingenuity and say that AGI is impossible,says one researcher. Another interviewee who’s been building AI for 25 years feels offended by the claims of Elon musk and others about AI being an existential threat, and argues that every time we think we're close to a breakthrough we discover that there a lot we still don’t understand. He says that we should not look at AI as good vs bad. AI could produce a lot of good in the world. One researcher raised the concerns about killer robots AI used as weapons to do the dirty work of killing. Russia in one conference says that whoever wins the AI race will rule the world, China is of the same opinion, which means that no nation is willing to put the brakes on to think about safety and getting things right. It is a race to the top. The risk is that AI builders are building things fast,with the sole purpose of succeeding, heedless of the safety issues that need to be addressed and thought through. The transhumanists won’t leave it for chance and propose that we merge with AI as a long term solution. You don't wanna be devalued or looked at as ants by the next generation of machines. Could we be the species whose purpose is to build these far smarter species that will eventually rule the planet and occupy the whole universe? Could be. When asked when AGI might happen, the answers varied from a decade to hundreds of years. Even if we have a 100 years to think about how we can make AGI a boon to humanity, we need to address the safety concerns and the goal alignment on a global scale starting now. Who is to say that there are no highly secretive schemes out there to build AI for use in vandalism ? People were saying that figuring out nuclear energy is impossible and then suddenly we had nuclear weapons. Max Tegmark from the doc compares Apollo 11 to AGI; it is not fear mongering thinking about the future of AI, but safety engineering. We have to think about everything that could go wrong so it goes right.
Are social media platforms programming us?
You turn on the news and it is Mad Max fury road out there; the world has gotten crazy, and we, oblivious to what the cause is,are just ineffectual nodes on a large unfathomable network. The new Netflix doc, The social dilemma, gathers together former engineers and designers at Twitter, Facebook ,Youtube, Pinterest, and Instagram in a confrontational session about what’s got us here. What is the root of the problem? Spearheading the rebellious movement is Tristan Harris, The guy who started it all. Tristan was a google engineer(design ethicist), but he got sick of where things were heading, and felt that he should free himself of blame and tell the whole world what is happening on the other side of their devices. I have been following Tristan’s work for two years. It started when I came across this talk of his, then I listened to several podcasts of his on the Tim Ferries show and the making sense podcast. Really changed how i look at social media and the connected world, but now, with this doc, he’s not alone, he broughts some insiders who, for the first time, are lifting the curtain on the social media conglomerates. Tristan argues that our brains are equipped with the tools necessary to survive in small tribes, in hunter gatherer times. Never in the history of humanity have 30 tech designers been able to control the lives of 2.7 billion people. The tech designers confess that the ultimate goals of the company are to increase profit, engagement, and growth, never caring about what’s good for humans, and all of these goals are reflected in the design of their products, nothing is hapless. Only few people in the tech world know how these systems really work. Once released into the world, the system takes a life of its own. These systems designed to “connect” the world aim at gradually changing people’s behavior. What makes them successful is their abiliy to make perfect predictions, and sell certainty to advertisers. Every user of Facebook gets a curated version of reality, targeting his psychological nature. You have to be aware that whatever you do on the internet is recorded, watched, and used to make your avatar version of yourself more manipulative to these companies. These tech giants make a huge amount of money because they're trading the future of humanity for money; the avatars of users on their platforms are manipulated by algorithms that feed on their personalities. It felt unsettling seeing the impact of using these social platforms on teenagers’ mental health, their dwindling willingness to take risks, and the increase in suicide rates among them. The wreck these platforms wrought goes further: they create more polarization and echo chambers and produce people that don’t wanna to have any conversation with each other; opposing parties filled with hate and animosity toward the other. You know, when the genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to put it back in; all the tech people can do now is tweak their systems to salvage the good left in them. The solution to this dilemma will happen when humans induce, collectively, a massive public pressure to coax governments into regulating these platforms in a way that protect people’s rights. Unsurprisingly, None of the interviewees let their children use these platforms, because, being the designers, they're aware of the dangers of these devices. The design of Facebook and Instagram is inspired by Las Vegas’s slot machines. Unexpected rushes of dopamine manipulate the brain’s circuitry. The tagging, the likes buttons, and the comment sections are all examples of the tricks used to boost engagement. It is not as if social media is a tool that is sitting at rest waiting to be used, like a bicycle, say. It is a tool that is controlling the masses’ behavior and affecting even people who don’t use it through the culture it creates. The continuing use of these platforms heralds an existential risk. AI will get better and these tech are following the same strategies, treating people as nodes on large network of collective brain, with one goal: increasing profit. Left as is, these platforms might be our undoing. We need to voice our concerns and recognize that better AI won’t solve the problem; AI predictive models can’t distinguish between what the truth is and what fake news is. Fake news naturally attract more attention owing to how the brain is wired. The truth is boring to the brain. It is the era of attention economy. What happens when these platforms act as mediums to distort the truths and spread conspiracy theories ? Better recognize the danger of these devices before it is too late.
What I’ve been reading
This week, I finished reading the book Future Perfect: the case for progress in a networked age . Check out my review here.
What I’ve been watching
World's Fastest Pitch - Supersonic Baseball Cannon: Fascinating video about what happens when you fire a baseball that travels with a supersonic speed into a wall.
Is dust mostly dead skin: We see dust everywhere but how much of it is actually shed human skins, and what other constituents dust is made of?
Joe Rogan- Naval: Finally got around to watching Naval’s episode on the Joe Rogan’s podcast. Here are the main takeaways:
1- Naval: I think young geeks are attracted to my ideas because they never saw a bear on a tricycle. Message, combine skills in new ways
To have a clear mind avoid politics
Reading the best 100 books again n absorbing them well is better than reading everything
The trifecta are rich, happy, Calm. Rich can be taught. Don’t have many desires. Have a limited number of desires and let go of the others to increase happiness.
AGI is overblown. You cannot simplify the brain by what a neuron does. Something is going on inside the cell of the neuron that you're not accounting for. All the jobs that are being replaced are countered with new opportunities and ways for creativity. Naval is against Universal basic income because it could bankrupt the government by people asking for more.
Everyone could get rich
Be authentic to escape the competition
In a world inundated with knowledge go back to the basics. Wanna understand economics, read the wealth of nation. Physics? Read Feynman’s six easy pieces…
Do something you love which seems like work to other people. No one will beat u at that.
I’m thinking of ending things: Most of the movie is a couple driving,snow outside, with only brief stops; the most crucial of which is a visit to Jake( the driver)’s parents house, where things get confusing and time is distorted. We don’t exactly know whether everything Jake is experiencing is a mirage or true. I liked the movie because its soothing ambience, and the deep conversations had throughout. Also, that scene at the end where everyone is aged for no obvious reasons is interesting. I think it is one of those movies that require multiple vieweings to appreciate.
Cat people: Cat people are people who turn into cats when triggered by certain human behaviours. Watchable.
Undone is a series done in the animated style of waking life., and Scanner Darkly(rotoscoping?). The series centers around a a girl who‘s on a mission to undone her father’s accident and alter the timeline. One time the girl is driving her car when, like a bolt from the blue, her dead father appears on the side of the road, she looks at him in a moment of shock, and just as she is looking at him, a speeding car crashes into hers at a road intersection. From here, the series takes on an unexpected turns and reality blends into dreams, and no longer is it clear what is what. Could all this we’re seeing be delusions the mind of the girl created like in Shutter island? Turns out the father had distracted his daughter deliberately so that she arrives at that astral plane sort of, where he could communicate with her and make her do his bidding in finding out who kills him by going back in time and prevent the murder. The dad gives the girl two choices: either continue this boring life linearly, which will follow a normal course of events: aging, kids, and death. Or, live in the world of infinite possibilities where you could alternate between timelines and shift state of consciousness at the drop of a hat. She accepts the offer and the madness begins: one time she is in a class tutoring children, suddenly she is in the backseat of a car with her dad in the driver’s seat; another time, she finds herself floating in space among the stars. All the while, she was receiving helpful inputs and instructions from her father in order to be able to train herself to go back in time to whatever time she wants; her training included making the key on a table disappears by accelerating the passing of days and go to the time when the key isn’t there. When she first succeeded in going back in time to the time the father had left her upon receiving a call from work. Watching from a distance, father besides her, that her mother had stormed in her father’s lab, and was rummaging through the drawers. The father had a girl assistant so the mother thought that a kinda of affair was going on. At last, after the girl discovers that her dad was the perpetrator of the crime and that he deliberately swerved into the his demise, girl sat besides him in the car, the girl tells him that he’s not the same person from the past and that he should go back with her and prevents the accident. So he does this by going back to that time he left his daughter, and he merges present( now wise) self with his past self, which could now make the good decision of ignoring the call from work and spend time with his daughter. At the end of season 1 the girl was sitting opposite a cave with her sister who was trying, as her boyfriend and mother before her did to convince the girl that all of what she’s experiencing is the working of her mind. The final scene showed her face widening as the light coming out of the cave opposite engulfed her face. Could be that the father is back and what she is experiencing is real. the creativity and inventiveness is top-notch in this show.
That’s it for today’s weekly reporting.
Until next week