Conquerors Are Coming

In Chapter 5, Kai-fu Lee explains what kind of future he and his fellow conquistadors of our right to be human are preparing for us. Obviously, he’s one of the people who are hoping to enrich themselves exploiting our simple-mindedness, so he’s only mentioning what he considers to be the nice sides of the AI colonization he and his buddies are planning. Even then, the picture he paints is so terrifying that I think we need to make fighting this our number one priority.

We are not China yet! We are not some beaten down pawns of a totalitarian regime. We have democratic institutions, and we need to use them to defend ourselves against this horror. We need to forget all of the inane and irrelevant spats about non-issues like abortion, SAT tests, racismsexism, UBI, guns, and all the rest of that crap. This is Christopher Columbus disembarking on our shores and waving red caps and pieces of broken mirror at us to entrap us.

Will we stand around, gawping stupidly while we get dispossessed or will we do something about it?

6 thoughts on “Conquerors Are Coming”

  1. I don’t recall the author, or where I first read it, but the phrase went like this:
    “Any species that allows machines to be built that can replace it, deserves extinction.” I didn’t search it – the orignal source I’m sure is “out there.”

    Might have been Frank Herbert (he of the Butlerian Jihad, resulting in a chief commandment “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”)

    or Jack McDevitt.

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  2. Resisting AI is a challenge. The safest way would be outright luddism, but then the societies who still have computers will economically and militarily defeat those that don’t (I imagine that struggle would look something like the war against Al Qaeda and Islamic State). The other approach to AI safety is “friendly AI” or “AI alignment” – to make the AIs into ideal ethical agents so that even when they slip beyond human control, we still have benevolent coexistence. But there one is still countenancing the creation of a new, nonhuman, nonbiological kind of intelligence in the world, and this is easiest to stomach for people who are already enamored of the “transhuman” or “posthuman” in some form.

    Back in the present, I would consider the 2013 Snowden revelations to be part of the prehistory of AI politics. The central theme of the Snowden era was surveillance, but computers don’t just store surveillance data, they also analyze it. The NSA is surely way ahead, even ahead of Silicon Valley (where they would have people embedded), in its application of AI to big data.

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  3. You made me really curious about this future. Except no human teachers, may you write more about it? A post so all readers will read and hopefully discuss?

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    1. There’s also:
      – no human judges and sentencing is done through algorithms,
      – no human doctors (except for psychiatrists)
      – and when you go to a store, the shopping cart recognizes your face, has access to your entire history of shopping, sends it to a store assistant who makes comments about your family and food / alcohol history.

      Lee doesn’t add this but there’s no reason why the “smart shopping cart” shouldn’t send the history of your purchases to your employer ( for those unlucky enough to still have one) who would definitely have stuff to say about how well you take care of your health and productivity.

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