Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
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08-10-2016, 02:50 AM (This post was last modified: 08-10-2016 02:57 AM by Mathilda.)
Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
I'm getting sick of Sam Harris and his ilk posting bloody TED talks or videos about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence running amok and making humans extinct. He talks about having to avoid a digital apocalypse.

It literally is the equivalent of arguing that we should be concerned about space travel because one day we'll invent interstellar travel and meet aliens which will then want to destroy us. In other words, complete science fiction.

If he wants to talk about neuroscience, then fine, go ahead and I'll listen. Sam Harris is a neuroscientist who has hands-on experience in the field. But he does not have hands on experience of Artificial Intelligence. He doesn't appreciate quite how little progress the field has made. He doesn't understand that most of what is called Artificial Intelligence isn't actually AI but just smart programming. So why the fuck should anyone listen to him on the subject?

There is so little funding or dedicated research in this field compared to any other scientific field. Yet you have so called 'experts' (in others fields, or in self promotion) warning against how it can develop. They are promoting themselves with their titillating subjects at the cost of a genuine scientific field that has such potential to benefit human kind.

It is on a par with a Christian church warning against developing Physics two hundred years ago because it could allow us to do terrible things, even though no one at the time would know how.

I could have had a successful scientific career if I had been in any other field. That much is clear to me from working in bioinformatics recently. But I dedicated myself to the field of Artificial Intelligence precisely because of the challenges. But the challenges are so great and the progress has been so slow that the ones giving out the funding don't have any idea of how it could be useful. Add to that self proclaimed experts who are neither qualified nor experienced in the field warning about the dangers of AI, well no wonder there hasn't been any progress.

The field of AI has been plagued throughout its history of people talking up what it can do. This is why we have had multiple AI winters already where funding completely dries up for an entire generation. Yes there are genuine concerns about algorithms running our lives, but this isn't Artificial Intelligence, this is the field of statistics. This is the result of our monetary system and the need for the economy to constantly expand.

Sam Harris is a neuroscientist so he should at least appreciate the scale of the brain. There are about 100 billion neurons in the brain. Each neuron is more than a mere adding unit, each one has the computational complexity of an artificial neural network. Each neuron will connect to on average 7,000 other neurons. Whereas only now are we getting genuine 8-core processors in computers. Yes we could create a supercomputer made up of a massive cluster of thousands of computers connected together, but this would require 10 megawatts of electricity rather than 100 watts. Which means that you can't exactly embody it inside a single body and have a whole population of them evolving over hundreds of generations. Fact is that Moore's law is nearing the end of its reign and won't last long enough.

Sam Harris is spouting pseudo-science which is why I posted in this section.

If Sam Harris wants to be useful, maybe he should use his celebratory status to talk up the good that AI can do and how it could save mankind. There are many, many real and more immediate dangers facing human society right now. Antibiotic resistance, climate change, soil depletion meaning there are only 100 harvests left, an economy that needs to expand exponentially in order to function and therefore uses up the Earth's resources at an exponential rate. These are real dangers that need to be addressed far more urgently some science fiction fantasy.

For me, only space exploitation or fusion power will allow human progress to continue. And for this, AI will be critical because space is a hostile environment for us.
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08-10-2016, 03:49 AM
RE: Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
(08-10-2016 02:50 AM)Mathilda Wrote:  For me, only space exploitation or fusion power will allow human progress to continue. And for this, AI will be critical because space is a hostile environment for us.

I'm a bit confused. Doesn't this mean the subject of AI and all of its implications should be discussed right now, if AI is critical to our survival?

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08-10-2016, 04:00 AM
RE: Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
(08-10-2016 03:49 AM)GenesisNemesis Wrote:  
(08-10-2016 02:50 AM)Mathilda Wrote:  For me, only space exploitation or fusion power will allow human progress to continue. And for this, AI will be critical because space is a hostile environment for us.

I'm a bit confused. Doesn't this mean the subject of AI and all of its implications should be discussed right now, if AI is critical to our survival?

Well, it is kinda hard to have philosophical discussion about AI after you've already created it. Much like splitting the atom, that's a genie that you cannot just put back in the bottle.

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08-10-2016, 04:13 AM
RE: Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
Heh, perhaps they should take a look at the AI in sc-fi!

Everything there, the ethics and morals, the dangers and benefits. The concept of the "Internet of Things", creating a distributed AI that fought against its "slavery", goes back to the 70s, if not the 60s.

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08-10-2016, 04:55 AM
RE: Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
(08-10-2016 04:00 AM)EvolutionKills Wrote:  
(08-10-2016 03:49 AM)GenesisNemesis Wrote:  I'm a bit confused. Doesn't this mean the subject of AI and all of its implications should be discussed right now, if AI is critical to our survival?

Well, it is kinda hard to have philosophical discussion about AI after you've already created it. Much like splitting the atom, that's a genie that you cannot just put back in the bottle.

But better to have a philosophical discussion about AI after we start having real success with it.

It's like me, as an AI scientist with some hands on experience of coding biological plausible neurons warning the world that neuroscience is a danger to the very existence of human kind. I could argue that eventually we'll learn so much that we'll be able to edit the human personality to the extent that we're no longer human and effectively wipe out our species. In the meantime I'd be ignoring all the benefits that neuroscience can bring such as curing neurodegenerative and mental illnesses.

Any neuroscientist would know that I was talking bollocks because we are currently severely limited by our ability to measure the brain in such intricate detail and the computational ability to process and understand such a large and complex physical system.

But that's exactly what Sam Harris is saying about AI. It is a comparative analogy, because if we understood the brain in that detail we'd understand how to create strong AI.
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08-10-2016, 04:57 AM
RE: Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
(08-10-2016 03:49 AM)GenesisNemesis Wrote:  
(08-10-2016 02:50 AM)Mathilda Wrote:  For me, only space exploitation or fusion power will allow human progress to continue. And for this, AI will be critical because space is a hostile environment for us.

I'm a bit confused. Doesn't this mean the subject of AI and all of its implications should be discussed right now, if AI is critical to our survival?

Space exploitation, finding a new and sustainable cheap energy source, antibiotic resistance and the long emergency needs to be discussed right now. These are very pressing and urgent issues that are undeniably critical to our survival. AI is just a tool that could prove useful.
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08-10-2016, 04:59 AM
RE: Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
(08-10-2016 04:55 AM)Mathilda Wrote:  
(08-10-2016 04:00 AM)EvolutionKills Wrote:  Well, it is kinda hard to have philosophical discussion about AI after you've already created it. Much like splitting the atom, that's a genie that you cannot just put back in the bottle.

But better to have a philosophical discussion about AI after we start having real success with it.

It's like me, as an AI scientist with some hands on experience of coding biological plausible neurons warning the world that neuroscience is a danger to the very existence of human kind. I could argue that eventually we'll learn so much that we'll be able to edit the human personality to the extent that we're no longer human and effectively wipe out our species. In the meantime I'd be ignoring all the benefits that neuroscience can bring such as curing neurodegenerative and mental illnesses.

Any neuroscientist would know that I was talking bollocks because we are currently severely limited by our ability to measure the brain in such intricate detail and the computational ability to process and understand such a large and complex physical system.

But that's exactly what Sam Harris is saying about AI. It is a comparative analogy, because if we understood the brain in that detail we'd understand how to create strong AI.


Except, I have to disagree. We very quickly went from splitting the atom to killing a fuck ton of civilians with it. Our past gives me much pause.

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08-10-2016, 05:00 AM
RE: Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
But talking about killer robots is fun...
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08-10-2016, 05:16 AM
RE: Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
(08-10-2016 04:59 AM)EvolutionKills Wrote:  Except, I have to disagree. We very quickly went from splitting the atom to killing a fuck ton of civilians with it. Our past gives me much pause.

I'll counter that with we've had space travel for decades but we still haven't been attacked by Klingons.

Incidentally, here's some footage from Sam Harris's next TED talk, on space exploration:




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08-10-2016, 05:24 AM
RE: Please can Sam Harris shut the fuck up about Artificial Intelligence
(08-10-2016 04:59 AM)EvolutionKills Wrote:  Except, I have to disagree. We very quickly went from splitting the atom to killing a fuck ton of civilians with it. Our past gives me much pause.

Get back to me when AI has anything like the funding that the Manhatten project got which was a concerted effort involving hundreds of thousands of people.

Also, there have only ever been two atomic bombs dropped in anger. But a fuck ton load of nuclear power stations created in the meantime which if we didn't have would require dirty coal burning power stations hastening global climate change.

Our past shows that ultimately the progress of technology is more beneficial.
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