Future Tense, one of the revolving features on this page, presents stories and
essays from the intersection of computational science and technological speculation,
their boundaries limited only by our ability to imagine what will and could be.
confusions of the hive mind
Cherish the individual.
BE CaUtioUs aBoUt the artificial intelligence approach to computer science. It is impossible to differentiate
the actual achievement of AI from the
degree to which people change when
confronted with what is purported
to be intelligent technology. We humans are vulnerable to bending over
backward, sometimes making ourselves significantly stupider, in order
to make an algorithm seem smart. A
great many people in the U.S., as well
as elsewhere, demonstrated this danger when they interacted foolishly
with deeply flawed algorithms related
to the credit and mortgage industries.
There is an even greater economic
danger ahead as it relates to the idea
of AI. If we are gullible enough to expect emergent large-scale intelligence
to arise from the vast connections of
the worldwide Internet, as has been
proposed with increasing frequency
in Communications and elsewhere,
then we risk undermining the value
we place on human labor and creativity. We might thus ruin the most successful design yet invented for the
purpose of generating and preserving
individual human dignity and liberty—capitalism.
Those who believe in the imminent
arrival of global AI (possibly emerging
from the computing clouds) pretend
that all the information we humans
upload actually comes from some
mysterious supernatural dimension.
There’s an economic component to
the way we lie to ourselves to support
this confusion. Millions of us anonymously upload our online offerings—
thoughts, pictures, videos, links, votes,
and more. Or, if not anonymously,
we often express ourselves in such a
fragmentary way, as with tweets, that
there is no room left for personality.
Under these circumstances we accept
that we will not be paid for our acts of
expression, as if we are engaged in a
massive economic ritual to reify the
falsehood that a global supernatural
brain is speaking, instead of us.
The idea of creativity emerging
autonomously from the computing
clouds has the potential to ruin what
might be called the endgame of basic technological development. Will
technology good enough to provide
comfort and security usher in a golden age for all? Or will we diverge into
two species, one relatively lucky, the
other relatively left out, as predicted
by H.G. Wells in his novel The Time
Machine in 1898?
The rarified beneficiaries might
turn out to be the owners of the computing clouds, while the rest might be
inundated with [ContinUEd on p. 111]