The smartphone is the ultimate example of a universal computer. Apps transform the phone into different devices. Unfortunately, the computational revolution has done little for the sustainability of our Earth. Yet, sustainability problems are unique in scale and complexity, often involving significant computational challenges.
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When I go talk about this, the thing that I tell people is that I’m not worried about algorithms taking over humanity, because they kind of suck at a lot of things, right. And we’re really not that good at a lot of things we do. But there are things that we’re good at. And so the example that I like to give is Amazon recommender systems. You all run into this on Netflix or Amazon, where they recommend stuff to you. And those algorithms are actually very similar to a lot of the sophisticated artificial intelligence we see now. It’s the same underneath.
When we talk about technologies such as AI, and policy, one of the main problems is that technological advancement is fast, and policy and democracy is a very very slow process. And that could be potentially a very big problem if we think that AI could be potentially dangerous.
With Twitter bots and a lot of AI in pop science, it’s kind of like staying up late with your parents. Once you ask to be treated like a human being, you have to abide by a different set of rules. You have to be extra good. And the second you misbehave, you get sent to bed. Because you didn’t play by the rules that you were agreeing to be judged by.
If we want to continue increasing the performance of our computers, we need to rethink the way we compute. And our brains are wonderful proof that impressive computations can be carried out with a very low power budget.
I don’t think it’s going to be necessarily a problem within the next five to ten, fifteen, to maybe even twenty years. But my perspective on it has always been, because I am more philosophically focused in these things, why not try to address the issues before they arrive? Why not try to think about these questions before they become problems that we have to fix?
We can see the hidden, occult operations of programmers, of people who are seeking to get very specific outcomes by operating on very particular components, ritually operating within very particular symbolic frameworks. People who are using particular coding languages, people who are using particular setups of hardware because for their purposes, for their end goals, these are the things that get the job done. These are the things that have the resonance and the capability, the power, the efficacy, to do the work.