Tech guru Jaron Lanier: ‘The danger isn’t that AI destroys us. It’s that it drives us insane’ Simon Hattenstone, δημοσίευση The Guardian [23/3/2023]
The godfather of virtual reality has worked beside the web’s visionaries and power-brokers – but likes nothing more than to show the flaws of technology. He discusses how we can make AI work for us, how the internet takes away choice – and why he would ban TikTok
Jaron Lanier, the godfather of virtual reality and the sage of all things web, is nicknamed the Dismal Optimist. And there has never been a time we’ve needed his dismal optimism more. It’s hard to read an article or listen to a podcast these days without doomsayers telling us we’ve pushed our luck with artificial intelligence, our hubris is coming back to haunt us and robots are taking over the world. There are stories of chatbots becoming best friends, declaring their love, trying to disrupt stable marriages, and threatening chaos on a global scale.
Is AI really capable of outsmarting us and taking over the world? “OK! Well, your question makes no sense,” Lanier says in his gentle sing-song voice. “You’ve just used the set of terms that to me are fictions. I’m sorry to respond that way, but it’s ridiculous … it’s unreal.” This is the stuff of sci-fi movies such as The Matrix and Terminator, he says.
Lanier doesn’t even like the term artificial intelligence, objecting to the idea that it is actually intelligent, and that we could be in competition with it. “This idea of surpassing human ability is silly because it’s made of human abilities.” He says comparing ourselves with AI is the equivalent of comparing ourselves with a car. “It’s like saying a car can go faster than a human runner. Of course it can, and yet we don’t say that the car has become a better runner.”
I flush and smile. Flush because I’m embarrassed, smile because I’m relieved. I’ll take my bollocking happily, I say. He squeals with laughter. “Hehehehe! OK. Hehehehe!” But he doesn’t want us to get complacent. There’s plenty left to worry about: human extinction remains a distinct possibility if we abuse AI, and even if it’s of our own making, the end result is no prettier.
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