Artifical Intelligence should be a resource for humankind

By Glenn Zucman

The Artifical Intelligence revolution should usher in a new era of human flourishing, but it will not.

Robocup 2007, the world championships of robotic soccer, was held on the campus of Georgia Tech.

During the events Georgia Tech computer science students gave project demonstrations.

They showed many elements of “The Aware Home.”

The computer scientists at Georgia Tech got everything right. Almost.

The technology they were developing is the way we live today. With one big difference.

In Georgia Tech’s imagining, the Aware Home had a master: the homeowner.

In today’s surveillance capitalist dystopia, our homes, phones and lives do have masters.

These masters are not the users themselves. They are not homeowners. It is the technology firms that are the masters now.

The tools people use are designed to serve them, not the individuals who use the tools.

Peoples lives are raw ingredients. Technology firms deconstruct our lives.

These firms make derivative products from people. They package that product and sell people’s information and personas to corporations and governments.

Those who control the code, the billionaires of Google, Facebook and other corporations, serve their own greed for money and power.

People come second, if at all. Enter artificial intelligence.

British mathematician Alan Turing thought about it and devised a way to test for AI in 1950.

An IBM computer, Deep Blue, defeated the human world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, in 1997.

For decades now AI X-ray reading algorithms have been better diagnosticians than human doctors with 10 years of radiology experience. 

But for most, artificial general intelligence is new. It appeared at the end of 2022.

Sixteen months later, AI writing software like ChatGPT, and art software like Midjourney, are changing everything.

Many fear AI will take jobs away. End careers. Make some ELAC majors obsolete.

If a machine can do the work of a person, is that bad? Does it end your livelihood? Make you less of a human being? Or does it free us from drudgery? Usher in a new era of human flourishing?

These are not technology questions. These questions are about technology. They are economic, social, cultural, and political questions.

Research Universities , Encyclopaedia Britannica and the New York Times use experts to produce new knowledge.

Wikipedia, Google and Facebook do not produce new knowledge.

Instead they leverage user-generated content.

The aggregate existing knowledge. They don’t pay for the knowledge. But most of them sell it.

Now AI repeats this paradigm. AI trains on vast repositories of human knowledge, writing and art.

AI consumes people’s creativity. Remixes it. And sells us derivative works.

AI does not pay for the knowledge and creativity it consumes. AI steals.

Then those that use or create these AI programs expect others to pay for this stolen work.

The American tradition is privatized profits and socialized costs.

Tobacco companies reap great profits. When their customers develop emphysema, cancer, and other diseases, tobacco companies don’t pay. The larger culture pays.

This creates privatized profits from socialized costs.

Fast food companies reap great profits. When their customers develop obesity, diabetes and other diseases, fast food companies don’t pay.

The larger culture pays. This creates privatized profits from socialized costs.

Energy companies reap great profits. When the land, water and air they pollute make people sick, energy companies don’t pay.

The larger culture pays. This creates privatized profits from socialized costs.

AI might follow this cycle. The fruits of AI should not be hoarded by an elite few.

The things AI can do are based on all of humankind.

AI’s benefits should be shared with all of humankind. Shorter work weeks. Universal basic income. Greater human flourishing.

AI should lead to a golden age for humankind.

People need to ask for AI to be used to better humankind. People need to demand that AI not make the rich richer, but instead help people rise up from poverty.

Unless this happens, AI will not be the revolution some expect it will end up being.

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