The First Church of Robotics


Source: New York Times — Aug 9, 2010

“By allowing artificial intelligence to reshape our concept of personhood, we are leaving ourselves open to the flipside: we think of people more and more as computers, just as we think of computers as people,” says author and computer scientist Jeron Lanier. “The constant stream of stories about AI suggests that machines are becoming smart and autonomous, a new form of life, and that we should think of them as fellow creatures instead of as tools.”

This depersonalization may lead to loss of individual identity, he suggests. For example, a machine-centric vision of Google’s book scanning project “might encourage software that treats books as grist for the mill, decontextualized snippets in one big database, rather than separate expressions from individual writers. In this approach, the contents of books would be atomized into bits of information to be aggregated, and the authors themselves, the feeling of their voices, their differing perspectives, would be lost….

“What we are seeing is a new religion, expressed through an engineering culture. What all this comes down to is that the very idea of artificial intelligence gives us the cover to avoid accountability by pretending that machines can take on more and more human responsibility.”

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