Why we are wrong about AI

Steve Jobs very famously said that computer will be the bicycle for the mind, or so he had hoped. Somewhere along the way, we moved away from using computers to support us. Today, we are moving towards making them do the entire thing.

I often think about this bit from Dan Norman.

People are flexible, versatile, and creative. Machines are rigid, precise, and relatively fixed in their operations. There is a mismatch between the two, one that can lead to enhanced capability if used properly. Think of an electronic calculator. It doesn’t do mathematics like a person, but can solve problems people can’t.

Moreover, calculators do not make errors. So the human plus calculator is a perfect collaboration: we humans figure out what the important problems are and how to state them. Then we use calculators to compute the solutions.

The Design of Everyday Things – Dan Norman

In an interview where the creators of Siri spoke, they said – when they embarked on the journey to push the boundaries of AI in 1989, they saw computers are things that would enable people not replace them.

There was one more crucial thing that happened in 1989. The fall of the Berlin wall and the implosion of communism. Communism had its flaws, but Capitalism is not without its own.

Capitalism drives people to focus only on money. It drives them to amass as much of it as possible, no matter what the costs. Hence Global Warming. But that is beside the point. The only way to make more money is to replace the thinker and make the calculator do everything. This is what is at the heart of all the investment that is flowing into AI. If I needed 10 people to do some work, can I automate it to the point where I just need 2? That way, I get to take home money that the other 8 would have made. Makes me richer.

The path that AI is taking is meant to amass more wealth in the hands of few. If instead, we thought about from the perspective of enabling more people in their individual capacities to do more what kind of a world would you dream of? What kind of technologies would you invent?

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