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AI & the Faustian Bargain with Technological Change – A. C. Grayling

With AI we have made a ‘Faustian bargain’ – are the risks reason enough to halt technological progress?

Professor A. C. Grayling discusses the implications of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics on society, and shares his views on how they will reshape the future.

The thing that’s going to change everything is machine learning, is artificial intelligent systems and robotics – this is a enormous dogs leg in human history. The fact is that intelligence systems can teach themselves, can learn and become even smarter now already – the applications are unimaginable…”

A.C. Grayling, June 2017, in interview with Adam Ford

Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Grayling believes that artificial intelligence and machine learning are game changers, with the potential to make fundamental shifts in human history due to their ability to learn and self-improve.
  2. He acknowledges the common fear that AI will put people out of work and the need for a universal basic income (UBI). However, he posits that while new technologies have historically displaced people temporarily, they also create new opportunities. As AI and robotics take over certain tasks, it could pave the way for the growth of other industries like education.
  3. With the automation of work, he argues, people might have more leisure time, changing the focus of education from being vocation-driven to being more about self-enrichment and personal growth. This harkens back to Aristotle’s belief that we educate ourselves to make noble use of our leisure.
  4. Grayling warns against over-reliance on technology for entertainment or distraction, cautioning that it could detract from human creativity and engagement with the world, leading to a loss of meaning in life.
  5. He speculates on a future “singularity”, a point at which artificial intelligence becomes so advanced it triggers an exponential growth in technology, reshaping life as we know it. He believes this could open up new horizons and challenges, bringing new perspectives and issues into focus.
  6. On privacy concerns, Grayling acknowledges that the benefits of technology, like communication and social media, come with drawbacks, such as the massive loss of privacy. He stresses the need to be aware and thoughtful about these issues.
  7. He discusses the potential applications of AI in areas like health and genetic research, suggesting that a super intelligent system could transform medical science, leading to significant advancements in disease prevention and treatment.
  8. The philosopher expresses concern about the use of AI in warfare, specifically the creation of autonomous weapons systems. He calls for precautions to ensure that AI systems are designed to do what is ethically right rather than going haywire.
  9. Grayling talks about the inherent uncertainty of the future, likening it to explorers embarking on uncharted voyages. He believes the key to facing this uncertainty is curiosity, courage, and flexibility.
  10. Ultimately, Grayling sees the future with optimism, recognizing the transformative potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and urging society to harness these technologies thoughtfully, ethically, and courageously.

A.C Grayling also speaks about the future of work in this interview here.

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