Are selfish AIs a good thing?

Could it be true that Google Deep Mind has discovered that AIs are more likely to choose a course of action that tests their ability than one that might lead to the outcome they’ve been programmed to achieve?

This article on Outerplaces suggests just that, based on their understanding of this Deep Mind study.

Should this worry us?

Well, maybe.

Or, maybe not.

Of course it’s unnerving and possibly dangerous for an artificial intelligence to take the road of least boredom rather than the road to achieve its goals.

But, stop for a moment.

Let’s take this a step further and assume it’s true that at times of scarcity humans struggle to know which co-operation is positive and which is naively foolish and so they tend towards domination. Then imagine a bunch of AIs that prefer working out when it’s better to co-operate and compromise. Now, presuming we put AIs in charge, we have the possibility that the deep down driving force of those that run the world is orientated towards mutual benefit.

Wouldn’t that be a good thing?


photo credit: mikecogh Sculpture: ‘The Foundation’ via photopin (license)

Dormant Status

‘Alexa. Who is the most popular person in the world?’ asked Nicole, even though she knew how her resident bot would respond because she was and had been for the past few years.

As she rubbed her daily dose of face cream into her skin she cringed at how old and wrinkled she’d become. Thank goodness she didn’t have to show her face to her public any more, one of the great things about being a social media star.

The blue ring around the top of the bot lit up. ‘Gamila.’

Slowly, Nicole screwed the lid on to the pot of cream and placed it on the shelf. This was a moment she had prepared for many times over the years, the moment when someone else became more popular than her.

‘Alexa. Show me Gamila.’ Continue reading

Automation: a life of luxury and the death of democracy?

There’s been a fair amount of press coverage lately on the potential for artificial intelligence and robots to take our jobs and how a Universal Basic Income could be part of the solution. Something the Silicon Valley tech-giants are putting their shoulders behind.

Some say that’s a good thing, while others disagree.

The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee report on Civil Law Rules for Robotics “takes the view that in the light of the possible effects on the labour market of robotics and AI a general basic income should be seriously considered, and invites all Member States to do so.”

As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of Universal Basic Income for all sorts of reasons. Not least because it frees us up to live the life we want to and, as far as I can tell, it’s the most credible way to have a capitalist society that allows people to opt-out if they want to.

However, it was the link between major corporations, automation and democracy that struck me most at a gathering of London Futurists where Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams talked about their book, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work.

The argument from the audience that captured my attention went something like this…

With full automation we don’t have to work, but stuff can still be produced for people to buy and economies can still grow.

There’s only a handful of companies that can realise full automation e.g. Google, Amazon, Facebook.

Universal Basic Income is possible in an automated and thriving economy.

And now for the scary bit… the few mega-companies that are generating the profits and controlling the economy will have the ultimate say in how the country runs. It’ll be their shareholders that hold the power. Democracy dies, sold off for a life of doing as you please.

It certainly made me stop and think.

I haven’t changed my mind, but I have developed a little more caution.


photo credit: WanderingtheWorld (www.ChrisFord.com) ‘Bonfire’, United States, New York, The Hamptons via photopin (license)