Algorithms challenge our core beliefs about ourselves
The liberal belief in individualism is founded on the three important assumptions that we discussed earlier:
- I am an individual - that is, I have a single essence that cannot be divided into parts of subsystems. True, this inner core is wrapped in many outer layers. But if I make the effort to peel away these external crusts, I will find deep within myself a clear and single inner voice, which is my authentic self.
- My authentic self is completely free.
- It follows from the first two assumptions that I can know things about myself nobody else can discover. For only I have access to my inner space of freedom. and only I can hear the whispers of my authentic self. This is why liberalism grants the individual so much authority. I cannot trust anyone else to make choices for me, because no one else can know who I really am, how I feel and what I want. This is why the voter knows best, why the customer is always right and why beauty is is the eye of the beholder.
However, life sciences challenge all three assumptions. According to them:
- Organisms are algorithms, and humans are not individuals - they are “dividuals”. That is, humans are an assemblage or many different algorithms lacking a single inner voice or a single self.
- The algorithms constituting a human are not free. They are shaped by genes and environmental pressures, and take decisions either deterministically or randomly - but not freely.
- It follows that an external algorithm could theoretically know me much better than I can ever know myself. An algorithm that monitors each of the systems that comprise my body and brain could know exactly who I am, how I feel and what I want. Once developed, such an algorithm could replace the voter, the customer and the beholder. Then the algorithm will know best, the algorithm will always be right, and beauty will be in the calculations of the algorithm.
We are still the masters of our fate. Rational thinking, even assisted by any conceivable electronic computors, cannot predict the future. All it can do is to map out the probability space as it appears at the present and which will be different tomorrow when one of the infinity of possible states will have materialized. Technological and social inventions are broadening this probability space all the time; it is now incomparably larger than it was before the industrial revolution—for good or for evil.
The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.
It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is. The mental processes of inventions are still mysterious. They are rational but not logical, that is to say, not deductive.
Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion’, and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.
Social media has given everyone a virtual megaphone to broadcast every thought, along with the means to filter out any contrary view [...] The result is a creeping sense of isolation and emptiness, which leads people to swipe, tap, and click all the more. Digital distraction keeps the mind occupied but does little to nurture it, much less cultivate depth of feeling, which requires the resonance of another’s voice within our very bones and psyches.
Moravec's paradox is the observation by artificial intelligence and robotics researchers that, contrary to traditional assumptions, reasoning (which is high-level in humans) requires very little ...
Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change. And perhaps that point need not have been made explicit, for obviously these are the men who, being little committed by prior practice to the traditional rules of normal science, are particularly likely to see that those rules no longer define a playable game and to conceive another set that can replace them.