“Intelligence is really a kind of taste: a taste in ideas” Susan Sontag.
Companies are investing heaps of money to develop artificial-intelligence technologies that promise to transform industries as varied as transportation, finance and health care. That all adds up to big economic change, technologists warn. But for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the artificial intelligence revolution and its impact on the U.S. workforce is “not even on our radar screen.” In an interview with Axios, Mnuchin predicted the technology was still 50 to 100 years from displacing human jobs. “I’m not worried at all,” he said. “In fact, I’m optimistic.”
“Personally I’m dumbfounded,” said Amy Webb, futurist and author who runs the Future Today Institute. “If Mnuchin had done any previous reading or learning about #AI, he couldn’t have uttered those ridiculous words this morning. We cannot accept a “clarification” statement from Mnuchin or from Trump. What came out of his mouth this morning was raw, unfiltered, honest”
How do you become the Treasury Secretary of the largest economy on the planet and be that profoundly ignorant? Unless of course mass unemployment is right on the agenda. Did he miss that Amazon has already begun making deliveries by drones, that restaurants in San Francisco have already begun wiping out all front-of-house staff, that between 4 and 5 million people in the US earn their living driving vehicles, including every Uber driver, and driverless vehicles are speeding towards us at a scary rate. Among the many scandals and comments that derailed Andy Puzder’s campaign to become Labor Secretary was an interview he gave after visiting a partially automated restaurant, where no human interaction is required. He was investing in automation as a way to deal with rising labor costs due to an increase in the minimum wage, before offering a cynical explanation of why machines are better than human employees: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” he said.
There’s a great anecdote about Henry Ford speaking with the head of the automotive union on the shop floor, and Ford says to him “Well, Sir, when we automate the entire process – who’s going to pay your union fees”, and he answers “Well Mr Ford when you do automate the entire process, who’s going to buy your cars?”
Mark Cuban says the world’s first trillionaire (as if we need one) will come from an AI entrepreneur. Nice little 46 second video: “Whatever you are studying right now if you are not getting up to speed on deep learning, neural networks, etc., you lose,” says Cuban. “We are going through the process where software will automate software, automation will automate automation.” He says if he was enrolling in university now he’d enrol as a Philosophy Major – I’ve always been ahead of my time 🙂
AI researchers are among the most prized talent in the modern tech world. A few years ago, Peter Lee, a vice president inside Microsoft Research, said that the cost of acquiring a top AI researcher was comparable to the cost of signing a quarterback in the NFL (i.e., a lot of money). Since then, the market for talent has only gotten hotter. Elon Musk nabbed several researchers out from under Google and Facebook in founding a new lab called OpenAI, and the big players are now buying up AI startups before they get off the ground. You only have to look at the number of AI papers published by Google in peer-reviewed journals to see how real is the so-called “AI Arms Race”.
Brain Sciences, Robotics, Automation, Neural Networks, AI, Computation, are all weirdly informing and shaping each other, but they by no means complete the picture. We experience ourselves as conscious beings in a way that feels different to the rhythm of our heartbeat or the rumblings of our stomach. If the operations of the brain can be separated out and stratified, then perhaps we can construct something akin to just the top layer, and achieve human-like artificial intelligence (AI) while bypassing the messy flesh that characterises organic life. Here’s a great article that asks a more pointed way to pose the question: can we build it?
But “we’re nowhere near achieving human-like AI. Why? Because the layered model of cognition is wrong. Most AI researchers are currently missing a central piece of the puzzle: embodiment“. In fact, you know that when eternal “science” fanboy, Singularity Hub, starts reprinting articles wondering whether “neuroscience hasn’t been on the wrong track for centuries“, something’s up.
The amount of complete bullshit published in respected journals about “brain scans” is unreal (“Did you knowingly commit a crime brain scans“): this one carefully elides the difference between being “engaged in illicit activities” and “observing immoral activities”. As if that would produce the same “brain scan” (whatever that is). Are these people taught logic at all? Here’s the kicker: they weren’t even engaged in illicit activities at all – they were part of a controlled experiment and knew that nothing was real. WTF? Ray Kurzweil told me at www.aaai.org in SF last month that a 2% error rate in AI decision-making is “catastrophic“. Then read this clown from Science Mag explaining away a 5% error rate – and hedging, confidently, that “of the more than 40,000 fMRI studies that have been published to date, certainly not all will be affected” – certainly not all, so reassuring – and then this clanger: “not all [40,000 published papers] results are necessarily invalid but it would have to be decided for individual cases”. So who’s going to check, and who’s going to decide?
Anyway, sometime soon there won’t be any difference between a human made into a machine, and a machine made into a human, just become one and the same.