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The Unique AI Doomer: Dr. Norbert Weiner

The Unique AI Doomer: Dr. Norbert Weiner

2023-06-03 11:45:04

Lengthy earlier than Geoffrey Hinton and Eliezer Yudkowsky sounded warnings about synthetic intelligence, there was Dr. Norbert Weiner within the Fifties and 60s. Weiner was a pioneer within the discipline of Synthetic Intelligence, or as he referred to as it ‘Cybernetics.’

His groundbreaking work laid the foundations that our present AI increase is constructed atop of and his considerations about AI have little question influenced these being voiced by his successors within the discipline at the moment.

In late 1959 Weiner gave a speech to the American Affiliation for the Development of Science. In early 1960 it could be tailored and revealed as a paper titled ‘Some Ethical and Technical Penalties of Automation.’ The speech started by citing the predictions of Samuel Butler within the 1860s that foretold machines would ultimately out-evolve and rule over man, noting they’d not come to move. Nonetheless, he stated it was completely different this time since machines had change into a lot extra superior at such a speedy tempo.

Learn Butler’s prediction on the hyperlink under:

Weiner noticed that typically folks wished slaves to be clever and subservient, nonetheless “Full subservience and full intelligence don’t go collectively.” He’d posit that just like the thinker slaves of Historic Greece, machines would ultimately outwit their masters, equally:

“if the machines change into increasingly environment friendly and function at the next and better psychological degree, the disaster foreseen by Butler of the dominance of the machine comes nearer and nearer.”

These scary predictions, from a pioneer within the discipline, have been taken critically and generated headlines – very similar to more moderen considerations from AI consultants have. Protection of Weiner’s warnings referred to him as a brand new, higher educated Samuel Butler. Whereas Butler was a author and cultural critic, Weiner was an skilled and pioneer in laptop science – so who have been we, or anybody else to query his nicely knowledgeable prognostications?

Bigger gamers within the business would push again on this rhetoric – reminiscent of IBM skilled Arthur L. Samuel – making Weiner appear as if a conscientious Goliath verses a Company David. Samuel’s retort to Weiner: “A machine will not be a genie, it doesn’t work by magic, it doesn’t possess a will, and, Weiner on the contrary, nothing comes out which has not been put in”

This wasn’t the primary time Weiner had voiced considerations about considering machines, a decade prior his guide ‘Cybernetics’ (1948) would voice a lot of dystopian predictions about AI. A yr after its publication – In 1949 – the editor of The New York Instances asked Weiner to write down an op-ed about “what the final word machine age is prone to be” exploring a few of they key subjects within the guide. The primary draft was rejected by the editor, who requested one other draft, which was fortunately archived (not like the primary):

Within the second draft, Weiner would cite previous fables – reminiscent of genies in bottles – that he stated contained a strong lesson: if now we have the facility to comprehend our needs “we’re extra seemingly to make use of it wrongly than to make use of it rightly, extra seemingly to make use of it stupidly than to make use of it intelligently.” His prediction, one acquainted within the present dialog round AI: “the machines will do what we ask them to do and never what we must ask them to do.”

Weiner additionally predicted mass unemployment and an “industrial revolution of unmitigated cruelty” by making “doable the manufacturing facility considerably with out staff”, factories that would bankrupt their house owners purchase taking orders too actually. He voiced related considerations about autonomous weapons too, which he stated “could produce a coverage which is able to win a nominal victory on factors at the price of each curiosity now we have at coronary heart, even of nationwide survival.”

His remaining line and parting message:

“We might be humble and stay a very good life with assistance from the machines, or we might be boastful and die.”

The editor of The New York Instances would reject the second draft too, requesting a duplicate of the primary draft – so the most effective of each could possibly be mixed into one piece. Weiner would decline the request citing it could require an impractical quantity of co-ordination, one thing unavoidable in a pre-internet age. If solely they’d had web, Google Docs and even higher – a big language mannequin to assist mixed the primary and second drafts, as we do 74 years later.

Three quarters of a century on the considerations and debates stay the identical. Whereas some consultants like Yann LeCun push again and are labelled company stooges – others make wild prognostications, ones the press deal with critically. They’re, in flip heralded as new Samuel Butler’s, as Norbert Weiner was. Weiner’s prophecies didn’t come true, like Samuel Butlers earlier than him, however this time – like final time – it’s completely different.


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