BRT has written copiously about AI as my loyal readers know as this is open-ended tech with ramifications far too important to ignore. In many instances, people think of AI as a thing, not as a set of millions of interconnected things, an ever-evolving entity as digital is an environment where duplication, modification and updating of real-time code work at speeds far beyond the kin of man. With this in mind, an excellent article by Henry Kissenger, How the Enlightenment Ends in The Atlantic, connects AI to the Enlightenment at deep level, a piece that should be read by everyone concerned about how this technology will impact society as we move further into the 21st century.
Heretofore, the technological advance that most altered the course of modern history was the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, which allowed the search for empirical knowledge to supplant liturgical doctrine, and the Age of Reason to gradually supersede the Age of Religion. Individual insight and scientific knowledge replaced faith as the principal criterion of human consciousness. Information was stored and systematized in expanding libraries. The Age of Reason originated the thoughts and actions that shaped the contemporary world order.
But that order is now in upheaval amid a new, even more sweeping technological revolution whose consequences we have failed to fully reckon with, and whose culmination may be a world relying on machines powered by data and algorithms and ungoverned by ethical or philosophical norms.
We are not ready for this ...
Third, that AI may reach intended goals, but be unable to explain the rationale for its conclusions. In certain fields — pattern recognition, big-data analysis, gaming — AI’s capacities already may exceed those of humans. If its computational power continues to compound rapidly, AI may soon be able to optimize situations in ways that are at least marginally different, and probably significantly different, from how humans would optimize them. But at that point, will AI be able to explain, in a way that humans can understand, why its actions are optimal? Or will AI’s decision making surpass the explanatory powers of human language and reason? Through all human history, civilizations have created ways to explain the world around them — in the Middle Ages, religion; in the Enlightenment, reason; in the 19th century, history; in the 20th century, ideology. The most difficult yet important question about the world into which we are headed is this: What will become of human consciousness if its own explanatory power is surpassed by AI, and societies are no longer able to interpret the world they inhabit in terms that are meaningful to them.
Questions to consider without question.
And so it goes. K. Vonnegut