Sunday, July 16, 2017

How are we going to handle artificial intelligence?

". . . the fact is that we are rushing ahead into the AI universe with almost no political or policy debate about its implications. Digital technology has become critical to the personal and economic well-being of everyone on the planet, but decisions about how it is designed, operated and developed have never been voted on by anyone. Those decisions are largely made by executives and engineers at Google, Facebook, Amazon and other leading tech companies, and imposed on the rest of us with very little regulatory scrutiny. It is time for that to change."

                                   Jonathan Taplin
                                   Wall Street Journal
                                   July 15-16, 2017

Mr. Taplin is the director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. In June 1971,George Harrison asked Taplin to help him and Ravi Shankar stage a benefit concert Madison Square Garden for the newly created state of Bangladesh, which was undergoing extreme famine conditions. The resulting Concert for Bangladesh, with appearances by Harrison, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and others was the first benefit concert of this magnitude in world history. Producer of a number of movies, Taplin must know his stuff.


"He’s been warning people about AI for years, and today called it the “biggest risk we face as a civilization” when he spoke at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island.
Musk then called on the government to proactively regulate artificial intelligence before things advance too far.
“Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”
“Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry,” he continued. “It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

                                     Elon Musk
                                     CEO Tesla, Inc.
                                     CEO SpaceX

There you have it, two members of the elite both think that an effective government regulatory apparatus be set up to defend us from what is essentially ourselves. As Pogo once said in the newspaper comic strip of the same name:




There's a long history of government defending us from ourselves. Prohibition immediately comes to mind, the "war on drugs", gambling, prostitution and a myriad of other typical human failings. Of course, you might say that the threat of AI is an existential one, far more serious than teen-age cigarette smoking. You would be correct. But the government and its many agencies and bureaucrats doesn't seem to have been very successful at even managing the other human failings, much less eliminating them. 

Taplin's recipe for control is the typical one for statists, more government control and regulation, led by a "democratic" process that must include, at least in some attenuated form, the will of the people, as if they would be able to correctly assess what the pros and cons of AI might be. Naturally, it's their elected representatives who will decide, after consulting with their donors.

Musk wants to head off any problems with AI, whatever they might be. Maybe gun-slinging robots striding through the cul-de-sac. So we need another FCC or FAA or BLM or USDA to set the parameters of AI before the issues arise.

By the way, the Selective Service still exists and operates with a budget of $24 million although no one has been drafted since 1972.

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