View profile

Dear AI, please save us from ourselves, a message from 12,017

Revue
 
 

Olivia Jeffers

January 1 · Issue #8 · View online

Welcome to Compassionate Technologies. Here you'll get a dose of real science and business in your inbox every Sunday morning. Why? Because cutting-edge research shouldn't be locked in an ivory tower. This newsletter covers the relationships between machine learning, robotics, genetic engineering, and climate science. It's all connected, and it's my passion to simplify and make clear those connections for all of you. Love, Olivia.


It’s hard to fathom the challenges facing humanity, when we can barely handle our own New Year’s resolutions. Gym today, couch tomorrow. Well, maybe technology can help with that…

Just be mesmerized for a moment by this sequence of biological simulations by Maxime Causeret for Max Cooper’s ‘Order from Chaos’... machines meet biology.
Just be mesmerized for a moment by this sequence of biological simulations by Maxime Causeret for Max Cooper’s ‘Order from Chaos’... machines meet biology.
Imagine an intelligence that knows more about you than you do. Instead of using your iPhone to apply mascara, you can also use your iPhone to apply New Year’s resolutions.
This isn’t an article about “How to Make New Year’s Resolutions that Actually Stick, This Time, This Year, For Real, No, For Real For Real, Like, Last Year Didn’t Count, It’ll Happen This Year, I Promise! You Just Have To Click The Article and Follow Me on Twitter and I Promise, I Promise, I Promise You’ll Be Skinny In No Time”.
This is an article about human nature and technology. About the dark parts of ourselves that hide beyond our awareness, the reasons why our resolutions don’t stick. And ultimately, a hope for new intelligences that drive greater self-awareness and more human joy in the future. I have no answers for you, no promises.
A Rosy Picture of Humans and AI: Bicentennial Man (1998)
A Rosy Picture of Humans and AI: Bicentennial Man (1998)
All I have is just a little bit of hope. But before I paint a rosy picture of humans and artificial intelligences living together, side by side, happily ever after like in a Disney movie (or Bicentennial Man, see above), I want to start with the dark reality of 2016. A darkness so ever present that we can’t even smile past it anymore and pretend it doesn’t exist.
The Dark Reality of 2016
Trump was elected. Brexit happened. #BlackLivesMatter now. We had a dark year in the United States. There was a lot of fear, talk of walls, talk of national registries, talk of separation. Fear sells and fear motivates.
Trump voters generally voted for fear of poverty, fear of being left behind, and fear of “others”. Clinton voters generally voted for fear of Trump. Trump won because he tapped into a more primordial fear than Clinton was able to. But when we look at ourselves, is that really who we want to be as a nation or as a human race?
Do we want to be so easily pushed around by fear? Or do we want to look at fear for what it is: a message that things are about to change. And whether that change is positive or negative, desirable or undesirable — our actions would come from a clear and aware mind, not from a foggy and frightened mind.
Do we want to be so easily pushed around by fear? Or do we want to look at fear for what it is: a message that things are about to change.
If we could collectively learn how to face fear in healthy ways, then we can collectively grow and adapt to the new realities that our environment, time, and new technologies are imposing on us.
Because the truth is, when we choose to open our eyes, we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. We will need every ounce of our awareness to survive.
The Light of Awareness
And that’s where new intelligence comes in. Our biological minds are not capable of full and functional self-awareness. In fact, our biology and mind heavily edits most of our experiences in the form of cognitive bias because we simply can’t process everything that’s happening. The closest that we have to come to full awareness, equanimity and peace is in the hearts of monasteries.
A monk participates in a monastery festival in Pemba Sherpa’s hometown in Phaplu, Nepal
A monk participates in a monastery festival in Pemba Sherpa’s hometown in Phaplu, Nepal
Monasteries are peaceful because they minimize temptation, create a sense of community, and cultivate awareness and calm. Monks literally spend 8 hours a day observing their own minds. It’s a full time job.
But when you look at it financially, everyone cannot be in a monastery. Monasteries are funded by society and survive on donations. They are a spiritual sanctuary that societies choose to invest in. Another aspect of our specialized human societies.
The only way to democratize peace is to create a way for all of us to have peace inside our own minds. Customizable Peace. You can imagine that would be the last product to fly off shelves — because after that, we would all be so happy that we wouldn’t buy things anymore.
We would be happy with the clothes on our backs, the food in our bellies, and the relationships in our lives. Our lives would be occupied with learning and doing enough new things to keep our individual minds and bodies entertained and occupied, in a customized way, just for us.
We would be happy at every stage of our lives. We would grow older, and no longer have the intense desire for new things, at which point we would become comfortable with the daily routines of our lives until our bodies are no longer able to sustain life itself, and we pass away, peacefully.
In this way, we would all enjoy the present moment, with no desire for what we don’t have, and no fear of death or the unknown.
The Virtue in Vice
Now, isn’t that a strange picture. It’s oddly utopian, kind of nice, but kind of disconcerting. The drama of life is actually kind of exciting, spicy — oddly motivational. Why else would you do anything, if not because you wanted something or didn’t want something to happen? Who are we without our vices and our fears?
It’s almost hard to imagine life without fear or desire because it’s so fundamental to our human experience. Right down to our very first experiences during and after birth; an intense craving and gasping for air, crying from the shock of being squeezed head first through a dark and narrow birth canal into a cold and bright environment. Honestly, the thought of it is terrifying.
But also, it highlights why we need desire. If we didn’t crave for air, we wouldn’t breathe upon birth. If we didn’t crave for milk, we wouldn’t suckle at our mother’s breast. If we didn’t fear pain, we would leave our hand on the fire until we died from infection. If we didn’t suffer, we wouldn’t learn. Our environment dictates that we need desire and fear to survive.
But how can we survive our desire and our fear? I believe the answer is in the next step of our evolution through technology. We need to enhance our awareness in order to democratize joy and give freedom from needless suffering to as many people as we can.
Our environment dictates that we need desire and fear to survive, but how can we survive our desire and our fear?
In the roughly 12,016 years since humans first built buildings, it took 10,000 years for Buddha to realize and spread the message in 500 BC that desire and fear was the root of suffering. 2,500 years after Buddha we are reaching another pivotal point in our cultural and human evolution, this time more heavily intertwined in co-evolution with our own technologies.
We need to foster compassion. We need to evolve. We need technology. Because without it, we will be lost to the desire and fear which allowed us to survive this far. So, let’s use our intelligence to evolve wisely in 12,017.
TL;DR
Let me stop beating around the bush. We need AI to save us from ourselves. End message.
Useful Links...
Cognitive bias cheat sheet
Don’t Set Too Many Goals for Yourself
The Periodic Table of AI
Introduction to the Artificial Intelligence Ecosystem
5 Unexpected Sources of Bias in Artificial Intelligence
Why Ethical People Make Unethical Choices
A New History for Humanity – The Human Era
Thanks and Happy New Year from Olivia :)
In 2016 I didn't quite go into the woods, but I stripped my life down to the bare essentials and tested the boundaries of my own endurance, taking #digitalnomad to the extreme for the last two years. I've seen so much of myself and am finally beginning to learn the art of living. Looking forward to 12,017, happy New Years!
In 2016 I didn't quite go into the woods, but I stripped my life down to the bare essentials and tested the boundaries of my own endurance, taking #digitalnomad to the extreme for the last two years. I've seen so much of myself and am finally beginning to learn the art of living. Looking forward to 12,017, happy New Years!
Did you enjoy this issue?
In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue