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Hitting the books: Does the pursuit of technological supremacy harm our collective humanity?

Stand aside for humanity, you keep the progress. We have passed the point of application for Homo sapiens; now the dawn has begun Gay Faber era. The idea that “I believe therefore I am” has become picturesque in this new age of builders and creators. But have our continued obsession with technology and progress actually managed to put back our capacity for humanity instead?

In his new book, The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think Like We Do, author and pioneering researcher in natural language processing, Erik J Larson, examines efforts to build computers that process information as we do, and why we are far further away from having human-equivalent AIs than most futurists would like admit.


Belknap Press

Extracts from The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think Like We Do by Erik J Larson, published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Copyright © 2021 by Erik J. Larson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Technological science prevailed in the twentieth century, but skeptical responses to it continued as well. Hannah Arendt, the philosopher who became famous for his phrase “the banality of evil”, referring to the Nazi Nuremberg trials, argued that Comte’s technological science – which by the middle of the twentieth century had certainly not lost steam as a philosophical idea. corresponded to nothing less than a redefinition of human nature itself. Arendt pointed to the classical understanding of people as homo sapiens – literally, wise man – and to the historical focus on wisdom and knowledge rather than technical prowess, and argued for embracing technological science as a worldview was to redefine ourselves as Homosexual faber man the builder.

Homosexual faber, in Greek words, is a person who believes in it techne – knowledge of craftsmanship or making things, the root of technology – defines who we are. The Fabian understanding of human nature not only fits perfectly with Comte’s 19th century idea of ​​a utopian technological science, but with the 20th century obsession with building more and more powerful technologies that culminated in the great project of actual to build ourselves – artificial intelligence. This project would not make sense if the traditional notions of the meaning of humanity had been intact.

Arendt argued that the seismic shift from wisdom and knowledge to technology and construction represented a limiting and potentially dangerous understanding of ourselves, which would not only guarantee that technological development would continue unchecked, but that we would increasingly see technological successes as meaningful statements about ourselves. In other words, we reduced our own value in order to, in addition to wise or reasonable goals, increase our appreciation of the wonders that could be built with the technology tools.

Von Neumann’s initially cryptic comments about approaching a “singularity” as technological advances accelerate become clearer in light of his contemporary Arendt’s position. Although Von Neumann, a scientist and mathematician, did not (as far as we know) further explain his remarks, they perfectly reflect Arendt’s insistence on the profound importance of technological science for ourselves and our future – for what technology philosophers call “the human condition”. ”. . “It may seem distorted to Comte that technology could accelerate beyond our control, but nowhere in his writing can one discover an impression of the point that Arendt (and others) would make that when we advocate technology as a human response on human issues, is also involved in the project of redefining our understanding of ourselves. The turn towards techne rather than e.g. Episteme (knowledge of natural phenomena) or sapientiae (wisdom concerning human values ​​and society) makes it difficult to carve out a meaningful idea of ​​human uniqueness. (Even bees, all in all, are builders, in case of hives).

Putting techne at the center also makes it possible to see a person as something that can be built, as it implies that there is nothing more for a person than a superior capacity to construct ever more advanced technologies. Once they have gone on this route, it is a short journey to artificial intelligence. And here’s the obvious connection to the intelligence bugs that were first made by Turing and then expanded by Jack Good and others to this day: the ultimate triumph of Homo faber as a species is to build itself. This, of course, is precisely the stated goal of AI. Examining whether the project can succeed or not necessarily pulls us into the deep water to understand the nature of nature.

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