Tag: future (page 1 of 9)

Logging off from AI?

An interesting and persuasive article from Lars Doucet who considers the ways in which AI spam might mean that people retreat from ‘open sea’ social networks (including gaming / dating ones) to more niche areas.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with interacting with AIs in ways that include emotion. But it’s a solipsistic existence, and perhaps not one that leads to human flourishing.

What happens when anyone can spin up a thousand social media accounts at the click of a button, where each account picks a consistent persona and sticks to it – happily posting away about one of their hobbies like knitting or trout fishing or whatever, while simultaneously building up a credible and inobtrusive post history in another plausible side hobby that all these accounts happen to share – geopolitics, let’s say – all until it’s time for the sock puppet master to light the bat signal and manufacture some consensus?

What happens when every online open lobby multiplayer game is choked with cheaters who all play at superhuman levels in increasingly undetectable ways?

What happens when, from the perspective of the average guy, “every girl” on every dating app is a fiction driven by an AI who strings him along (including sending original and persona-consistent pictures) until it’s time to scam money out of him?

What happens when comments sections on every forum gets filled with implausibly large consensus-building hordes who are able to adapt in real time and carefully slip their brigading just below the moderator’s rules?

I mean, to various degrees all this stuff is already happening. But what happens when it cranks up by an order of magnitude, seemingly overnight?

What happens when most “people” you interact with on the internet are fake?

I think people start logging off.

Source: AI: Markets for Lemons, and the Great Logging Off | Fortress of Doors

Second-order effects of widespread AI

Sometimes ‘Ask HN’ threads on Hacker News are inane or full of people just wanting to show off their technical knowledge. Occasionally, though, there’s a thread that’s just fascinating, such as this one about what might happen once artificial intelligence is widespread.

Other than the usual ones about deepfakes, porn, and advertising (all which should concern us) I thought this comment by user ‘htlion’ was insightful:

AI will become the first publisher of contents on any platform that exists. Will it be texts, images, videos or any other interactions. No banning mechanisms will really help because any user will be able to copy-paste generated content. On top of that, the content will be generated specifically for you based on “what you like”. I expect a backlash effect where people will feel like becoming cattle which is fed AI-generated content to which you can’t relate. It will be even worse in the professional life where any admin related interaction will be handled by an AI, unless you are a VIP member for this particular situation. This will strengthen the split between non-VIP and VIP customers. As a consequence, I expect people to come back to localilty, be it associations, sports clubs or neighborhood related, because that will be the only place where they will be able to experience humanity.

Source: What will be the second order effects widespread AI? | Hacker News

Population ethics

Will MacAskill is an Oxford philosopher. He’s an influential member of the Effective Altruism movement and has a view of the world he calls ‘longtermism’. I don’t know him, and I haven’t read his book, but I have done some ethics as part of my Philosophy degree.

As a parent, I find this review of his most recent book pretty shocking. I’m willing to consider most ideas but utilitarianism is the kind of thing which is super-attractive as a first-year Philosophy student but which… you grow out of?

The review goes more into depth than I can here, but human beings are not cold, calculating machines. We’re emotional people. We’re parents. And all I can say is that, well, my worldview changed a lot after I became a father.

Oxford philosophers William MacAskill and Toby Ord, both affiliated with the university’s Future of Humanity Institute, coined the word “longtermism” five years ago. Their outlook draws on utilitarian thinking about morality. According to utilitarianism—a moral theory developed by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill in the nineteenth century—we are morally required to maximize expected aggregate well-being, adding points for every moment of happiness, subtracting points for suffering, and discounting for probability. When you do this, you find that tiny chances of extinction swamp the moral mathematics. If you could save a million lives today or shave 0.0001 percent off the probability of premature human extinction—a one in a million chance of saving at least 8 trillion lives—you should do the latter, allowing a million people to die.

Now, as many have noted since its origin, utilitarianism is a radically counterintuitive moral view. It tells us that we cannot give more weight to our own interests or the interests of those we love than the interests of perfect strangers. We must sacrifice everything for the greater good. Worse, it tells us that we should do so by any effective means: if we can shave 0.0001 percent off the probability of human extinction by killing a million people, we should—so long as there are no other adverse effects.


MacAskill spends a lot of time and effort asking how to benefit future people. What I’ll come back to is the moral question whether they matter in the way he thinks they do, and why. As it turns out, MacAskill’s moral revolution rests on contentious, counterintuitive claims in “population ethics.”


[W]hat is most alarming in his approach is how little he is alarmed. As of 2022, the ‘Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ set the Doomsday Clock, which measures our proximity to doom, at 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been. According to a study commissioned by MacAskill, however, even in the worst-case scenario—a nuclear war that kills 99 percent of us—society would likely survive. The future trillions would be safe. The same goes for climate change. MacAskill is upbeat about our chances of surviving seven degrees of warming or worse: “even with fifteen degrees of warming,” he contends, “the heat would not pass lethal limits for crops in most regions.”

This is shocking in two ways. First, because it conflicts with credible claims one reads elsewhere. The last time the temperature was six degree higher than preindustrial levels was 251 million years ago, in the Permian-Triassic Extinction, the most devastating of the five great extinctions. Deserts reached almost to the Arctic and more than 90 percent of species were wiped out. According to environmental journalist Mark Lynas, who synthesized current research in ‘Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency’ (2020), at six degrees of warming the oceans will become anoxic, killing most marine life, and they’ll begin to release methane hydrate, which is flammable at concentrations of five percent, creating a risk of roving firestorms. It’s not clear how we could survive this hell, let alone fifteen degrees.

Source: The New Moral Mathematics | Boston Review