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Thread: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

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    EmperorBatman999's Avatar I say, what, what?
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    Default Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    I've recently been pondering this topic lately and wondering: has computer technology, at this point, started making human life worse?

    In the typical narrative about humanity, our species developed technology in a linear progression intended to reduce the burden of labor and to generally make human life easier. With the postwar computer revolution, humanity had invented an entire new kind of technology based around the computer, a device that was capable of performing mathematical calculations far faster than any human being. Eventually, these computers were trained to perform a wide variety of tasks, from interlinking the whole world socially through the internet, to being the decision-center for autonomous robots.

    However, the development of the computer has raised several key concerns over the past few decades. It turns out the tool is a great device for espionage on individual humans and groups, reducing human privacy to nil. Social Media and many internet sites, intended to bring people together and to serve as a reliable source of news and information, have become hubs for infighting, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. It has presented new anxieties for workers around the world as computers come to replace jobs, leaving potentially millions out of work. And for those who do work, it has made that work inescapable; to be a good employee, you are expected to check your email and be on-call at any given moment, even far outside of work hours.

    '90s movies like Terminator and The Matrix warned us about the problems advanced computers could bring to humanity, and although they might delivered this message in a ham-fisted way, did they have a prescient point? Has technology developed to a point where it is harming human prosperity and happiness?

    And yes, I understand the irony of appealing to people online through internet when asking this question criticizing computer technology.

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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    It's not technology, it's how we use it. We have a duty to be responsible with these things when we create them, and if we aren't careful often times something created to be a good thing can cause harm. But that doesn't mean that that thing is inherently harmful, it's just how it's being used. That doesn't mean you just get rid of all these things, it means you need to be proactive and seek change.

    For example automation and robotics could either pave the way for the majority of us to never have to work again OR it could be used by the ruling classes and the wealthy to even further consolidate their assets, leading to massive job loss and starvation.

    There is nothing inherently bad about automation or email or social media, it's just the way they're used. There are far more positive than negative uses for all of these technologies, we just have to not be complacent and fight to make sure corporations and governments use these things responsibly.

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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    I don't think so, yet. I do however have no faith in humanity generally knowing where to stop and thus being able to avoid destroying itself with technical innovations in the future. But like Akar said, it's the way it's used rather than the tech itself that is insidious. A sort of super AI beast created by man I think is much less likely to happen before above.

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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Akar View Post
    ...

    For example automation and robotics could either pave the way for the majority of us to never have to work again OR it could be used by the ruling classes and the wealthy to even further consolidate their assets, leading to massive job loss and starvation....
    Usually the arrival of a new economic and tech set leads to the destruction and/or absorption of populations using superseded techs, typically through a mix of active genocidal measures and "forgetting to stop them from dying". The examples of indigenous Americans and Australians are I think apposite, but even the example of Scots lairds is relevant. As Scotland became integrated into the wider British economy through various unions (personal and capitalised) the clan lairds employed legal measures to evict their nominal kin from clan lands in favour of more personally profitable grazing, destroying Gallic culture and rewriting the history at the same time. These days the Scots diaspora are encouraged to revere the treasonous lairds who in fact tipped highlanders from their clan territories in favour of sheep.

    I think as robots become more and more able to obediently replace humans, the replaced humans will at best be shoved aside (as is currently happening in many western societies with declining incomes and quality of life as their role in the economy is taken by lower paid workers in other countries) and at worst be actively eradicated. Perhaps there will be a place for the displaced humans to go (as displaced Irish and Scots in the 17th-19th centuries were repurposed as English speakers to populate the British Empire and its associated territories eg the US) but frankly the planet is filling up.

    I think its likely a few robot-army-controlling billionaires will be committing coincidental genocide to make room for their private Jurassic Parks and robot survivor fora. I mean in a century an immortal Bezos would be so different to his plebian fellow humans (four generations deep in perma-poverty, and unable to afford his products, holding newly evolved moral values and cultural assumptions as to seem alien to him) that sending his repurposed fleet of delivery drones out with gas cylinders or targeted viral agents to clear off California would hardly trouble him morally.
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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Akar View Post
    It's not technology, it's how we use it. We have a duty to be responsible with these things when we create them, and if we aren't careful often times something created to be a good thing can cause harm. But that doesn't mean that that thing is inherently harmful, it's just how it's being used. That doesn't mean you just get rid of all these things, it means you need to be proactive and seek change.

    For example automation and robotics could either pave the way for the majority of us to never have to work again OR it could be used by the ruling classes and the wealthy to even further consolidate their assets, leading to massive job loss and starvation.

    There is nothing inherently bad about automation or email or social media, it's just the way they're used. There are far more positive than negative uses for all of these technologies, we just have to not be complacent and fight to make sure corporations and governments use these things responsibly.
    I suspect that we are reaching the point where computer engineers know exactly what they are doing. For example, when I lived in Washington, DC, I had a conversation with an architectural engineer who was also designing some computational algorithms to help his company make certain decisions in the process of constructing a new hospital in the region. He told me that as he was designing the algorithm, he knew that his formula could end up leaving thousands unemployed and affect the families of people he worked with, all because a computer algorithm could bear the weight of deciding choices which managers and some executives used to do.

    You don't design facial recognition software just for the SnapChat filters; there is serious money in making these things for security agencies, many of whom have a deliberate interest in closely monitoring and controlling the populace, and the engineers know that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Usually the arrival of a new economic and tech set leads to the destruction and/or absorption of populations using superseded techs, typically through a mix of active genocidal measures and "forgetting to stop them from dying". The examples of indigenous Americans and Australians are I think apposite, but even the example of Scots lairds is relevant. As Scotland became integrated into the wider British economy through various unions (personal and capitalised) the clan lairds employed legal measures to evict their nominal kin from clan lands in favour of more personally profitable grazing, destroying Gallic culture and rewriting the history at the same time. These days the Scots diaspora are encouraged to revere the treasonous lairds who in fact tipped highlanders from their clan territories in favour of sheep.

    I think as robots become more and more able to obediently replace humans, the replaced humans will at best be shoved aside (as is currently happening in many western societies with declining incomes and quality of life as their role in the economy is taken by lower paid workers in other countries) and at worst be actively eradicated. Perhaps there will be a place for the displaced humans to go (as displaced Irish and Scots in the 17th-19th centuries were repurposed as English speakers to populate the British Empire and its associated territories eg the US) but frankly the planet is filling up.

    I think its likely a few robot-army-controlling billionaires will be committing coincidental genocide to make room for their private Jurassic Parks and robot survivor fora. I mean in a century an immortal Bezos would be so different to his plebian fellow humans (four generations deep in perma-poverty, and unable to afford his products, holding newly evolved moral values and cultural assumptions as to seem alien to him) that sending his repurposed fleet of delivery drones out with gas cylinders or targeted viral agents to clear off California would hardly trouble him morally.
    I don't think it'll be an intentional genocide, but I do think that big businesses will continue ignoring the growing underclass of displaced workers until those people can't be silenced anymore. The businesses will continue to use their lobbyists and think tanks to persuade governments away from considering measures such as Universal Basic Income, as it'll affect those companies tax "burden" (even though they radically benefitted from slashing costs by cutting out labor anyway).

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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    I mean, most of those problems are due to capitalism, not technology per se.
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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    It's not technology that makes life miserable, it's the employers and the plutocratic nature of the ruling classes which makes them highly susceptible to lobbyists/bribery, which means at the expense of the general human population.
    This isn't an issue to be solely blamed on Capitalism. It is our perverted understanding of the relationship between labour and wealth. It was seen in the Soviet Union, it is seen in China, North Korea and the Ancient Roman Republic.


    I envision a time when the rich become so wealthy that money becomes meaningless. The means of production and the yoke of purposeless labour will be so far removed from human experience such that the only method of determining societal hierarchies (an inherent human imperative) will be through artistic and/or philosophical and/or sporting merit.

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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Himster View Post
    It's not technology that makes life miserable, it's the employers and the plutocratic nature of the ruling classes which makes them highly susceptible to lobbyists/bribery, which means at the expense of the general human population.
    This isn't an issue to be solely blamed on Capitalism. It is our perverted understanding of the relationship between labour and wealth. It was seen in the Soviet Union, it is seen in China, North Korea and the Ancient Roman Republic.


    I envision a time when the rich become so wealthy that money becomes meaningless. The means of production and the yoke of purposeless labour will be so far removed from human experience such that the only method of determining societal hierarchies (an inherent human imperative) will be through artistic and/or philosophical and/or sporting merit.

    No longer will people giggle at my whimsical moustache and people won't throw coins at me when I sit down on the street to enjoy my coffee. I'll be a king.
    I think you'll survive only if MechaGatezilla defends you on a whim from the trustfund cyborg hunting packs. Prolly you'll outlive me as your artistic skills will give you a survival edge creating camouflaged hideyholes.
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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gromovnik View Post
    I mean, most of those problems are due to capitalism, not technology per se.
    China is not 100% capitalist (they still want a significant Party presence in Chinese companies, as well as at the facilities of foreign companies on Chinese soil), and they have taken this new technology to its most extreme; see the Social Credit system as well as the extensive facial recognition apparatus across the country.

    If we are talking the more traditional non-capitalist type of government (State Socialism, ala the USSR or East Germany), I think they would have also pushed to develop similar security technology had they somehow continued to survive. We know that State Socialism tends to hamper innovation, so it would have taken them longer to get to the technology at this point, but there is no reason to think that they would not have been able to develop this sort of thing themselves if given the time needed. The Politburo and Central Planning Committees could even accelerate the process to get there by dumping focus, resources, and patronage into the cybernetics field, as the Soviets had done for their space program.

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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Usually the arrival of a new economic and tech set leads to the destruction and/or absorption of populations using superseded techs, typically through a mix of active genocidal measures and "forgetting to stop them from dying". The examples of indigenous Americans and Australians are I think apposite, but even the example of Scots lairds is relevant. As Scotland became integrated into the wider British economy through various unions (personal and capitalised) the clan lairds employed legal measures to evict their nominal kin from clan lands in favour of more personally profitable grazing, destroying Gallic culture and rewriting the history at the same time. These days the Scots diaspora are encouraged to revere the treasonous lairds who in fact tipped highlanders from their clan territories in favour of sheep.

    I think as robots become more and more able to obediently replace humans, the replaced humans will at best be shoved aside (as is currently happening in many western societies with declining incomes and quality of life as their role in the economy is taken by lower paid workers in other countries) and at worst be actively eradicated. Perhaps there will be a place for the displaced humans to go (as displaced Irish and Scots in the 17th-19th centuries were repurposed as English speakers to populate the British Empire and its associated territories eg the US) but frankly the planet is filling up.

    I think its likely a few robot-army-controlling billionaires will be committing coincidental genocide to make room for their private Jurassic Parks and robot survivor fora. I mean in a century an immortal Bezos would be so different to his plebian fellow humans (four generations deep in perma-poverty, and unable to afford his products, holding newly evolved moral values and cultural assumptions as to seem alien to him) that sending his repurposed fleet of delivery drones out with gas cylinders or targeted viral agents to clear off California would hardly trouble him morally.
    Quote Originally Posted by Himster View Post
    It's not technology that makes life miserable, it's the employers and the plutocratic nature of the ruling classes which makes them highly susceptible to lobbyists/bribery, which means at the expense of the general human population.
    This isn't an issue to be solely blamed on Capitalism. It is our perverted understanding of the relationship between labour and wealth. It was seen in the Soviet Union, it is seen in China, North Korea and the Ancient Roman Republic.


    I envision a time when the rich become so wealthy that money becomes meaningless. The means of production and the yoke of purposeless labour will be so far removed from human experience such that the only method of determining societal hierarchies (an inherent human imperative) will be through artistic and/or philosophical and/or sporting merit.

    No longer will people giggle at my whimsical moustache and people won't throw coins at me when I sit down on the street to enjoy my coffee. I'll be a king.
    I think the greatest social danger is the breaking up of the social contract that the poor don't revolt as long as the rich keep them employed: As long as hiring other humans is the best option to convert money into agency the agency gain of rich people is naturally limited by the free will of their employees, and the employees are being offered the means to live for not just robbing the rich people. However, if robots of sufficient quality become available rich people can just convert their money into agency by using these, with no natural limitation, while also no longer requiring the poor as workforce. At that point it really depends on how society deals with this problem, whether it becomes techno-socialism (confiscate all advanced machinery to only serve the public good), techno-oligarchy (rich people using robots to not have to care about laws and other trifles anymore) or techno-iconoclasm (poor people killing rich people and their robots because the institutions didn't act). Call me a pessimist, but I see little other possibilities, given the prospective gain in agency for the rich once they don't have to rely on poor workers anymore.

    Of course, there is something that might happen before such a situation (advanced robots combined with a sharp inequality of wealth) arises: Given that most wealth these days "exists" only by convention in the form of digital data signifying ownership or cash deposits, the technological (r)evolution might turn against the rich when either hackers manage to destroy or mislead the data or when legislatures simply by law decree that all data signifying property above a certain sum (say, 1 billion $/€) are invalid.

    Another thing to consider is that the "us vs robots" scenario is not the only one. We might as well be steering towards the Great Synthesis, which would save us from the hazards of the technological singularity (as we'd be part of it), but comes with its own unspeakable horrors, I'm sure.
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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Iskar View Post
    I think the greatest social danger is the breaking up of the social contract that the poor don't revolt as long as the rich keep them employed: As long as hiring other humans is the best option to convert money into agency the agency gain of rich people is naturally limited by the free will of their employees, and the employees are being offered the means to live for not just robbing the rich people. However, if robots of sufficient quality become available rich people can just convert their money into agency by using these, with no natural limitation, while also no longer requiring the poor as workforce. At that point it really depends on how society deals with this problem, whether it becomes techno-socialism (confiscate all advanced machinery to only serve the public good), techno-oligarchy (rich people using robots to not have to care about laws and other trifles anymore) or techno-iconoclasm (poor people killing rich people and their robots because the institutions didn't act). Call me a pessimist, but I see little other possibilities, given the prospective gain in agency for the rich once they don't have to rely on poor workers anymore.

    Of course, there is something that might happen before such a situation (advanced robots combined with a sharp inequality of wealth) arises: Given that most wealth these days "exists" only by convention in the form of digital data signifying ownership or cash deposits, the technological (r)evolution might turn against the rich when either hackers manage to destroy or mislead the data or when legislatures simply by law decree that all data signifying property above a certain sum (say, 1 billion $/€) are invalid.

    Another thing to consider is that the "us vs robots" scenario is not the only one. We might as well be steering towards the Great Synthesis, which would save us from the hazards of the technological singularity (as we'd be part of it), but comes with its own unspeakable horrors, I'm sure.

    You are literally describing the second industrial revolution word for word and we'll most likely see a repeat of the 19th century when the peasant manufactures in the countryside were replaced by factories in the city. That being said we are still a few decades away from creating a workable adaptive AI system that can run a factory or drive a car autonomously, without continual human input or guidance - and you can't have automation without one.


    This is literally the cutting edge of AI research right now
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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Iskar View Post
    Another thing to consider is that the "us vs robots" scenario is not the only one. We might as well be steering towards the Great Synthesis, which would save us from the hazards of the technological singularity (as we'd be part of it), but comes with its own unspeakable horrors, I'm sure.
    Synthesis as transhumanism and body augmentations, yes, keeping the technology more or less around human level would work but anything more than that and we will just end up as a "contains trace amounts of homo sapiens" sticker on the side of a machine.
    The technological singularity (IIRC) is when an AI gets into a rapid self improvement cycle and eventually becomes the next transition in evolution and the new dominant form of intelligence on Earth. I dont see how humans can be part of that, the AI would out-evolve us in no time.

    Kurzweil Claims That the Singularity Will Happen by 2045
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Lookin' forward to it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    Lookin' forward to it.
    ...hey that's exactly what an AI would say!
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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Adrian View Post
    You are literally describing the second industrial revolution word for word and we'll most likely see a repeat of the 19th century when the peasant manufactures in the countryside were replaced by factories in the city. That being said we are still a few decades away from creating a workable adaptive AI system that can run a factory or drive a car autonomously, without continual human input or guidance - and you can't have automation without one.


    This is literally the cutting edge of AI research right now
    The parallels are indeed strong, but I think one important difference would be that after the industrial revolution human workers were still needed to convert money into agency, even if at less favourable rates for the workers. The qualitative bounding of the employer's agency gain by the workers' free will still remained, though. It is the removal of this qualitative bound rather than the quantitative change in agency gain per money spent that would set the robotic-industrial revolution apart from the proletariat-industrial revolution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mithradates View Post
    Synthesis as transhumanism and body augmentations, yes, keeping the technology more or less around human level would work but anything more than that and we will just end up as a "contains trace amounts of homo sapiens" sticker on the side of a machine.
    The technological singularity (IIRC) is when an AI gets into a rapid self improvement cycle and eventually becomes the next transition in evolution and the new dominant form of intelligence on Earth. I dont see how humans can be part of that, the AI would out-evolve us in no time.

    Kurzweil Claims That the Singularity Will Happen by 2045
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I don't know. Our understanding of the human brain is still just cursory so far where the real important stuff is concerned like consciousness, associative thought, filtering for relevance, reliable pattern recognition. These are very strong aspects of human cognition and I'd venture to say that an AI that is too dumb to recognise the potential of the human brain in a Great Synthesis scenario is not in danger of causing the technological singularity in the first place.
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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Like Adrian said we're decades away from the AI people imagine. It's todays (maybe already slightly yesterday's?) buzzword with which start-ups get funds from hedgefunds, until there's no money left to be gained. Welcome to the era of dumb money. Couple of years ago everyone was raving about the "revolutionary" blockchains.

    Artificial "intelligence"/Machine learning these days is literally just semiautomated statistics, and quite often done where it's completely pointless or useless, where doing it the slightly more traditional way would have been less work for the same result. What compounds this all is that, whereas you could affect the behaviour of a traditional script, fix bugs, change the way stuff works, there's no reasonable way to do this with the algorithm. Rather than tweaking it you have to redo the entire learning process if you find some issue.

    All that said doesn't mean that there isn't a potential and a future in AI. It's just that the perception is way off. And looooooong before we could reasonably expect much of the dark sci-fi settings to play out, we'd have a lot of good stuff.

    AI isn't the problem. A lot of other technical stuff is:
    1. Social media is bad on a personal level: It makes you sick.
    2. Social media is bad on a societal level: You absolutely can influence elections and decision making processes.
      You can't make it with a couple of hundred thousand bucks like gullible fools believe Russia to have done, but it does ultimately lead to a techno oligarchy.
      In the US this hardly matters, since it already is a plutocratic society, so power isn't exactly being taken away from the people, but in Europe it does matter.
      When elections can be decided simply by tweaking the numbers slightly, deciding which political message gets seen by e.g. 100000 more people, then that gives you an insane power.
    3. Like Iskar said the main issue is with the lower classes and their ability to find work. Obviously some new job opportunities do open up, but if we take drivers for example, which make up a huge percentage of today's jobs, there's no way that we can find alternative jobs for such an amount of people.
    4. Conversely the high skilled white collar people can only expect their salaries to rise. Making a couple thousand jobs superfluous makes you an extremely valuable asset. This and the previous two points very much lead to the same result, which is the stratification and feudalisation of the world. The Pareto distribution has always been the natural state of wealth distribution, but technology makes this curve much more pronounced. Social upwards mobility has always been a hard thing to achieve for most people - Technology can ultimately make it all but impossible except for some lucky few. Those lucky few in turn get even more spectacular results. Even once we ignore dumb money magnets such as Musk and the vast amounts of money being pumped into stock markets without any corresponding productivity increase, the kind of success Jeff Bezos and Zuckerberg have would have been quite unattainable in previous centuries.
    5. There are lots of ethical concerns to be had with CRISPR, neuroscience (just not Neuralink or any other company of Musk for that matter), and a number of other appliances.

    True to human nature, there's also no way in hell this is ever going to be adressed by the world as a whole. We're much better at waging hot and cold wars than solving global problems.
    The institutional inertia, btw., is also only ever becoming harder to affect as technology progresses. Has anyone here been trapped in some automated customer support and missed the old annoying human ones? Now imagine not only customer "support" working that way.



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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Iskar View Post
    I don't know. Our understanding of the human brain is still just cursory so far where the real important stuff is concerned like consciousness, associative thought, filtering for relevance, reliable pattern recognition. These are very strong aspects of human cognition and I'd venture to say that an AI that is too dumb to recognise the potential of the human brain in a Great Synthesis scenario is not in danger of causing the technological singularity in the first place.
    I mean, how can humans be part of that in a way that would benefit us, either on individual level or as species? The AI would/will definitely benefit from such synthesis, yes, as it would be a new experience for it, a great help and a step forward in its evolution.
    Im talking about what happens right after the synthesis, due to the ongoing intelligence explosion it would keep evolving further because it doesnt have to deal with limitations humans have to.
    So either the AI, for some reason, would stop evolving and would remain around the limits of human understanding (I guess that is what you are thinking about) or more likely it would move forward with its evolution and its human parts will become obsolete and irrelevant in no time.
    What are the benefits for us?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mithradates View Post
    I mean, how can humans be part of that in a way that would benefit us, either on individual level or as species? The AI would/will definitely benefit from such synthesis, yes, as it would be a new experience for it, a great help and a step forward in its evolution.
    Im talking about what happens right after the synthesis, due to the ongoing intelligence explosion it would keep evolving further because it doesnt have to deal with limitations humans have to.
    So either the AI, for some reason, would stop evolving and would remain around the limits of human understanding (I guess that is what you are thinking about) or more likely it would move forward with its evolution and its human parts will become obsolete and irrelevant in no time.
    What are the benefits for us?
    I'm sorry but none of your speculation here is grounded in reality.



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  20. #20
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Have we gone too far with computer technology?

    As someone who actually works in the field of tech and is actively on the AI field - we're so far away from the concept of "AI we see in movies with self governing robots" that it makes it for very good laughing material when you see the news being presented.

    AI right now is a machine learning 2+2=4 and then extrapolating from there. Chess AI beating Grandmasters is very simple in terms of programming in mathematics - the AI has more computational power and makes more calculations required for a fixed set of data (the chess board), hence why it's able to win. AI right now is under intensive scrutiny from every regulatory body to avoid the "movie AI" that we imagine so I'm a bit wary of the whole end is near propagated through media.

    What you will see in the next 5 years is a significant improvement in what we call in the field ML - Machine Learning - where inputting huge sets of data will allow computers to make better decisions in terms of algorithms that calculate the way behavioural decisions are taken by humans. Essentially your YouTube algorithm and shopping algorithm will see an improvement. AI right now still operates in something like 1D. What you feed it is what you get out of it, it's not able to work out things by itself.

    And this will not happen soon.
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