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Steven Pinker: AI in the Age of Reason
- BY Barbara Hyman
- DATE: June 2, 2020
Author | Lex Fridman: Steven Pinker
In this episode of Lex Fridman’s podcast, they discuss the topic AI in the Age of Reason. Here Steven Pinker debunks and explores many AI-related questions. Steven Pinker is a professor at Harvard and before that was a professor at MIT. He is also the author of many books.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation:
On AI being an existential threat, either by enslaving us or turning us into paper clips – ‘totally fanciful’
On the impact of AI on jobs, displacing and replacing human in thousands of jobs – ‘are they jobs worth keeping? ‘ Pinker admonishes the literature which romanticizes these lost (shitty) jobs
On productive ‘fear’ vs ‘paralysing fear’ – Human effort is not well calibrated against risk. Because a basic tenet of cognitive psychology is that perception of risk and fear is driven by imaginability and not by data. This means we allocate trillions of dollars to fighting terrorism which kills a very small number of Americans & Australians a year, yet guaranteed risks, like traffic fatalities (40k pa in the US alone), and pandemics and nuclear war which are plausible enough to worry about receive far too little attention.
On the human tendency to amplify fear instead of good news – ‘Always predict the worst and you will be hailed as a prophet’
On the many fanciful claims about AI destroying our world – It assumes that engineering culture will suddenly become one which only maximises the objective with no care for risks. His 2 examples are compelling:
- If that was how engineering culture worked then why were cars built with brakes if the goal of a car is to go fast
- If we program a self-driving car to get to a destination by taking the shortest possible route, it won’t steamroll houses and parks to get there.