Boris Smus

interaction engineering

Intelligence, aliens, and self-improvement

I recently enjoyed a podcast about intelligence, aliens and learning where Kevin Kelly was interviewed by Sam Harris. Here are some things I liked about it:

  • Kelly makes a great argument that with text we already have no way of knowing what is true. We have to rely on the source. My fears of audio and video fake news are reduced.

  • It's obvious that the world is changing quickly, which means lifelong learning is necessary. One thing I haven't systematically understood is how I learn best. How would you even figure that out?

  • Chimpanzees are amazing at short term spatial memory, and do better than humans in these cognitive tasks on average.

  • Currently, the best Chess players are human-computer hybrids. Harris claims that computers alone will eventually be better than these hybrids, but his claim that "the ape will just be adding noise" is unsubstantiated.

  • About mid-way, the two discuss the analogy between AI and aliens. I haven't thought of this either. But I wondered how salient that analogy was given that we have a largely shared environment with whatever AIs we create. To the extent that the AIs truly are alien, I wonder how much of a unifying force these alien AIs could be for humanity.

  • I strongly agreed with Kelly when he says that building machine systems enhances our self-understanding. Building VR rendering and head tracking systems, you benefit from some human visual perception basics. Human psychology is critical for building user interfaces. You need an understanding of how human hearing works to build good lossy audio compression.

  • An interesting thought experiment that superscedes Asimov's laws of robotics: what if we built AGIs that were terribly worried about what people think. Then we reduce the machine menace problem to merely the evils of humanity.