Lack of an Appropriate Response to Societal Impact of AI

Sam Harris remarks in the opening part of his TEDtalk, that people don’t seem to be able to muster an appropriate response to the dangers of AI:

Already today, anyone who takes the trouble can read in the papers, on the net and even see on TV that machines will likely take substantial chunks of employment away from humans, quite soon. And that AIs will eventually attain Super-Intelligence or Singularity according to many experts.

So far, we just don’t see much of a reaction to that. We’ve asked supermarket employees, truck drivers, Uber drivers, Taxi drivers. We just don’t get much of a response. We hear things like – “gee that sounds like it could be a problem – lets wait and see”.

You could infer from Sam Harris’s talk that people tend instead to be concerned about much less likely scenarios. Like Terror Attacks. North Korean atomic warfare. Losing their jobs to immigrants. Getting mugged in the city. Or global warming (which aside from producing extreme weather, hurricanes, droughts and floods, re-arrangement of waterfront cities etc., will likely be more of an annoyance to the vast majority of the world’s population than an existential threat to civilization as we know it).

We recently interviewed Michele Hanson from the Guardian (brilliant woman). She points out that the so-called “Universal Basic Income”, should it ever become reality, would likely not be an adequate income to maintain a normal consumer lifestyle, but instead a pittance (perhaps like the US “welfare” system, or in the best case like the German “Hartz IV” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartz_concept ?).

So what are the roots of mass denial?  Why does it seem humans are relatively incapable of grasping the impending societal disruptions?  More research is needed.

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