Discussion Panel: The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (1:32:24)
September 1, 2017
August 24, 2017
Max Tegmark and Matt Wilson discuss ethical and social issues that arise with the creation of AI systems, such as transparency and predictability, morality and decision making, liability, and the societal implications of systems with general or "super" intelligence.
PRESENTER: It's a great pleasure to introduce this session on ethics. As you know, there's a very well-documented definition of consciousness, which is fine, for combining supervised and unsupervised learning, we defined kappa gamma, which is the definition of ethics. So we ranked all the people at CBMM based on ethics. And the two most ethical people that we could get are Matt Wilson and Max Tegmark will be leading the discussion. [INAUDIBLE] informal conversations.
We started to speculate about the notion that we are a homo sapiens 1.0, and what's going to happen with homo sapiens 2.0. It turns out that I got it all wrong. It's Life 3.0. I just found out that that's the new era. This is a book that's come out.
MAX TEGMARK: On Tuesday, it's coming out.
PRESENTER: By Max Tegmark that I think you discuss a lot of these issues. I look forward to reading it. I think it's going to be fascinating.
MAX TEGMARK: It's a great doorstop.
PRESENTER: So the way this is going to work is we're going to have each of them give a short introduction and spelling out some of the main issues, some of the main submissions, and what they think about some of the conversations about ethics in AI. And then, we'd like to open this up for discussion, for questions, and joint brainstorming by all the people here. OK?
MATT WILSON: Yeah the focus will be on provoking conversation since this is not about us instructing you on the ethics of AI. It's just raising-- because we all have an interest in AI, its relationship to brains. These are things that we've thought about. And it's not the first time we've done this. This is just a little white paper that I put up here that came from a similar session in one of the CBMM retreats from last year. And Max and I were also on this.
And so I thought I would just kind of throw this up here because it points out some topics that we might want to discuss. And they were that kind of the easy things-- autonomous vehicle, medical diagnostic, lethal autonomous weapons. These are specific applications and discussions of, how should we approach these things? What are the concerns? Autonomous vehicles, should you kill the dog or the two people in the crosswalk? I mean, I don't think those are really the key issues. I think the key issues are those that raise the questions of our social responsibility.
One of the reasons I am here is that I also teach this-- for many, many, many years, a regular course in responsible conduct and science, which asked these same questions involving cognitive science, neuroscience, what are our responsibilities, what are the things that we have to think about the application of our science to technology and its impact in society. So I sort of pointed out some of these things. There are some interesting little links that are worth looking at. Other people have talked about it. But these are some of the topics that came up in this discussion.
The first one was this idea of transparency and predictability. You develop these AIs, what is your responsibility to know what they're doing and how they're actually doing it? You build an algorithm that-- for instance, I remember back in the day before there were really AIs, algorithms that would determine whether you qualify for a bank loan. You just punch in some parameters, and it tells you, yes, you get a loan; no, you don't get a loan.
What was the basis for that decision? I mean, you don't know. So it turns out a lot of these algorithms had implicit bias. And that is that they chose factors that might have worked, but their weighted in such a way that people of modest economic capability were excluded, and those that had plenty of resources were rewarded. Now that wasn't implicit in the algorithm. It's just the idea, well, it's an algorithm. So it must be it's unbiased-- clearly not the case.
And so to the extent that we have a responsibility to at least think about how these algorithms are actually going to operate when they're actually put out into the world, that's this question, the transparency question-- the morality and decision-making, that's how do algorithms choose who lives, who dies.
There's the liability question which is, eh, I think that's an interesting question, which comes up with autonomous vehicles, vehicle kills somebody, who's responsible? The drivers? The algorithm? The person who wrote the algorithm? Or the manufacturer who put the algorithm into the car? That development of artificial general intelligence, which we kind of think of as an objective, and then there's some concerns, things that come up which I sort of point out here, which are interesting.
And they relate to these-- the topic I pointed out before, and that's this predictability and transparency. And that is with these kind of domain-specific AIs, you design them to solve a particular problem. You might see the metrics for how well they're doing it. You may even have insights on how they're doing it.
With general intelligence, you don't necessarily have that access to transparency and predictability. And so that's a concern. And then when you extend that to the idea of super intelligence, and that is a general intelligence that now exceeds the capability, which is of humans, life 4.0, now, we have all these issues that kind of come up with regard to AI, and that is sort of the displacement of effort.
If they can do things better than humans, should we just concede that they should-- the AIs should have both the authority and, through their demonstrated advanced capability, the preferred judgment when it comes to making decisions? And so that, you can think of-- I think of that more as the-- if there's a singularity-- it's not the singularity of AI has kind of turned on us, although in the end here, the sudden emergence of super intelligence, the non-human-like motivations, which you might think of as evil intent, and then non-human-like psyches.
I think, really, the question becomes, when do we cede control to entities that have demonstrated superior capability? And we do this now. We make these judgments currently. In a social context, we have those that are in positions of authority. We cede control to them. And largely it's based upon this assumption that if you centralize power in a few capable, smart people, you're going to get better decisions. Although empirically, that is a question, that that's probably not the best way to make optimal decisions. The best way is to actually distribute. That's kind of decision-making across a broad spectrum of people and abilities.
So that kind of question, when do we let, or even beg the super intelligences to help us out, cure diseases, solve our problems, and then ultimately decide our futures? And so I thought those were some of the issues that came up. And I'll turn it over to Max.
MAX TEGMARK: Great. Thank you so much for the invitation [? that can be here. ?] [? It's ?] [? fascinating. ?] So I'm just going to add a few more words to what Matt said here. Yeah, I think of the goal of this session here as taking all the knowledge that you guys are all developing about how to understand and build intelligence, biological intelligence, artificial intelligence, and think about what you actually want to do with all this knowledge. I'm generally a pretty happy camper.
Partly, I blame it on my wife, but it's also partly because I'm optimistic that we can create an awesome future with technology as long as we win the race between the growing power of technology and the growing wisdom with which we manage it. Now this school has been almost entirely focused on the growing power of technology, how do you figure out how stuff works? How do you make it better?
This discussion here is about the wisdom part. How do you want to use this? So I don't have a white paper, but I have a whiteboard. So I'm just going to write a few words on it. In terms of the issues that we face here, what to do with our technology, you already summarized it very well, Matt. I'm just going to write some keywords in larger font.
Obviously, in the very near term, there's all the stuff related to jobs. What kind of career advice should we give our friends and ourselves in the future? Is it true that technology would build or increase inequality? If so, what should we do about it? And so on.
Then, there is the question of the legal system. As Matt mentioned, can we make our legal system more efficient and fairer by having robo judges or something like that? If so, how can we make this transparent so we actually understand what our systems are doing? Do we want to go in that direction, ceding a lot of control to machines?
Then, there is the question of weapons. Even though most of the progress so far and research in AI has come from the civilian sector, I would say by far, most of the money is actually going for military sector right now. The US government was just talking about putting in $13 billion more into militarized AI and so on. And there is a United Nations meeting in November to discuss whether one should try to get an international ban on killer robots, just like we banned biological weapons. But it's very up in the air, interesting ethical arguments on both sides of that.
Then there is the business about bugs. How can we transform today's-- raise your hand if you've ever had your computer crash on you. And maybe it was a nuisance, or maybe it was even funny, but it's less funny, of course, if what crashed was the computer that's controlling your self-driving car, your self-driving airplane, or your power grid, or your nuclear reactors, or your nation's nuclear weapons system.
How can we transform today's buggy and hackable computers into really robust AI systems that we can really trust? It's not particularly ethical questions, should we try to make our systems more robust and less hackable. Everybody agrees with that. But the interesting ethical question is, how much of a priority should that be? Until now, it's been a very low priority. That's why your operating systems keep crashing.
Should we decide that we should shift more of our effort also into this wisdom part and making things robust and unhackable and doing what we want? Or is the balance kind of fine the way it is? I think that's a fun ethical question. As we look farther forward in time comes the question that you mentioned there about AGI. Should we ultimately try to build machines that are as smart as us or smarter? And if so, what kind of society do we want to create with them? What do we want the role of-- who do we want to be in control? Us or some sort of machines?
If it's some sort of machines, in that case, how can we make machines learn our goals, and adopt them, and retain them? And whose goals anyway? That's a very ethical question which cannot just be left to computer geeks like myself, because it affects everybody.
So what kind of kind of society, what kind of future do we want to create? That's very much an ethical question, I think. I get a lot of students coming into my office for career advice. And I always ask them, where do you want to be in 10 years? If you come into my office and you answer that question by saying, oh, I think I'll have cancer maybe or I'll be unemployed and I've gotten stabbed. I'd get really pissed at you. Because that's not a healthy strategy for planning out your future, just thinking about everything that could go wrong and trying to run away from it, right?
I want you to come in with fire in your eyes and be like, this is what I want to accomplish. Then, we can talk about all the obstacles, and pitfalls, and how we can navigate around them so you can accomplish your dreams. But we, as a society, do exactly that ridiculous parody of future planning. You go to the movies and watch something about the future. It's almost always dystopia, right? Almost always this stupid terminator robot or some sort of disaster. I see very few serious attempts to actually envision what kind of future we want. And I think that's a really interesting ethical question, too.
So we were thinking, Matt and I, that this is your hour to bring up-- well, actually we can do whatever you want-- maybe we can start with the things that are a little bit more in the near-term. And then if you feel that it's too boring because everybody agrees, we can move farther into the future to really get an adrenaline going. So the floor is yours.
AUDIENCE: I guess this a more [? media ?] maybe, kind of practical question. But a lot of arguments [INAUDIBLE] artificial intelligence [INAUDIBLE] not to say we're going to make a weapon with this, but it'll be useful [INAUDIBLE] a system that can see and understand the world better. Do you think there's a moral obligation on the researchers who take that money from those organizations, knowing that their long-term goal may be to eventually make killer robots or a system that [INAUDIBLE]? Or not because the immediate state of [INAUDIBLE]
MATT WILSON: I don't know. What do you all think? I mean, would you take the money? And why would you take it? I mean, the way the question is posed is like, you have the choice. Don't take it and then what? Stuff doesn't get done or somebody else does it? What do you think? How many of you would take the money?
MAX TEGMARK: Maybe we could make this a bit more fun by adding some color to it. Because it's not really either or. I think there's sort of a spectrum. For example, there were some chemists who built this gas, Zyklon B. You probably heard about it. And they knew full well that this was going to be used in concentration camps, but they produced it anyway. They were actually sentenced to death in the Nuremberg trials. That's one end of the spectrum. Would you take that funding to do that job?
On the other end of the spectrum, suppose you get a job designing-- draw a little drone for Amazon's new 10-minute delivery. Yeah, you know that that technology can maybe also be used to drop bombs sometime in the future, but in the short term, Amazon is not at all in that business. And would you take that money? Would you just decide to stop doing any kind of technology development at all because bad things could happen? That's sort of the opposite end, I think, of the spectrum. Where would you kind of draw the line?
MATT WILSON: Well, it's somewhere in between, actually. So you can say there's the social irresponsible, you know, sentenced to death. And then, there's just sort of the socially agnostic. OK, this is just-- this technology is going make my shopping easier, right? But then there's this idea of socially engage. Then I have a responsibility. This is going to be important. This is going to impact people's lives. And the question really becomes not is the technology going to be developed, but how is it going to be developed? And who is going to control this?
And so the question is really, do I engage and try to influence the direction and impact or do I disengage and let someone else do it? And so, I mean, I imagine all of you, I say, who would take the money, you know, it wasn't about the money. Who would feel either that it's appropriate to engage or maybe even that they have some sense of obligation. Look, I have the ability to move this thing in the proper direction. Maybe I should actually engage.
AUDIENCE: So along those lines, [INAUDIBLE] someone else might. So my decision might not actually stop the progress of [INAUDIBLE]. And these kinds of feelings, which everyone has, will, I imagine, propogate progress in this field, kind of irrespective of any of the conversations we have today.
My question, I guess, [INAUDIBLE] let's say we come up with some solution we agree with for jobs, and 95% of the world agrees with us, but 5% doesn't and continues to develop AI in a way that isn't in accordance with our ideas. Any resistance to our moral outlook on AI will, I imagine, end up squashing our well-intentioned restrictions. So how do you create a moral system that stops people from developing [INAUDIBLE] think are bad, but is executed in a morally responsible way that is in play? Well, any researcher who develops that kind of thing, [INAUDIBLE]?
MAX TEGMARK: I think you're raising two separate questions which are both really important. What should we do as individuals? And then separately, what should we encourage our government to do, or the world governments to do? There's two separate things. Certainly as individuals, raise your hand if you know of Tom Lehrer. This song about "Wernher Von Braun," where he goes, once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department, say Wernher Von Braun.
That attitude [? built ?] V2 rockets for Hitler to hit London. Then, he started working for the US instead to build our rockets. It's somewhat common among scientists. One can take that point of view that certainly, as an individual, that one is just not going to do something that one feels is morally wrong, even if someone else will take one's place. I'm pretty sure you would not have developed the Zyklon B gas, even if you knew that some other chemist was going to do it if you didn't.
AUDIENCE: It's kind of an important question. I imagine who develop weapons now, building killer robots will justify themselves and might be justified in certain things, like, if I build these well, it will cause less damage to non-targets.
MAX TEGMARK: Well, for the Zyklon B case, you couldn't even make that argument. This wasn't a defensive weapon to defend Germany against invasion by other countries. And similarly, if you're in charge of-- there was a big, big scandal outside-- and not among US AI researchers, but among US psychologists and the American Psychological Association, where it turned out that some psychologists had been working on torture, helping the CIA with torture. And in the end, there was a revolution in the APA. And they adopted a position now that says any psychologists who would do this will just get disbarred.
So I know, in some cases, this is justified. , Because, oh, we have to defend ourselves. But there are many cases where it's not even-- where it's even simpler. I'm not sitting here telling anyone what to do. But as an individual, everybody should draw the line somewhere, I think, and say these are things that I think are just morally wrong, and I'm not going to do it, even if someone else is going to do it. Then the question for everybody is, where is that line?
And I also think we can also do something separate, which is try to speak up and persuade other people that this whole thing should be stigmatized. So bio weapons went through this whole thing, for example. And then the US, and Russia, and China, and all the others signed a ban on biological weapons, which really helped stigmatize this. Same thing happened for chemical weapons.
This kind of activism was, in both of those cases, driven a lot by biologists and chemists, by scientists. And they mainly had an effect not by individually boycotting to work for bio weapons labs, but just from speaking up and using the expertise they had. So that's another thing that you can do if there's something you feel strongly about. So stigma can be powerful. Because if it turns out that whoever is trying to do these bad things can only get third-rate scientists to work for them who couldn't get another job, then they're not going to be able to do probably as much harm.
MATT WILSON: Yeah, I don't know. I think that this idea that you have to choose-- right-- and develop-- either I choose to develop AI knowing that they might be applied in some manner that I find morally or ethically objectionable, or I don't engage, or I engage in some sort of proactive way, I don't think that AI necessarily falls into that category. I think it's closer-- you think of like nuclear energy. So you think there was nuclear technology.
And there are ways of developing it that are more-- that are easier or more difficult to weaponize. And so you have developing technology, the science can actually help to contribute the development of a technology, which maximizes the societal benefits while minimizing or, in some ways, mitigating, or enhancing the ability to oversee the negative impacts of that technology.
And when thinking about AI, these questions of, like, transparency, for instance, predictability, these are things where if, either you can choose to engage and develop a technology which possesses these attributes, which I think would both simultaneously make them more attractive-- if you had the choice of using a technology which you had no idea what it's going to do or one that actually has been designed and engineered specifically to provide that kind of access, it's more likely that would be adopted.
And so, again, you can contribute to something which is less likely to be easily abused. And so that would be a positive engagement. You're contributing-- AI's gonna get developed. You can contribute to it in a way that will help to advance the societal-- the positive societal benefits.
And I think this is one of the things about AI, unlike these other very narrow technologies, where it's very hard to see how they could be directed in a beneficial way necessarily. With AI, I think this is one of the things that makes it an interesting, important topic for discussion and debate. And that is, in principle, it could apply and infiltrate everything that we do, literally every single human activity that we engage in could be-- right now, many of them are impacted by AI. So I don't know.
MAX TEGMARK: I agree with that. AI, of course, has very dual use. It can be used for so many good things and also for causing problems. And I think you, just a brief paraphrase of what you said there, I think it's silly to ask, are you for AI or against it? It's like asking, are you for fire or against fire? Well, I'm for using fire to keep our homes warm in the winter. I'm against fire for arson. If I'm worried about fire, I'm not going to go campaigning to ban fire, but, if I really care about it, maybe I could invent the fire extinguisher or advocate for starting a fire department and things like this.
MATT WILSON: Fireproof your building.
MAX TEGMARK: Yeah, there are a lot of very constructive things one can do as an AI researcher which will greatly increase the odds that things go well here. And finally, coming back to your moral question there, I think there's one thing which you can all do, where I think there's absolutely no downside but which many people still don't do. Just think about these questions. Whenever you're developing some new technology, just think a little bit about what might the implications be.
Some people, almost on purpose, just aren't interested in the implications. They think it's cool to think or inevent. That, I think, is taking it too far. I think it's always good to think about it. And then, you can make your mind up on a case-by-case basis.
AUDIENCE: All right, so I hang out in a community [INAUDIBLE] sort of a moral obligation or a most pressing problem for humanity, and they think it's AI safety. We heard a talk a few days ago about how it's actually having-- or how AI's going to take over all the jobs, and that's the most immediate problem. [INAUDIBLE] we should all be worried about. What do you think is the most pressing problem? And are we all obligated to go try to work on it?
MAX TEGMARK: First of all, I think there's no consensus as to what the most pressing problem is. Different people care about slightly different things. And I think it's good that it's like that, where all bases get covered, rather than everybody is just barking up the same tree. Second, these things are all quite interrelated, too. I think what unifies them all is that they all involve technology. And as I said, I'm optimistic. I think our goal should be to always make sure the wisdom with which we manage our technology just keeps up with the pace which the technology itself grows. You mentioned AI, and what was the other one you mentioned?
AUDIENCE: AI, [INAUDIBLE], and bioterrorism.
MAX TEGMARK: Bioterrorism. So maybe an AI developer can actually help bioterrorism, for example. Certainly if you want to have a better grip on who or what's happening in the bioterrorism area, there could very well be machine learning techniques you can use to detect that something isn't right here and someone is planning something bad.
It's not even so simple, that just because you only care about bioterrorism you should ignore the rest. We've seen so many examples of how different technologies play together. So I think, figure out what you're excited about and what you're good at in life and do that. It's a quite good algorithm. But if other people are very excited about other things, you can always think about how your work can help with that, too.
MATT WILSON: Yeah, and I think the safety concern-- I mean all technology is kind of subject to these safety considerations and concerns. So it's hard to imagine that AI would be applied in a way in which people said, well, we're not going to worry about safety. We have autonomous drones. We're not going to worry about whether or not they crash into people or do crazy-- there would be a lot of concern.
There will always be that kind of safety oversight, whether it's nuclear weapons, AIs, or bathtubs. I mean, there are going to be these safety concerns. I think the real question is whether or not AIs will be capable of subverting that kind of concern. Will they will they be designed in a way that don't allow us to actually determine or even influence whether or not they operate safely?
And that's where, I think, the science and the engineering of AI and our obligation to ensure that they are subject to that kind of oversight, that's where that kind of comes in. And I think this is the-- your admonition to simply not move forward blindly. If you're thinking about-- OK, these things are going to be used, and we know that everybody is going to be concerned about safety. We just want to make sure that they can be subject to all of these oversights through these mechanisms of predictability, transparency, and that sort of thing.
It gets harder when you get up into the AGI and the super intelligence, where now their ability to circumvent oversight because, now, they're not under. They are over. They are the overseers. That might be a question. But even there, I think that that move is not going to be made in some sudden overnight, a flash, the singularity, where, suddenly, these capabilities place us in a subordinate position.
MAX TEGMARK: Leaving aside singularity and human-level AI and stuff like that and staying closer to the present, let me just push back on one thing that you said there so we don't get too boring and agree on everything. I would make the claim that we're actually not paying enough attention to AI safety, even in the short term. And I think the reason for that is that if you have any science-- it usually starts out in the lab, people messing around, trying to get things to even work and with no impact on society at all, and then it's not that relevant to talk about safety. And then, you get to a point where it's really having an impact on society-- like cars, or nuclear weapons or whatever. And then people are very concerned about safety.
And AI, I think, is right on the cusp of where it's beginning to come out and have an effect. And we haven't yet really fully absorbed the safety engineering mentality that a lot of other fields have. It's, I think, absolutely pathetic how many big hacks there have been recently, for example, even in this country. It was more than one billion Yahoo accounts hacked. The US government had over a million top security clearance things hacked because they were cleverly stored at the information server in Hong Kong. I mean, that-- Jesus Christ. It just shows that people are not making these things a priority.
We've also had a lot of really unnecessary accidents which were caused by just really lousy software or lousy user interfaces. Even Three Mile Island sort of killed the US nuclear industry partly. It's partly because it's really lousy user interface, where there was a lamp that wasn't correctly indicating whether a valve was shut.
This sort of stuff, I think, is endemic-- it's because we're stuck in an outdated mentality of dealing with safety. I talked earlier about, we want to win this wisdom race and make sure that the power of our technology is always outpaced by the wisdom of which we manage it. But we always used to stay ahead by learning from mistakes. That was a great strategy for less powerful tech-- invented fire, screwed up a bunch of times, went to the fire extinguisher, invented the car, screwed up a bunch of times, invented the seat belt and the airbag. So a lot of people just figure, well, yeah, we're just going to always keep doing it like that.
But when the technology gets powerful beyond a certain point, we don't want to learn from mistakes anymore when it's nuclear weapons we're talking about or maybe AGI, right? We obviously want to get things right the first time because that might be the only time we have. So then you want to switch into this safety engineering mentality that we had when we sent Apollo 11 to the moon. And that worked.
There were a ton of things that could have gone wrong for Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, but it didn't. Why? The safety engineering. People thought through very systematically everything that could go wrong. And then, they made a plan, and made sure it didn't happen, right? Because people felt the stakes were too high. They wanted to get it right the first time, and they succeeded.
This is the attitude I think we should be having also when we let AI be in charge of our power grids, our nuclear reactors, and more and more of our infrastructure, and more and more of our lives. I think, frankly, we're being way too flippant about it so far. And there is actually a great interest among researchers to work on these questions to make AI more robust and unhackable.
This thing that we did when we worked with Elon Musk to give out AI safety research grants, there was a huge appetite. We were kind of blown away. We got 300 teams from around the world who asked for $100 million to do this research, which was much more than Elon had said he would give, of course.
But now, we gave out money to 37 teams around the world, many in universities like MIT, doing stuff. And we were hoping that the governments of the world would sort of step up and say, OK, there's clearly a lot of AI researchers who want to do this stuff, let's just make this a standard part of our computer science funding, the AI safety research, its own field. But so far, there's almost zilch.
Now there are billions of dollars that just go into making AI more intelligent, but very little into this. And the AI, would be, I think there's a real opportunity for making this a priority. I think it makes sense for governments, in particular, to fund this. Because private companies, it makes sense for them to fund the stuff that they can own the IP for and make profits on in the near term.
But safety stuff, that's more going to be beneficial in 10 years or 20 years and is going to help everybody, you don't want anybody to own the patent on that and not share it, right? It's much better if that's done by university researchers [? that's ?] government funded and then made public so everybody can use these safety solutions. Something
MATT WILSON: So I think [? that ?] was good concern. There was a concern, really, to, AI. Other people, concerns, I mean, what are the things that-- [? Tyler? ?]
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] handed over responsibility and decision-making to algorithms, [INAUDIBLE]. And we just saw very clearly what happens when [INAUDIBLE] algorithms the task of making more money in financial markets [INAUDIBLE] global recession in 2007, 2008. Again, they did a very good job of authorizing [? short-term ?] terms. They did a very bad job at stabilizing the global economy. And what we saw, as a consequence of that, was exacerbating such qualities, not just in the United States, all throughout Europe, arguably all throughout the world.
And in a sense, the people who were using AI had a certain objective. And they use AI to their benefit, [INAUDIBLE]. So my question is, in light of that little experiment, having seen how it played out, in thinking about that, not just in terms of the capability of AI but who is using artificial intelligence and for what purpose? Getting also back to the question about [? dark web ?] funds, why are we developing these algorithms and for what purpose? How can we think about increasing the amount of people who are trying to use artificial intelligence? How can we diversify the community of users and developers [INAUDIBLE]. And what can we do as a community to include more people into this project?
MATT WILSON: I think those are-- I mean, those are really great issues. I mean they're very broad. I mean, the sort of the question of oversight, and so I think that it's a great example. I mean, the financial collapse, where you have technology placed in the hands of a, few without the complimentary oversight-- so AI's were serving the interests of a few, and the safety mechanisms were simply not up to the task.
And so there, you can argue either, well, the solution is, don't let anybody have-- don't automate trading, or you place into the hands of people-- this is through the government-- the ability to apply comparable AI as an overseeing mechanism-- so better AI to oversee the other distributed AIs. That's the role of government. Government is-- it's the arm of the people to ensure that our interests are protected against the interests of the few.
Now the question of how do you engage the public in a way-- either you have the public that says, look, the government is going to do this, or the government is just some kind of dissociative entity, no, the government is, again, the arm of the people. And so people need to know what AI-- how AI is being used, how it's developed, and this is just the general responsibility to educate people. More people should be empowered to understand, develop, and advocate for AI.
And so I think part of our small mission here is to contribute in some way to the development and dissemination of mechanisms for broader education in the formation of AI. But this is a small enterprise. I mean, we're hoping to influence a few, the 30 here will influence another 30 and another 30. And in some way, you will get the word out, and that's part of the mission. But I think the efforts to-- with open AI and other efforts to try to empower people, not place this technology in the hands of the few, but make it available to the many. I certainly embrace that.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] was that you have Goldman Sachs was willing to pay top dollar for [INAUDIBLE] students to write a groundbreaking code that people in the Security Exchange Commission had no idea how to keep with up it. Talk about not [? commenting ?] [? your ?] [? code, ?] like, there was a real structural disincentive to write transport code--
MATT WILSON: Exactly.
AUDIENCE: --able to interpret and then to regulate [? price. ?] On that hand, it was a big arms race.
MATT WILSON: Yeah, so it is the arms race. I think this idea that enforcing this transport-- so that could be something that we simply agree, look, complex algorithms that are not transparent, the risk of their application to society is too great and we simply won't allow that to occur. And we could do that. If you were going to legislate AI, it wouldn't be to keep the technology from being applied but to apply standards for how it's going to be applied.
And I think that this is where it requires people to engage, to show how it could be done. If it just becomes some intellectual exercise, sure, it would great if it could be done, But. We don't have any examples of that because we don't have competent people doing it. And all the examples you give, it's not-- it's really-- these are questions of competence. It just says, this is what happens when you do not ensure that competent people are actually in charge of this.
MAX TEGMARK: Right. Exactly.
MATT WILSON: And the solution to that is more competence.
MAX TEGMARK: I agree with that. So three separate things you mentioned I want to comment on. First of all, you asked this-- first of all, about transparency, I think there's so much value in that for so many reasons. And in fact, in my research group at MIT, we're doing this big project on, what I call, intelligible intelligence. So if you have, for example, a deep learning system that you're trained enough to do something really cool, can you develop an automated way to transform it into a system that does, basically, the same thing but in a way that you can actually understand and therefore trust. If anyone in the future is interested on working on that kind of stuff, you should apply for my postdoc [INAUDIBLE] email me.
Second, you asked this great question about what we can do to engage more people in these issues. I asked myself that question many times. And one of the answers I came up with is, I should really write a book that's more accessible and not so bogged down [? with ?] terabytes and gigabytes.
MATT WILSON: That's a good idea.
MAX TEGMARK: So I did. We'll see you on Tuesday how it goes. And third, the government, I think you put it very well three when you said that the government is-- shouldn't think of it as just other people, as an amorphous blob, but the government is ultimately us. You should think seriously about, actually, if you care about these things, how many different countries do we have represented here, Gabriel?
AUDIENCE: I don't know the number. A lot.
MAX TEGMARK: A lot. So you should seriously consider working a little bit for your own government. I'm not saying you should give up your awesome research career and run for president or whatever in your countries, but you don't need to. There are many, many ways in which-- there's a huge appetite in governments [INAUDIBLE] to have people who really know technical things, for example, about technology and AI to work. And you can often rotate and do something for one year, or two years, often even on a part-time basis, some consulting without torpedoing your research career.
And it's incredibly valuable for these governments. These are typically non-political appointments. So you don't have to worry about the ad hominem attacks being directed at your family or that sort of stuff. You can really, really help. So instead of complaining about governments, see if you can help your government get more wisdom into it.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] [? concern ?] is [? the ?] comparison with climate change. So despite an almost unanimous consensus of scientis that climate change is something's happening, and yet the government is not-- the US government--
MAX TEGMARK: This one, yeah.
AUDIENCE: --is not heading in this direction. And I think that the evidence for climate change, how much is understandable, is much more, by people that are not scientists, much more for climate change than for artificial intelligence. And I guess the problem with climate change is there are big corporations that, in their own interests, they don't want to protect this. But this [INAUDIBLE]. [INAUDIBLE]?
MAX TEGMARK: I absolutely share your concern, of course. Money and profit interests are, of course, very often used also to try to affect the governments in the countries and not necessarily to listen to scientists. I think, in AI, I personally know a lot of the leaders of leading AI companies today who are actually quite idealistic people generally. And I think the biggest risk of getting something like climate change happening on the AI side I think is actually on the military side.
Because if you start getting an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons, not drones that are remote controlled by human, but little things that just decide by themselves who to kill, that's going to be so lucrative once the market starts to be there, that there's going to be huge lobbying for it, and it'll become very hard to stop. That's why I think that the best chance you have of actually preventing that arms race is before it's really started, which is basically now. If you wait long enough, it's going to become like climate change, I think, where they will have so much lobbying it becomes impossible to stop.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] This arms race, [INAUDIBLE]. These drones are basically artificial intelligence. So because it has already started, then, what do you think we should do? [INAUDIBLE]
I know. I think we should really encourage these negotiations that are going to be happening in the United Nations in November. We had an open letter came out this last weekend. You might have seen it in the news, where the CEO of Google DeepMind and a whole bunch of other people signed this letter, saying we support the UN's attempts to negotiate a ban on lethal [INAUDIBLE] weapons and keep AI mainly a civilian effort.
I know it sounds very hard to do this, but there were-- a colleague of mine at MIT was very active in the biological weapons ban. And these people also kept telling him it's impossible to never be done. But we have a ban on biological weapons, and we have a ban now on chemical weapons; we have a ban on blinding laser weapons; and so on. And why do we have that? Who was it that really pushed it? It was actually the scientists. The bio weapons ban was really driven by biologists initially.
And if you go ask your parents, what are the first-- what do they mainly associate biology with, is it medicines, or is it bio weapons? They're probably gonna say medicine, aren't they? And biologists are really, really happy about that. If you ask what people mainly associate chemistry with today, they may probably think new, cool materials and things like that. They probably don't mainly associate it with chemical weapons. Chemists are really happy about that. That's why they fought so hard for that ban, right?
In 20 years, if you asked your parents what they associate AI with, I hope it's going to be all sorts of wonderful new things, not some sort of horrible lethal autonomous weapons. So I'm optimistic that the researchers who really know most about this really push hard for it, that can go the same way as bioweapons, and chemical weapons, and actually become banned. Then, [? the ?] AI [? town ?] can we focus on the civilian uses.
MATT WILSON: Yeah, but I think this also raises an interesting question about-- there was sort of an advocacy point. And that is, how do you get the word out? And I think that, unfortunately, the climate change is an example of failed effort. And this is scientists thinking that they can engage in this kind of public advocacy, they could change the dialogue by just-- through their words.
And I think these emails from these climate scientists, where their feeble efforts to try to manipulate public opinion came out, I think that did more to undermine climate science and climate policy than anything that any scientist has ever done, just those emails. And so it's this idea that somehow we can socially engineer things through our influence and involvement. The way we engage policy in the public is through information. Do the things that you're good at doing.
It's not influencing public opinion. It's informing public opinion. It's informing policy. It is engaging in a way that says, bio weapons are bad because they can't really be employed and controlled because the underlying nature of the science is such that you don't have the kind of control you imagine you have. And people will see-- I mean, this is the noncynical view-- if you can make a genuinely scientifically compelling argument and presentation, you have to trust that that will actually have impact. And I think it's the same thing with AI.
Just arguing, don't worry about AI. It's not going to impact your job. They're all going to be safe. This is not going to work. I mean, that's why we have these sort of panels to engage in a realistic way to say, these are the real issues. And the information you get from scientists is going to reflect the genuine issues and concerns and the knowledge that we have. How can they be used? How can they be controlled? And what do we need to do?
MAX TEGMARK: I think that's exactly right.
MATT WILSON: You can't bullshit people.
MAX TEGMARK: We can't bullshit people. And I think if we start bullshitting people--
MATT WILSON: It will backfire.
MAX TEGMARK: --it would undermine our reputation as scientists.
MATT WILSON: Exactly. It backfires completely.
MAX TEGMARK: But the good news is that I think with lethal autonomous weapons, there are actually some scientific facts which, are on our side. I had the fortune to actually ask Henry Kissinger last winter about how the biological weapons ban came about. And so there was a Harvard biologist who persuaded him that this was a good idea, and then he persuaded Henry Kissinger. And then, he managed to persuade [? Brezhnev ?] and others that they should do this. And the basic argument there was, US was already top dog. So if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Don't throw a wild card into the game that might cause all sorts of unpredictable things to happen. That argument is even more true with these AI weapons.
It's very different. If you compare AI weapons with nuclear weapons on the other, nuclear weapons are really expensive to buy and really hard to make because you need to get hold of all these-- you need to get hold of highly enriched uranium, or plutonium, or something like that, which means ISIS doesn't have nuclear weapons. AI weapons are not all like that.
The superpowers, they know-- this is a fact we scientists can remind them of, if superpowers figure out a way of mass producing the bumblebee-sized killer drones that cost $50 each, where you can just program in with Bluetooth, the face of whoever you want to assassinated, and they go off and do that, or parts of whatever ethnic group you want to kill, if these things can be bought with $50 or $500 of bitcoin by anybody, it's just a question of time until North Korea makes them, and then they're on the black market everywhere. They're just going to become the Kalashnikovs of the future. That's a scientific fact. Good luck trying to ban machine guns, and Kalashnikovs, or trucks, or vans, or whatever else is being used by terrorists today. It's hopeless.
And the superpowers-- we can remind them, as scientists, that this is the end point. This is where the arms race is going to end up. It's going to weaken America. It's going to weaken China. It's going to weaken Russia-- and greatly benefit ISIS, Boko Haram, anyone with an ax to grind, really, who doesn't have a lot of money, and doesn't have the wherewithal to develop their own tech, they are gonna be the big winners. I think that's the main-- if we convey that scientific point that the superpowers have it in their interests that really, really stigmatizes, and clamp down on it, and keep-- that's why they're going to do it, not because of, as you say, any kind of manipulation, which we should not do.
MATT WILSON: Right, don't do that.
AUDIENCE: So it seems that AI is [? getting ?] better, and better. The question is, suppose one day, AI can do better [? rational, ?] [? optimal ?] [? decisions, ?] whereas, at the same time, for the same problem, people, because of their rationality, we made a decision that is different from [INAUDIBLE].
And then the [INAUDIBLE] between our decision and the AI decision, the question is, is this more ethical to respect human rationality in decision-making? Or is it more ethical to go with AI and its optimal decision? And this could even go to our daily life, [INAUDIBLE] say, I want to do something, and then my AI system is tell me, no, no, you should do other things. So is it better [INAUDIBLE] for me to make decision or I listen to the AI system?
MAX TEGMARK: What do you think?
MAX TEGMARK: What do you think.
AUDIENCE: Sometimes it's really hard. Because I know I may have made some irrational [INAUDIBLE]. And I know I'm irrational. So maybe I'll just go for AI. But then [INAUDIBLE] AI tell you, if you do this. But some people, because of irrationality, [INAUDIBLE]. Especially, you don't really know the future. Should we respect human decision? Because [INAUDIBLE] or should we go for, say, AI's [INAUDIBLE].
MAX TEGMARK: Or you could also have a third option where each individual gets to decide. Like, if you're driving and your GPS says, "turn left," it's ultimately your choice whether to trust that and do that or not.
AUDIENCE: Could you describe what you mean by irrationality a little bit more that's built into this is that there is an objective function that we have-- like, the AI may be more rational in that it's better at maximizing some objective function. [? Sure, ?] [? I ?] find it difficult to find any way to arbitrate which objective function is the one to maximize. That seems like a preference. And so I'm not sure how you can even-- just speak about irrationality.
MAX TEGMARK: Yeah, so AI will be developed in terms of occupying [INAUDIBLE]. And then their [? cost ?] [? function ?] may be even [? with ?] [? your ?] cost function.
AUDIENCE: But that's not irrationality anymore. It's now a preference over-- you need to define irrationality in context to some goal. if I like cake and you like salad-- I prefer cake, you prefer salad, neither of us is irrational. If we both want to be healthy, then we can say which one is the correct decision. [INAUDIBLE]
MATT WILSON: I mean, I think in that scenario, the fact that you have the right to choose, right? So AI's are informing. That's the best case. That's what we hope, that AI's help us make better decisions, but in the end, we choose. I think the real ethical concern become when you don't get to choose. And they're very simple cases where you can say, humans engage irrational behavior. I see this every single day. It's people crossing against the light.
We have a system, these little stoplights, red light, green light, tells you when you should and should not cross the street. It's just a suggestion. It says, don't cross the street because there's traffic coming. Every single day, people run across the street--
MAX TEGMARK: While they're texting.
MATT WILSON: This is completely irrational. We put systems, suggestive systems to try to help you make a better rational decision, people defy that. Now suppose we had an AI. You think, this would be a great idea. This is sort of what cars do-- little AI policemen that keep people from crossing the street. They see people, and they stop them from doing irrational things.
You don't get to choose; the AI gets to choose. You could say, well, that makes a whole lot of sense. But this would raise exactly these kinds of concerns. Because I can come up with all kinds of scenarios where, you know, I need to out on the street because there's a little kid out there and I want to keep him from getting run over. Or, my stroller just rolled out there, I gotta save him. I mean, these kinds of things happen.
In the end, you can say, could you have any AI that's capable of actually incorporating all of these things, the rational decision, against the simple objective function, which is just keep people from crossing against the light, which seems obvious, but we have solved that by saying, I put the light up there, but, by God, if you want to go cross, it's your decision. And so that's sort of how we operate things.
And so I think we always will have that-- we can have that discussion. There aren't going to be AI policeman standing there keeping you from-- I hope not-- keeping people from crossing the street. It be precisely for that reason. And I don't know that we'll get to the point where we say, I think it's just-- better let the guys decide what kind of control we should have, whether or not we should be able to make the decisions, which is why I think a lot of the concerns over the singularity are probably a little bit misdirected because it comes down to that, will we cede control to the our AI overlords. And certainly this is a decision that we will make. The AIs are not going to make that decision.
MAX TEGMARK: I have some questions for you. You mentioned the S word there. You've been asking singularity. You've been asking us a lot of the questions. So I have some questions for you. We'll do them very, very quickly, with just the show of hands, OK?
So first of all, my first question is, do you think it's possible, according to the laws of physics, to actually build machines that are smarter than us, that are better than us at all cognitive tasks? Raise your hand if you think yes. Raise your hand if you think no. And raise your hand if you didn't raise your hand because you're not sure or are tired.
OK, raise your hand if you think it actually will happen at some point, there will build machines that can-- OK. And raise your hand if you think it will never happen. OK. And raise your hand if you didn't raise your hand.
MATT WILSON: The optimists out there.
MAX TEGMARK: Raise your hand if you think it's actually going to happen in your lifetime. Raise your hand if you think it will not happen in your lifetime. OK, and raise your hand if you didn't raise your hand because you're thinking about it and not sure. OK, interesting. OK. Now raise your hand if you would like it to happen, if you would like us to actually develop human or superhuman-level AGI. OK. And raise your hand if you would prefer that we don't. This is really fun.
You have your debates now set for over drinks at dinner, right? Raise your hand if you didn't raise your hand because you weren't sure or still deliberating. OK, so suppose it actually does happen that we actually creates machines that are more capable of us at all tasks, basically super intelligence, that are way beyond us, how would you like these to be controlled? Would you like them to be controlled-- who would you like to be in charge? Like, humans to be in-- raise your hand if you would prefer humans to remain in charge.
AUDIENCE: Of the super-intelligent machines?
MAX TEGMARK: Yeah. So that if you have, for example, some basically enslaved god machine, [? and ?] [? its ?] [? boxed. ?] You can use this thing to figure out everything for you, but you're still in control.
AUDIENCE: But the superman definition was exactly what Matt posted up there, where it's better than humans in every domain?
MAX TEGMARK: It's better than us-- OK, so let me flesh that out a little bit. I mean, suppose you have a machine, it's in Building 46 in your office, and it's better than humans at all cognitive tasks. Like, I could ask it to write my book, and it would write a better one. I could ask it to give this important presentation, and it would simulate a video image of me, and it would speak much more coherently than I do. And it could do anything better.
But it's still in his office, and he has the power to plug it off. It's not connected to the internet. So it can't happen break out or take over the world or anything. But if he asks it, hey, tell me about the stock market tomorrow, where it'll give him all this advice, make him the richest professor on campus. And so it has all these capability, but he controls i. So that's one option-- humans in control.
Another option would be that you let this AI be in control in some way or another and hopefully programming it so that it shares our goals and takes good care of us somehow. You can have other options, too. Who would prefer some version where humans are still in control? We haven't really defined control, though.
MATT WILSON: Simple controls, who controls the switch.
MAX TEGMARK: It's in your office. You can switch it off if you want. [INAUDIBLE] switch. Who would prefer that this machine, since it's so much smarter than us, it's in control?
AUDIENCE: [? Absolutely. ?]
MAX TEGMARK: OK.
MATT WILSON: [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] division between the haves and the have nots. And so if you give all the haves the ability to have all these machines, they can tell them everything. And the have nots don't have this ability because they don't have the financial resources. And that's just gonna increase this divide between the haves and the have nots.
AUDIENCE: I disagree.
MAX TEGMARK: That's an accessibility question. That's the difference.
AUDIENCE: Then they [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: Yeah, but it they're better than the humans in every domain, they can teach themselves to not have those biases.
MAX TEGMARK: Yeah, this is a wonderful question. My hidden agenda asking these questions towards the end was not that I was going to tell you any kind of answer, because I don't have it, but rather to provoke really awesome after-dinner conversation. Because it's a really good-- what both of you said there is, I think, really, really important.
MATT WILSON: Who should have access to it, I think that's probably the biggest question, trumps all these other questions.
MAX TEGMARK: It makes a big difference if it's the Dalai Lama who controls it or Adolf Hitler who controls it also. And some great after-dinner discussions.
AUDIENCE: How do these question responses compare to other groups you've done?
MAX TEGMARK: Because the book has an online survey with questions like this, and so far, of the 100 responses or so, pretty-- it's interesting. First of all, you disagreed on everything, which is what the other [? respondents ?] [? do. ?] And this is really interesting because you know much more about biological and artificial intelligence than those other respondents did, and you still disagree about everything, which tells me that these are really interesting questions. I can write down the site if you want to look at what other people have said. I think, right now, it just has some stuff about the book, but come the weekend, it's going to actually have the survey, where you can continually see and also look at people's comments and why they think.
MATT WILSON: I mean, I don't want to put anybody on the spot, but I think it's really interesting when you ask the question, who feels that these kind of super intelligence should not be developed. And there were some people-- anybody want to throw out their thoughts? I mean, you're in a course presumably that is-- whose objective is to advance the effort to develop precisely such intelligences, and you're here. So any thoughts about what are the fears?
MATT WILSON: What's that?
MATT WILSON: I'm just curious. I mean, there are obviously-- these are perfectly legitimate concerns.
MAX TEGMARK: Yeah.
MATT WILSON: And we are all just cheerleaders.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] super optimistic about how intelligence [INAUDIBLE]. I'm pretty sure-- and I might be wrong-- that those intelligent [INAUDIBLE] are not going to be as human-like as we now discuss. I'm not sure that it's even relevant to [INAUDIBLE]. Personally, I think that there is something about [INAUDIBLE].
MATT WILSON: Well, I think those applications are probably easier. [INAUDIBLE], who should control it? Like, in air traffic control, I think it's inevitable that in AI-- and this will happen this will be the lives of thousands-- hundreds of thousands of people will be placed in the hands of algorithms that make sure the planes don't crash into each other. And if they do a better job than people, they don't fall asleep, they don't mistakenly drag the wrong dot to the wrong line, we would all be ecstatic. We would be-- it's like, yes, that's exactly what we want AIs to do-- keep planes from crashing into each other and do a better job.
But that's because they're not doing what people do. I mean, they are doing a job that people do, but they don't have any of the liabilities that people have. They're not human-like. They're focused on that.
MAX TEGMARK: Gabriel?
MATT WILSON: So I think that's a good example. And following up on the last question that Max [? wrote, ?] I know you, Max, have been thinking a lot about what kind of society we want. So can you say a few words about-- there's a lot of concerns about [INAUDIBLE]. You started by saying, well, what are the amazing things that we can do, and what's the amazing future you can imagine? What are the mental challenges [INAUDIBLE] technology and this knowhow? And you can't answer, what do you think because [INAUDIBLE].
MAX TEGMARK: Oh.
AUDIENCE: What kind of society do you want? How can AI get us there?
MAX TEGMARK: What kind of society do I personally want? [INAUDIBLE] is my witness, actually. So I wrote-- the book is a series of thought experiments, among other things, about different-- as broad a spectrum of futures as I could think of from pretty horrible ones to ones that you might really like. And you're my witness, there was not a single one of them, even the one that I tried to make sound really cool, that I didn't have at least some serious misgivings about. So--
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] misgivings about [INAUDIBLE].
MAX TEGMARK: As well. So I really feel I-- I would love to talk more with more people about this and get more ideas. I think if billions of people think about something together, they can come up with better ideas certainly than I can.
AUDIENCE: There's also [INAUDIBLE], which makes a huge difference [INAUDIBLE].
MAX TEGMARK: Yeah, that's true. In the very short term, like for the next three years or five years, I would like to see the National Science Foundation, the big funding agencies in other countries saying that AI safety research is an important research field. It's going to be a real priority. It's going to be given a serious chunk of funding, just like other brands of computer science, and that we're no longer going to view it as acceptable to have systems that just routinely get hacked, and crashed, and so on, because one thing I can say for sure I don't want is to have my society controlled by some machine that can get hacked or just has bugs in it. I mean, that I absolutely don't want.
And if we can't even keep Microsoft Windows from getting hacked, why should I have any confidence in much more sophisticated things doing actually what we want? So that's a very short-term thing. I would also very much like a future in 10 years, in 20 years, when you ask your parents what they associate AI with, they associate it with this new cool cure for cancer or all these new wonderful positive technologies, not with these new, horrible autonomous drone assassinations that are plaguing their city. So I'd like to see an international ban on lethal autonomous weapons.
I would love it if we can, in 10 years, have the top two words that people associate with a legal system not be-- maybe efficiency and fairness, probably not on most people's top two lists-- not today. I think AI can help a lot of there.
And with jobs, what do I hope there? First of all, I hope, in our education system, we can start giving actually really good career advice to kids, what sort of things that should actually go into and what sort of things they should avoid. I think people are maybe underestimating a little bit. They're a little bit stuck in the past. A big question I don't have the answer to, honestly, though, is-- actually, let me take a step back here.
If you take a longer view, the apocryphal Luddites, if they existed, who supposedly smashed looms because they were afraid of weaving jobs getting lost in the Industrial Revolution in England, I think they were too narrow-minded. They were just obsessing about a particular kind of job. And now, we would look back and say, well, as long as there are other jobs, don't obsess about that particular kind.
Now, we might end up-- if we can get machines that can do all our jobs for $0.01 an hour and electricity, of course we can't-- then, there will be no jobs, where I can get paid more than $0.01 an hour. And many people think of that as automatic doom. I think that's too narrow-minded also. Why do we like jobs? Basically, for three reasons-- income, sense of purpose, and the social connection that we get. I think we can get all three of those things without jobs, too.
I mean, suppose I told you, Gabriel, and you, Matt, that you don't have to ever teach a course again if you don't want to. We're just going to keep paying you for the rest of your life-- all of you, actually. It's a paid vacation. I bet many of you would still have no problem--
MATT WILSON: I like teaching.
MAX TEGMARK: --finding meaning in your life. You would probably continue doing just as much research as before, if not more, right? Another group of kids who seem to have no problem finding meaning and purpose in social groups without jobs are children. Did you feel that life was meaningless when you were 5? I don't think so.
So if we can create all this wonderful wealth with AI, one thing I actually-- this is something I really hope for is that we can find a way of sharing this wealth so that everybody gets better off rather than just making all the wealth going to me, and I own all the machines, and I don't share anything with any of you, and you just all stave, I think there, Europe has more of a tradition, actually, of this idea that government should take care of its people and provide free education, free health, and they're even doing some basic income experiments now in Finland, for example. The US, there's, as you know, a huge political resistance towards any kind of use of tax money to help people who have met hard luck.
I would love to see a future where we can create a society where everybody gets better off because of this technology. The resources are obviously going to be there thanks to this tech, whether the political will will be there is the really big question.
MATT WILSON: I agree with that completely. I think the potential for the generation of wealth is clearly there-- enhancement of productivity-- I mean, you could put a robot in my office. It did my job. Really, the question is, who should benefit from that? And I think you wouldn't think of that as displacing my effort. It should complement that, and everyone should benefit. So it's wealth distribution, who benefits from the windfall that will come from this technology.
MAX TEGMARK: Yeah.
MATT WILSON: I think the question of the better society, where do we see AI making contributions, it's exactly the points that you make. In biology, what do you think of bio weapons? You think of medicines. You think of those things that actually advance the well-being of people. You think AI, where would it be applied? It would be applied in areas where people, where they are concerned about the well-being or safety of people. Cars are the most obvious example because you have tens of thousands of people every year killed in accidents that are largely due to the insufficiency of human intelligence in navigating vehicles. So if you have algorithms that can do better, it will save people's lives.
The example I gave with air traffic control, where you have lives that are at stake, these are obvious places, have the AIs save people's lives. Medical diagnostics, you have people that-- even more people die as a result of the fallibility of humans. And if you can have algorithms do a better job, these are things that we all would advocate for. And of course, you would want to have these concerns, make sure they're safe, they're transparent, but that would be the-- that's the better life through AI that I see.
AUDIENCE: Do you think that there are-- we talked a bit about human cost function. Do you think there are any inherent contradictions within human cost functions [INAUDIBLE] crystallized in code?
MAX TEGMARK: What do you mean by a [? human ?] cost function?
AUDIENCE: I'm sorry?
MAX TEGMARK: What do you mean by a human cost function? Our values?
AUDIENCE: [? People have ?] different goals from AI. And there's disagreement about that. [? But even with ?] a certain person, if they could make an AI that would magically do all the things that they wanted, those things might not actually be compatible.
MATT WILSON: Could you give an example?
AUDIENCE: Say that we were asking an AI to maximize happiness for the greatest number of people and, at the same time, do something else, say, preserve to preserve the Earth's environment. How do capture these things? And do you think that there-- since AI is a magnification of our own ethical system, our ethical system has to be very good for it to be magnified without running into problems. Do you think that there's going to be any issue there, where we say, this is what we want, and the AI says, OK, and then we get a society that we're really not very happy with. Or, the AI says, sorry, that's impossible.
MAX TEGMARK: I think there are-- some parts of your question are very hard to answer, some are very easy. The hard parts are, whose values are we even talking about? Is it your values, David [INAUDIBLE], or is it the leader of ISIS's values? It's not like we have a great consensus on Earth, even, as to what direction we want to go, even within a given country.
This country, for example, there's strong differences of opinion. For that reason, I think we can't just leave this conversation entirely to AI research because we have to see what can [INAUDIBLE]. The easy part of your question, I think, is are there some constructive things we can already do, which are much better than the status quo. And I said, absolutely. I think we tend to focus so much on the differences we have in values and forget that there are a lot of things that we pretty much all agree on, like, for example, when I call it kindergarten morality.
Like if you're an aircraft manufacturer who makes passenger jets, you do not, under any circumstances, want that airplane to fly into a building or a mountain, right? There is absolutely no reason today why it should be physically possible for the pilot to do that, yet that was possible during September 11, and is was also possible from [INAUDIBLE] this Germanwings pilot to [INAUDIBLE] the autopilot, fly at 100 meters through the Alps, even though the computer had the whole topography map. So if someone had spent five minutes just thinking about that, they could have-- they could've just put in the little AI system that raises a red flag and just switches over to autopilot, disables autopilot input, lands at the nearest airport.
I think there are a lot of very low-hanging fruit like that that we can put into our technology already, reflecting, at least, those values that pretty much everybody agrees on, and we would already be better off. Also, a lot of industrial accidents, for example, happen just because the machine is so dumb, it doesn't realize that this is a human and not an auto part or something like that. That's not something that there's a big ethical controversy about.
MATT WILSON: You had a question.
AUDIENCE: Yes, I had a question going back to [INAUDIBLE].
MATT WILSON: Well, I mean they can. I mean, this is our ongoing social obligation to ensure that the government serves the people. The idea that somehow you can just turn it over to anything and AI, a politician, and then it's just going to go in the way that we all hope it will, that's not going to work, whether it's an AI or person. So I think it's the same question. We have to constantly work toward the efforts of equality, and that's not an AI-specific question.
MAX TEGMARK: Yeah.
MATT WILSON: This is Max's engagement. I mean, you've got to-- you know.
MAX TEGMARK: It's a great, great question. I agree with what you said there, [? Martin. ?] If you look at the statistics on inequality in the US, for example, the GDP of the US has, of course, grown pretty steadily for the last 100 years. But if you look at the actual income and real dollars of somebody in the US without the college education, it's actually gone down since 1970. They're actually poorer now than their parents were.
And this is not just in the US. This is something, which I think is a key part of the explanation of why Donald Trump won this election, why Brexit happened. You have a lot of really angry people. And I think it's important to understand that a key part of this anger actually comes from the fact that they really are feeling that they're worse off because they are.
Then, maybe opportunistic politicians will take advantage of the anger. But the anger is real. Why is the inequality growing? Of course there is a lot of different opinions, but my MIT colleague, Erik Brynjolfsson, who's an economist in the Sloan School, has done a lot of research just showing that, actually, technology, in particular automation, is a key driver of this. Because what's happening is that a lot of middle class jobs are getting automated away, and the people have to switch to lower paying jobs.
And he thinks that this is just going to continue and accelerate with AI. So this is sort of a wake-up call also. I think if you want to have a flourishing democracy, you can't have too much inequality because, then, you just get so much raw anger there and people haven't had the opportunity to even get a good enough education to really constructively participate in politics and stuff. And you get big, big problems. And rather than just twiddle our thumbs until things get worse, I think this is the perfect wake-up call to really try to reduce inequality. He and other economists have a lot of very concrete ideas for how we should do this, which have been, so far, widely ignored. But I think we should listen to them.
PRESENTER: Two last questions. [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] well, it's important if you're talking about things like regulating the AI, especially when you're talking about [INAUDIBLE], for example, which is what we talk about now. [INAUDIBLE] we have been talking about it as if its some clearly defined thing. Where do you draw the line between a simple machine learning algorithm [INAUDIBLE] and if say, like, [INAUDIBLE] maybe everybody would be against using autonomous drones that might decide on their own who to target and whatever, but I guess machine learning algorithms are already used by the military [INAUDIBLE].
MAX TEGMARK: I can take a first crack at that. So in my book-- so there's a gazillion and one different definitions of intelligence by different people. But in my book, I define it in a very broad way, simply as to define intelligence as the ability to accomplish complex goals. So first of all, that means it's not like you either are intelligent or not. There's a spectrum. Second, you can't measure it by a single number and argue about whether a chess-playing computer is smarter than a [INAUDIBLE] playing computer games, they're each better at one goal than the other. It's a spectrum of abilities. It can be broad, or narrow, or whatever.
I don't think it's so interesting to quibble about whether something has high enough intelligence that it should be called AI, but when it comes to weapons, I think rather the million dollar question is, is there a human in the loop or not in the decision to kill somebody? And right now, there's a lot of controversy about the drone strikes that the US is doing, but there's always a human pilot who's remote controlling it. And there's still a human who actually makes the decision. But we're now getting very close to crossing this line and developing all sorts of weapons where there's no human in the loop. It just goes off and kills a bunch of people according to some algorithm.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] how much [INAUDIBLE] like, the human can still be in the loop, but less involved. And I guess that also dependent on how much you trust the decisions--
MAX TEGMARK: Yeah, that's also a very important issue you raise. Because suppose the human is in the loop, but the machine presents what seems like a really compelling case for doing the attack and gives you five seconds to decide. It's kind of like when my GPS tells me to turn left. I'm like, OK. And we've already had some unfortunate outcomes of this.
For example, there was a US warship in the Persian Gulf, where the computer said, you're being attacked by an Iranian fighter plane descending towards you. And the captain, Captain Rogers, gave the order to shoot it down. He shot it down. It turned out-- raise your hand if you've actually heard about this. Yeah.
It turned out to be an Iranian civilian jumbo jet with about 300 people who all died. And that's obviously not the sort of outcomes you want to see more of in the future. So if there is a human in the loop, that has to be a human who's properly in the loop and is actually given correct information and given the time to make the right decisions in that case. Otherwise, it's, as you say, useless.
PRESENTER: Last question, and it has to be a positive one [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: How do you [? define ?] the [? weapons? ?]
[INAUDIBLE] by the government to find people [INAUDIBLE]
MAX TEGMARK: There are very hard questions. And Gabriel wants us to end on a positive note here also. I think the advocacy that we in the AI community are doing for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons, what we're actually saying is, we don't want to micromanage the whole process and try to solve all these difficult questions from the get-go. Rather if there are negotiations that actually take place at the UN, they are going to discuss exactly your questions. Like, how do you define exactly what-- how do you do verification? How do you enforce it?
That's why negotiations are called "negotiations," because there will be a big process with, hopefully, very, very thorough discussions about all these issues to try to come up with something really good. At this point, what the AI research community is mostly saying is just, come on, guys. Start that process. Start those negotiations.
PRESENTER: Are you sure it's positive? Super positive?
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. For the near future, the cognitive inferences that machines are able to make is more or less a direct function of the kinds of data [INAUDIBLE]. And if you feed a machine biased data, you will get biased inferences. If you feed a language learner a core base of data which is gender biased or racially biased, you will get gender and racially biased results. Specifically, you're talking about [INAUDIBLE]. I am really excited about the idea. It would be hard to create worst laws than the ones that we have now.
But for the foreseeable future, the statistics of a training set will directly relate to the statistics of the inferences that we make. So how do we begin to create the kind of data that we need to create the kinds of learners, behind the inferences that will make the decisions that we feel like are going to lead to more optimistic futures [INAUDIBLE]? What kind of public, private partnerships are necessary to make those things [INAUDIBLE]?
MAX TEGMARK: Say something quick and optimistic, and I'll say something quick and optimistic.
MATT WILSON: No, I mean, I think that this all comes to this transparency and predictability. You have to know what's actually going into this in the first-- the first thing to know is that it is a function of the data that drives it. And so it will drive those policies. I can't tell you what those policies should be, but clearly these are the kinds of policy that people need to be thinking about and concerned about, that it's not a black box that just push stuff in and get optimal answers out, that all of these things should be knowable and are subject to our control and scrutiny. So these the optimism is, we don't have to turn this over to you know some blind authority. We have the ability to control it. We should control it, and I believe we will control it.
MAX TEGMARK: All right, and I'll just close by saying that I think every single way in which 2017 is better than the Stone Age is because of technology. Every thing I love about civilization is the product of intelligence. So if we can amplify our human intelligence with machine intelligence wisely--
MATT WILSON: I agree.
MAX TEGMARK: --then I think we have a huge potential to help humanity flourish like never before. So let's do the best we can to create as good a future as we can.
PRESENTER: OK, let's thank our--