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Finding in the books: Does the hunt for technological supremacy harm our collective humanity?

Stay away from humanity, you are holding back progress. We passed the utility for Homo sapiens; now is the dawn of Gay Faber era. The idea that “I think so” has become old-fashioned in this new era of builders and artists. But has our continuing obsession with technology and progress actually regained our capacity for humanity?

In his new book, The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do It, author and pioneering natural language processing researcher Eric Jay Larson explores efforts to build computers that process information like us. and why we are much further from human-equivalent AI than most futurists would like to admit.


Belknap Press

Taken from The myth of artificial intelligence: Why computers can’t think the way we do by Erik J Larson, published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Copyright © 2021 by Erik J. Larson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Technoscience triumphed in the twentieth century, but skeptical reactions to it also continued. Hannah Arendt, the philosopher known for his phrase “the banality of evil” in connection with the Nazi Nuremberg trials, argues that Comte’s technology – which by the middle of the twentieth century certainly did not lose steam as a philosophical idea – amounted to no more. little of a redefinition of human nature itself. Arendt pointed to the classical understanding of people as homo sapiens – literally, a wise man – and to the historical focus on wisdom and knowledge, not on technical skills, and argues that to perceive technology as a worldview means to redefine ourselves as Gay Faber – man builder.

Gay Faber, in Greek terms, is a person who believes in this Techne – knowledge of a craft or making things, the root of technology – determines who we are. Fabrian’s understanding of human nature fits perfectly not only into Comte’s idea of ​​utopian nineteenth-century technology, but also into the twentieth-century mania for building more and more powerful technology, culminating in the great project of building us, artificial intelligence. This project would not have made sense if the traditional notions of the importance of humanity had remained intact.

Arendt argues that the seismic shift from wisdom and knowledge to technology and construction is a limiting and potentially dangerous understanding for ourselves, which will ensure not only that technological development continues unabated, but that we will increasingly view technological success as meaningful statements. for my self. In other words, we have reduced our own value to increase, beyond a reasonable or reasonable measure, our appreciation of the wonders that could be built with the tools of technology.

Von Neumann’s initial enigmatic comments about the approach to the “singularity” as technological progress accelerated became clearer in the light of the position of his contemporary Arendt. Although von Neumann, a scientist and mathematician, (as far as we know) did not further explain his remarks, they perfectly reflect Arendt’s insistence on the profound significance of science for us and our future – for what the philosophers of technology call ” the human condition. “It may seem perverse to Conte that technology can speed up our control, but nowhere in his writing can we find the assumption that Arendt (and others) would have made that by defending technology as a human response to human problems, we We also take part in the project of redefining our understanding of ourselves, and turning to techne, and not, say, to an episteme (knowledge of natural phenomena) or sapientiae (wisdom related to human values ​​and society), makes it difficult to form a meaningful idea of human uniqueness. (Even bees, in general, are builders, in their case hives).

Putting techne at the center also makes it possible to see man as something that can be built, as it implies that there is nothing more than man’s superior capacity to build more and more modern technologies. Once on this route, it is a short journey to artificial intelligence. And here is the obvious connection to the intelligent mistakes first made by Turing and then extended by Jack Good and others to this day: the ultimate triumph of Homo faber as a species is to build itself. This, of course, is exactly the stated goal of AI. Exploring whether a project can succeed or not will inevitably lead us into the deep waters of understanding the nature of ourselves.

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