The morality of artificial intelligence

Moral Maze – BBC

Posts generally appear on Strategic Reading because they make powerful and interesting arguments or bring thought provoking information to bear. This 45 minute discussion is in a rather different category. It’s appearance here is to illustrate the alarmingly low level of thought being applied to some critically important questions. In part, it’s a classic two cultures problem, technologists who don’t seem to see the social and political implications of their work in a hopeless discourse with people who don’t seem to grasp the basics of the technology, in a discussion chaired by somebody capable of introducing the topic by referring to ‘computer algorithms – whatever they are.’ Matthew Taylor stands out among the participants for his ability to comment intelligently on both sides of the divide, while Michael Portillo is at least fluently pessimistic about the intrinsic imperfection of humanity.

Why then mention it at all? Partly to illustrate the scale and complexity of some of the policy questions prompted by artificial intelligence, which are necessarily beyond the scope of the technology itself. Partly also because the current state of maturity of AI makes it hard to get traction on the real problems. Everybody can project their hopes and fears on hypothetical AI developments – it’s not clear that people are agreeing on enough to have meaningful disagreements.

So despite everything, there is some value in listening to this – but with an almost anthropological cast of mind, to get some insight into the lack of sophistication on an important and difficult topic of debate.


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