“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable” – James A. Garfield
Most people are not interested in the truth. They are more likely to accept some version of the truth that is convincing enough but does not hurt their feelings. To put it in another way, the acceptable truth has to make us happy or at least less unhappy. A huge part of our culture and language is dedicated to spinning the truth so it would be easier to swallow (hence the term “sugar-coated truth”). The white lies are the norm. People not mastered enough sugar-coating are geeks or socially awkward.
The only motivation for looking the real world in the eyes is our safety and well-being. In both cases, if an alternative is available (marriage as the most popular choice), the truth is ignored as much as possible. Our western society is tolerant to all kinds of delusions – religious, ideological, personal. That tradition is relatively new and allows people to be happier without hurting each other. Some religious and national delusions are promoted as part of pupils’ curriculum and widely accepted as a social norm. Is delusion part of our human nature? Are emotions a bag thing? They are certainly the only way we can be hurt (non-physically).
To the question “Do you believe in God?” the answer of Woody Allen was “I would love to, I know I would be much happier, but I can’t”. It’s our prerogative and obligation to our creative mind is to limit our delusions to a point where the truth is bearable because there is a bigger game in place: our curiosity and creativity as part of human evolution. It sounds bombastic and it should be probably sugar-coated, but hey… I’m a geek. One can argue that satisfying our drive to understand and create is an emotion too, so the issue is not about eliminating emotions. It’s about steering them in the right direction.
Reading the upper bunch of words again leaves me with the feeling that the things I’m explaining here are too self-evident. Should I trust my feeling?
Our fear of AI is mostly a fear of the unknown. Part of that fear actually is an instinctive one from concentrating too much power on one “individual” (human or not). Human history teaches us that societies tend to have more sustainable behaviour than individuals (the main reason the developed countries are democracies).
To make that more obvious, let’s imagine. After careful selection, access to a doomsday device is given to a number of individuals. The question is: what is the number of selected people above which our planet will go boom within a month: 1000, 1000 000…?
PS In not so distant future, buying AI and gene manipulation machines will be everything a person needs to create a pandemic virus (deadly, airborne and with more than a month incubation period).
The impact of AI on humanity can be understood better with an alien contact analogy. Imagine you are the first person contacted by freshly arrived aliens. They offer you to make a decision for them, what to do next. They possess technology far superior to ours – general AI, cure all diseases including death, unlimited source of energy, climate manipulation, you name it. It is up to you to decide: do they give us the technology. If yes – which ones and to whom, so that they will distribute the technology to be used by everyone. But be aware every part of that new technology has a dark side, for example – the ability to cure everything comes with the ability to genetically create new viruses as well as immortality (which may lead to earth’s overpopulation).
The technological changes are advancing (accelerating) much faster than society is adapting (adopting) them, as it is the current picture. Do we really wish to make that technological/scientific jump?
The prisoner’s dilemma is a canonical example of a game analysed in game theory that shows why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interest to do so. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner’s_dilemma). So from a logical perspective is not obvious that cooperation is the best (optimal) approach, the only way to propagate cooperation in society is to make cooperation a core value of the society you live in.
The European society values give priority to cooperation in general. Different parts of Europe in deferent degree, as the more a country, is developed, the more cooperative are its citizens (e.g. Scandinavian part of Europe vs the Balkans). Even with the rise of nationalism being a step backwards to cooperation, it is more of a reaction of some less cooperative nations joining the club.
The Americans are strongly divided: liberals – cooperation, the right – individualism. For the liberals – it’s logical behaviour (Golden rule…), for the right is paradoxical. The predominant part of the right is evangelism oriented, and their values are supposed to proclaim mercy, humility and cooperation. The Donald is the brightest (almost cartoonish) example of every man for himself values the right propaganda has been distributing the last 50 and more years.
An interesting case is the so-called Soviet bloc (now greatly reduced). The propaganda machine was trying to establish selfish and cooperative values, but only to allow a small circle of functionaries to use that “sheepish” crowd for their profit. A similar pattern is widely used in a religious context, as the evangelist denomination is the best example of that.
Imagine an alien (ET) comes to you and offer you knowledge that would satisfy all material needs of humanity and cure all the sick, but as a side-effect of all the knowledge and technology, let’s say 1% of the population will have the ability to exterminate humanity. Would you accept the gift?
Now imagine a second scenario, the alien doesn’t ask but tells you that you will be provided with said knowledge and you (humanity) have one year to prepare. Apparently, that is their test for new civilizations acceptance, the unwilling applicant either adapt to the new knowledge/technology or self-destroy.
This is just a thought experiment about the rising power of AI. There will be a point in the development of AGI when we will be put in a similar position. The picture could be generalized for any major technological advancement: genetic engineering, AGI, etc. State regulations are the only tool against the side effects of too much power in the hands of an increasing number of people, and the regulations mostly succeed partly fail the task now and definitely will fail in the future. At some point in not so distant future, only unthinkable – world government (Y.N.Harrari style) will be the only surviving option. What do you think are our chances for survival?
I value peoples honesty and I’m trying too. But there are levels of honesty that are accessible to a different level of intellect and will.
The most basic honesty level would be – not purposely deceiving your opponent. It sounds good but in some particular cases (subjects) you would lie to (delude) yourself, so even you think you are honest you’re simply making your delusion public. So being honest doesn’t get your opponent any closer to the truth. Never underestimate the power of wishful thinking.
The next level is “speak your mind”, but your mind is usually overwhelmed with thoughts and most of them contradict each other. So what to pick is a question of intent (make a particular impression) and a chance. In this case, speaking some of your thoughts don’t fully represent your opinion. To be really honest at that level you have to capture the maximum of your ensemble of thoughts which will allow your opponent you be aware of your opinion (even a contradictory one) and the process (or logic) of its formation.
The last level of honesty is the level of intentions. We have opinions in order to prepare ourselves for action, maybe not an immediate one or maybe an indirect one (e.g. by influencing other people to act). That level of honesty is the deepest one and the most revealing of your natural one. The problem here is that most of the people are not really aware of their long term intentions (short term – maybe, from time to time). So to be honest at that level apart from goodwill, you need intellect in order to analyze your strategy and long term goals.
I’m not writing this to give a set of excuses for your inability of being honest. Honesty is a virtue in my book and everybody should be honest except if you are hurting somebody just for the sake of being honest.
Nevertheless, it is not that simple, to be honest, even you are determined to be so.