Originally posted June 7, 2018
Here is an excerpt:
Here we approach our inscrutable abstract, and our robot Rorschach test. But in this contemporary version of the famous psychological prompts, what we are observing is not even entirely ambiguous. We are attempting to imagine a greatly-amplified mind. Here, each of us has a particularly relevant data point — our own. In trying to imagine the amplified intelligence, it is natural to imagine our own intelligence amplified. In imagining the motivations of this amplified intelligence, we naturally imagine ourselves. If, as you try to conceive of a future with machine intelligence, a monster comes to mind, it is likely you aren’t afraid of something alien at all. You’re afraid of something exactly like you. What would you do with unlimited power?
Psychological projection seems to work in several contexts outside of general artificial intelligence. In the technology industry the concept of “meritocracy” is now hotly debated. How much of your life is determined by luck, and how much by chance? There’s no answer here we know for sure, but has there ever been a better Rorschach test for separating high-achievers from people who were given what they have? Questions pertaining to human nature are almost open self-reflection. Are we basically good, with some exceptions, or are humans basically beasts, with an animal nature just barely contained by a set of slowly-eroding stories we tell ourselves — law, faith, society. The inner workings of a mind can’t be fully shared, and they can’t be observed by a neutral party. We therefore do not — can not, currently — know anything of the inner workings of people in general. But we can know ourselves. So in the face of large abstractions concerning intelligence, we hold up a mirror.
Not everyone who fears general artificial intelligence would cause harm to others. There are many people who haven’t thought deeply about these questions at all. They look to their neighbors for cues on what to think, and there is no shortage of people willing to tell them. The media has ads to sell, after all, and historically they have found great success in doing this with horror stories. But as we try to understand the people who have thought about these questions with some depth — with the depth required of a thoughtful screenplay, for example, or a book, or a company — it’s worth considering the inkblot.
The article is here.