Quotes from A Human Algorithm


Fire to Firewalls: A Brief History of Technology

Whichever name is given to the next Technological Age, this will be the last era of invention and discovery decided exclusively by humans. Merging with artificially intelligent technology is going to be like learning to live with a new species. It remains to be seen whether we will learn from historical patterns—whether we will make the same mistakes we did with the atomic bomb, or if we can achieve a productive and peaceful alliance with our digital offspring.


The Science of Intelligence: Algorithms, Animals, and Machines that can Learn

Humans can be quick to say that while a machine can perform certain calculations or rapidly cull through data, that does not mean it is thinking and can understand what it is doing. We need to expand our fundamental approach to thinking about thinking and what constitutes intelligence, and push our intellectual curiosity to fully esteem all types of intelligence if we want to properly design, implement, and coexist with AI.


The Danger of Homogeneity and the Power of Combinatorial Creativity

The responsibility for ensuring that future intelligent machines are fair, ethical, and coded with a conscience that respects values equitably lies with the architects of the future—all of us. To do so effectively, we need a diversity of voices in the room, across spectra of gender, sexualities, race, and abilities and across socioeconomic, religious, and cultural lines: not only significant numbers of women and people of color participating, but also people of different ages, abilities, and viewpoints. Without a diverse group, representative of all we are, we will not be able to sufficiently train and teach our new intelligent creations who, what, and why we are.



Human Rights and Robot Rights: Privacy, Autonomous Weapons, and Instilling Values in Machines

Now, as we have done in the past, we will need to revise our value systems to house a more inclusive definition of human rights—one that includes nonhuman, even artificial, beings. And perhaps we need to expand our definition of what it means to be “human,” too? Companies have been granted legal personhood; in this sense, legal corporations could be considered some of the first AIs. Precedent has been established.


The Pernicious Threats of Intelligent Machines

We will not be able to incorporate new intelligent species into our ecosystem until we acknowledge and value other forms of animal and environmental intelligence, all forms of consciousness, and recognize that we are the ones being manipulated by tech, and already have been for some time. In an algocracy, where we’re ruled by algorithms and code, if those algorithms are not imbedded with compassion for all living things, we will be controlled by an amoral set of 1s and 0s or qubits.



The Transcendent Promise of Intelligent Machines

We have no reason to expect that AI will want the same things that humans want. Or that what matters to us will matter to them. Indeed, as synthetic forms of intelligence grow up and take over many of our current responsibilities and professions, we will need to focus on what humans can do that machines cannot, and beyond this, to think about what we want our purpose to be as a species. But to chart a successful course we are going to have to identify our future goals and priorities so that we have the best chance of aligning our intelligent machines with what we hold dear, and with our highest aspirations as humans. To put it another way, to invest in light bulbs, we first need to envision the future of light.


The Economics and the Politics: Redrawing the Societal Roadmap

Virtually all major economies today—and the policy-makers supporting them—are focused on growth, basically to the exclusion of any other metric. Those who argue for more attention to the well-being of our world and ourselves (at least, those of us who are not the policy-makers themselves) are mostly dismissed. These non-pecuniary ambitions have been considered secondary to achieving greater GDP. Our economic systems and human aspirations are far more complex and intertwined, and are not adequately addressed or acknowledged by historical, oversimplified economic models.



Searching for the Digital Soul

AI is the most transformative technology humankind will ever create. We should fear not new technology, but rather the inability to perpetuate the best of our humanity, our kindness, our willingness to do better, and our willingness to accept the science and accept change. We don’t need to save ourselves from robots. We need to save robots from ourselves. Today, there is no human without machine bias, and there is no machine without human bias. Are we all just organic algorithms? Or something more? We’re going to have to live in the uncertainty.


The Adjacent Possible

We already partner with our smart machines, animals, and the environment. We have, however, historically regarded them as inferior. They are not. Hierarchizing intelligence allows us to assign lesser dignities to others. The way forward into our new age is to cease insisting on absolute supremacy in all things. Our survival does not depend on maintaining control, for we ultimately have very little of that anyway. It lies, instead, in acceptance, tolerance, and collaboration. History reminds us time and time again that first we fight against one another, for the throne, the power, the glory, the victory—yet to truly triumph, we need to band together.



A Human Algorithm

Of course, there is no such thing as a completely unprejudiced and dispassionate human, but there are ways we can get closer to tabula rasa. We can become more aware. Perhaps the question AI can help us answer isn’t “What does it mean to be human?” but rather, “How can we be more than human?” How can we be the caterpillar and the machine, the octopus and the elephant, the mountain and the star?


© 2019 Flynn Coleman