Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dichotomy? UFOs vs. Our Concept of A.I.

In a blog entry I posted yesterday, we briefly mentioned the potential horrors of artificial intelligence and the distinct likelihood that it would control us, not we it.

Shortly afterwards, I happened to see a Vanity Fair article posted online the same day, March 26, written by Maureen Dowd.  Entitled, "Elon Musk's Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse," the lengthy piece explored the thoughts of giants in the A.I. field, assuming either pro or con positions regarding its ability to serve us or destroy us all.

Musk himself ranks among the worried who fear that artificial intelligence may ultimately pursue human destruction because we'll merely be in its way as it expands its reach and grows ever more brilliant and capable.

Dowd does include some interesting quotes in her article, and I was particularly drawn to the following paragraphs, where she describes and quotes Peter Thiel, also concerned about A.I:

When I went to Peter Thiel’s elegant San Francisco office, dominated by two giant chessboards, Thiel, one of the original donors to OpenAI and a committed contrarian, said he worried that Musk’s resistance could actually be accelerating A.I. research because his end-of-the-world warnings are increasing interest in the field.

“Full-on A.I. is on the order of magnitude of extraterrestrials landing,” Thiel said. “There are some very deeply tricky questions around this . . . . If you really push on how do we make A.I. safe, I don’t think people have any clue. We don’t even know what A.I. is. It’s very hard to know how it would be controllable.”

He went on: “There’s some sense in which the A.I. question encapsulates all of people’s hopes and fears about the computer age. I think people’s intuitions do just really break down when they’re pushed to these limits because we’ve never dealt with entities that are smarter than humans on this planet.”

Hmm. Well. . .

Where are these folks regarding the UFO phenomenon?  That is, I don't know about labeling landings extraterrestrial, but the literature abounds with UFO case reports of things landing, leaving ground impressions, burns and more than the slightest hint of intelligence.  Yes, Thiel was discussing magnitude, not real UFO incidents, but the opportunity to make the comparison presents itself in Maureen Dowd's article.

Further, Thiel's assurance that ". . .we've never dealt with entities that are smarter than humans on this planet" appears rather a haphazard declaration.  How does he know that?  Again, we reference the UFO literature, abounding with "close encounters" and UFO occupant cases throughout the world.  From most accounts, such "entities" do often seem to reflect a degree of intelligence far surpassing ours (or maybe they're stupid, but good actors!).

My point here, somewhat shattered, laments not merely that here we go again, but here we go STILL:  Science and technological sorts throw out words meaning one thing to them and something quite different to those familiar with the evidence of (maybe or maybe not) "extraterrestrial landings" and "entities."  And those perched upon the UFO side of the fence bemoan that these folks, acutely intrigued by artificial intelligence, usually can't take 10 seconds to examine decades of UFO evidence with a serious eye.  Oh, a few probably do, but so, so many more won't bother.  UFOs are just bad science fiction to some. 

Of course, we have no idea (and I'm writing this without Internet support, so I can't check at the moment) what Peter Thiel really thinks about UFOs, but we feel a tad curious that he might actually have an opinion.  Does it matter?  Probably not.