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Opinion

AI might show the way, but only humanity can save us

AI might be the way forward, but we should be able to sort things out for ourselves without using technology

The Tesla Bot

The Tesla Bot promises to handle all the tasks we find dangerous, repetitive or boring. Photo: Xinhua/Shutterstock

Recently I have been reflecting on AI. You might say AI is an extension of human thinking in the same way that the plastic duck is an extension of human thinking and hand. 

AI worries us the most because when we make a plastic duck we do not build it in a way that it might attack us in our bath or start conversing with us. But AI is being developed as a conversationist and as a lethal weapon. 

The AI of the future will fight wars, carry out policing jobs, wipe arses and drive trains. Driven more by
the marketplace than by science, the armaments industry and the entertainment industry might play the biggest role in AI’s development. To presumably run side-by-side with AI for universal good, like medicine, rescue etc, not to forget serving as sexual partners and providing a dose of company for the lonely. 

But consider for one moment: maybe we should be fearful, but imagine what benefits AI could bring to the arguments about gender, race, class, religion and the enormous psychological damage and limitations that humanity carries around with itself. 

Think of all the problems we have not managed to sort out because of our appetites and needs and desires. We are still drawn madly to consume way beyond what we need. The driven among us still want all the money and property and worldly goods they can lay their hands on. In spite of the fact that millennia ago Jesus reminded us that a Musk, a Bezos, or a Trump has less chance of getting into Heaven than that camel passing through the eye of a needle. 

So as we have yet to sort out poverty, climate and numerous other risky issues, because human appetites get in the way, we may have to leave it to humanity mark II – humanoids – to get it right. For as AI is man-made, it is therefore an extension of us. 

Genderless humanoids will be developed. No need for all of those public lavatories for them. Raceless humanoids, less psychologically damaged and harmed by thousands of years of history, may well come to rule the world. 

They could be horrible and constrain our descendants in zoos and wonder at these human inmates. Or they may have their own War of the Worlds or Matrix, or perfect a utopian and idealistic world where every humanoid has a voice and feelings. Or perhaps not. Perhaps feelings might need to be programmed out. 

Certainly, we start the New Year with a bucketful of problems to solve. We don’t seem to get very far in the rational fields of thinking. An enormous amount of anger and fear seem to exist. A devaluation of policies and political office, of belief in the role of government. 

Perhaps in the future we can look forward to humanoids who will have solved all the strictly human and self-defeating problems we have run into. Right now we are unable to answer the climate threats, the threats of poverty and wars, largely because we are loaded down with the memories of where we come from. 

Many areas of investigation into human life point out that we inherit from our forefathers not just their DNA, but also their grief. 

Perhaps a well-designed AI human being of the future will not need to invade neighbours, build up vast amounts of money that could not be spent in a dozen lifetimes, murder and molest children and women, and men, and not allow their appetites to dominate planetary and human needs. 

Perhaps. Or maybe we develop the intellectual, cultural and social tools that may get us there without AI. Who knows? 

Forgive me, I am being rather fanciful. But let’s imagine how we would develop the means of sorting out most of the problems of the world. It certainly would not be with the tools that we have used in the past. We certainly would not be using just the political party system as a means of overcoming our inability to unite the fight against poverty and climate change. Putting all our eggs in the parliamentary democracy basket is not a wise move. We need the community to unite behind the need for social change and social justice. 

But that’s what I’m going to be doing and arguing for this New Year. So do have a happy one.

John Bird is the founder and editor in chief of The Big Issue. Read more of his words here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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