We embrace the complexity that comes from working in areas where the stakes are often very high and the choices may be imperfect.
The more fundamental issue is where authority to resolve such questions — to decide how technology may be used and by whom — should reside.
Our society has effectively outsourced the building of software that makes our world possible to a small group of engineers in an isolated corner of the country. The question is whether we also want to outsource the adjudication of some of the most consequential moral and philosophical questions of our time.
The engineering elite of Silicon Valley may know more than most about building software. But they do not know more about how society should be organized or what justice requires.
One can view technological civilization, in particular its accelerations in the twentieth century, as an attempt to drown the questions of Nietzsche’s chief witness, the tragic Diogenes, in comfort. By making technical living tools of unknown perfection available to individuals, the modern world aims thus to silence their uneasy inquiries about the space in which they live, or from which they constantly fall.
First we know that the internet is largely being run by these sophisticated artificial intelligences that have tapped into our base impulses, our deepest desires, whether we would admit that or not. And they've used that information to show us a picture of reality that is hyperbolic, polarizing, entertaining, and essentially distorted. And now, there are even more of these algorithms than ever before and they're getting even smarter.
And they're doing that in part because the technology is getting better, but also because we are giving them exactly what they are programmed to want which is more of our attention.
What we have is a situation where the AIs keep showing us this distorted reality and then we keep paying attention to that and in doing so we are telling them that we would like to see more of that distorted reality and we're living inside of this loop that's getting faster and faster and showing us a world that is getting more and more distorted.
I belong to the master race
Of genetically superior beings
Who engineer themselves
For technical perfection
I choose to engineer myself
I'm a work in progress
Please pardon my appearance
It's only information
To the needs of technology
Will be explained
We don't need bodies
Is an engineered product
Those who cannot adapt
Must be destroyed
It's a technical necessity
"If we're going to be surpassed by artificial intelligence, if we won't be needed...why are we here?"
I just realized that what we're doing now with our current culture of technology that's so tech-centric and just pretends that all the people out there giving us the data don't matter, that culture is sending a message of human obsolescence. We hear this so often and so much. And it breaks my heart. If you can't see that, try for god's sake. It's so important. Don't believe that you're worthless. It's a lie. Don't believe it.
The fourth revolution is also enlightening, because it enables us to understand ourselves better, as a special kind of informational organ- ism. This is not equivalent to saying that we have digital alter egos, some Messrs Hydes represented by their @s, blogs, tweets, or https. This trivial point only encourages us to mistake ICTs [Information and communications technology] for merely enhancing technologies, with us still at the centre of the infosphere. Our informational nature should not be confused with a ‘data shadow’ either, an otherwise useful term introduced to describe a digital profile generated from data concerning a user’s habits online. The change is deeper. To understand it, consider the distinction between enhancing and augmenting technologies.
The handles, switches, or dials of enhancing technologies, such as axes, guns, and drills, are interfaces meant to plug the appliance into the user’s body ergonomically. This is akin to the cyborg idea. Instead, the data and control panels of augmenting technologies are interfaces between different environments. On the one hand, there is the human user’s outer environment. On the other hand, there is the environment of the technology. Some examples are the dynamic, watery, soapy, hot, and dark environment of the dishwasher; or the equally watery, soapy, hot, and dark but also spinning environment of the washing machine; or the still, aseptic, soapless, cold, and potentially luminous environment of the refrigerator. These technologies can be successful because they have their environments ‘wrapped’ and tailored around their capacities. This is the phenomenon of ‘enveloping the world’ that I shall analyse in Chapter 7. Now, despite some superficial appearances, ICTs are not merely enhancing or augmenting technologies in the sense just explained. They are forces that change the essence of our world because they create and re-engineer whole realities that the user is then enabled to inhabit. Their digital interfaces act as (often friendly) gateways.