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Marc Andreessen’s “Why AI Will Save the World”: A Reductionist, Self-Serving Ode to Singularity

I'm super-worried after reading Marc Andreessen's latest piece (June 6, 2023) on AI and how it will SAVE THE WORLD. Marc is one of the most influential people in technology, and one of the most powerful investors around the globe… and not a good man to cross swords with. Alas, he has already blocked me on Twitter (probably after my initial comment on this incredibly bizarre pro-AI piece) so I have little sympathy to lose with him when I state here that I find his take on AI and the future of humanity grossly misleading and ill-guided. I am dismayed that someone of his knowledge and experience would dish up some lopsided piece like this.

I will quote some snippets from this piece and add my comments below, so you can see for yourself.

Says Marc:

  • “Every child will have an AI tutor that is infinitely patient, infinitely compassionate, infinitely knowledgeable, infinitely helpful. The AI tutor will be by each child’s side every step of their development, helping them maximize their potential with the machine version of infinite love”
  • My response: This is total and utter technology-obsessed mumbo-jumbo and first-rate reductionism. While online learning has powerful applications and presents new possibilities for some learning situations, people learn with/from/through other people not with from software bots. This is crucial for human development! replace teachers with AI? Really?
  • “Every person will have an AI assistant/coach/mentor/trainer/advisor/therapist that is infinitely patient, infinitely compassionate, infinitely knowledgeable, and infinitely helpful. The AI assistant will be present through all of life’s opportunities and challenges, maximizing every person’s outcomes”
  • My response: Even the most amazing simulation of COMPASSION is just a simulation. What is all the obsession with infinite…whatever…? There is no such thing – not even in Silicon Valley.
  • “Every scientist will have an AI assistant/collaborator/partner that will greatly expand their scope of scientific research and achievement. Every artist, every engineer, every businessperson, every doctor, every caregiver will have the same in their worlds”.
  • My response: sounds like total and utter dependency to me. Will there be anything left for humans to do by themselves? Can we still exist without connecting to the Internet??
  • “Every leader of people – CEO, government official, nonprofit president, athletic coach, teacher – will have the same. The magnification effects of better decisions by leaders across the people they lead are enormous, so this intelligence augmentation may be the most important of all”.
  • My response: Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand – and utter uselessness will be the result of machines driving political decisions – at best!
  • “Productivity growth throughout the economy will accelerate dramatically, driving economic growth, creation of new industries, creation of new jobs, and wage growth, and resulting in a new era of heightened material prosperity across the planet”.
  • My response: That would indeed by great IF the benefit of such dramatic increase of GDP actually trickled down to everyone – and not just to those that own the digital highways (or those that invest in it) – see the graphs below.
  • “Scientific breakthroughs and new technologies and medicines will dramatically expand, as AI helps us further decode the laws of nature and harvest them for our benefit”
  • My response: AGREED (good:)
  • “The creative arts will enter a golden age, as AI-augmented artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers gain the ability to realize their visions far faster and at greater scale than ever before”
  • My response: Artists and creatives have never had an easier time (economically) just because the tools got better – this is a question of POLICY and fair remuneration not just better tools. It's a cheap ‘throw the artists a bone' argument, imho, and it reeks of sticks and carrots.
  • “I even think AI is going to improve warfare, when it has to happen, by reducing wartime death rates dramatically. Every war is characterized by terrible decisions made under intense pressure and with sharply limited information by very limited human leaders. Now, military commanders and political leaders will have AI advisors that will help them make much better strategic and tactical decisions, minimizing risk, error, and unnecessary bloodshed”
  • My response: this is callous, and dehumanizing. If we automate war and have AI do the killing… that's a benefit??? What, are you for AI killer drones, too?
  • “And this isn’t just about intelligence! Perhaps the most underestimated quality of AI is how humanizing it can be. AI art gives people who otherwise lack technical skills the freedom to create and share their artistic ideas. Talking to an empathetic AI friend really does improve their ability to handle adversity. And AI medical chatbots are already more empathetic than their human counterparts. Rather than making the world harsher and more mechanistic, infinitely patient and sympathetic AI will make the world warmer and nicer”.
  • My response: total hogwash, to be frank. What is HUMANISING is other humans, respect for humanity, real compassion, real empathy, REAL HUMANS.

You can also try this WordTune AI-made summary (::) to get the gist of Marc's deliberations.

UPDATE, June 28: Be sure to read these related pieces – there has been a LOT of feedback on Marc's rant since I published this::)

AI won't save the world: Marc Andreessen wants you to put your faith in AI — so he'll make a return on his investment

Marc Andreessen's attempted takedown of the AI doomers is wrong and stupid and not really a takedown at all

Contra Marc Andreessen on AI: “The claim that you will completely control any system you build is obviously false, and a hacker like Marc should know that”

Marc Andreessen Is (Mostly) Wrong This Time: Silicon Valley’s preeminent venture capitalist tries to craft the ur-narrative for generative AI, and in doing so lays bare its contradictions (WIRED.com). Excerpts:

“There are two key blind spots here. First is the assumption that these AI sidekicks will be “infinitely knowledgeable”—a gigantic stretch given that right now LLMs routinely make up facts out of whole cloth and sometimes continue to do so even when their human users point out the errors. (They do this because, as mentioned above, LLMs are just statistical patterns of words, with no conception of the reality behind the words.)

More troubling is the assumption that humans would use even a far superior AI to make “better” decisions. Better for whom? An “infinitely patient” and “infinitely helpful” AI coach could just as happily help its human master wreak genocide as devise a more efficient manufacturing process or a fairer benefits framework…. A large chunk of his post is devoted to attacking one of the big fears about AI: that it will spread hate speech and misinformation. To be clear, he doesn’t argue that it won’t spread hate speech and misinformation. He merely says that policing social media has been fraught and complicated (true!), that the people who believe in doing it are mostly on the political left (also true!), that policing AI will be even more fraught because “AI is highly likely to be the control layer for everything in the world” (umm, OK?) and therefore it shouldn’t be policed, regardless of the consequences…”

Bruce Schneier via Foreign Policy (Archive.ph link):

Build AI by the People, for the People. Washington needs to take AI investment out of the hands of private companies. By Bruce Schneier, a security technologist, lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School.

BELOW: Related images and stats to make my point:

I know it's an old stat, but hey… more productivity DOES NOT usually translate into more compensation for the average worker (at least not in the USA)
This could be heaven or it could be hell. If AI is in charge of who gets what… it'll be hell!
Unlike Marc, who believes in digital darwinism, apparently, I believe we need to SPREAD the benefits of exponential technological progress by creating a DIGITAL DIVIDEND system. The EU Commission is on that path, I believe 😉
THIS is what AI should be doing for business – Intelligent Assistance (IA) not AGI, competence not consciousness!
But don't worry – according to Marc, the FREE MARKET will fix all these social problems!
If productivity is boosted 4-5x, who will benefit? Will we get paid the same $$ for less work? Or will less people be hired because I work faster?

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