We need to embrace our Paleolithic emotions, upgrade our medieval institutions, and have the wisdom to wield our God-like technology.
We now have algorithms that can generate realistic images based on text, of anything from mountain sunsets to bombed-out buildings in Ukraine. We have GPT-3, which could write a convincing paper arguing mRNA vaccines aren’t safe, citing real facts that are simply presented out of context. “This is like a neutron bomb for trust on the internet,” Harris said. “And the complexity of the world is increasing every day.” Our ability to respond, however, isn’t matching up.
Issues that would have been considered separate from one another in the past (or that didn’t exist in the past) are now closely linked; consider the impact that misinformation and synthetic media could have on nuclear escalation (and the impact they’ve already had on elections and democracy), or the connection between artificial intelligence and global financial risk.
Our previous thinking around how to manage technology isn’t good enough in the face of this new complexity; how do we handle issues like privacy or freedom of speech when multiple actors are involved, there’s low accountability, and everyone’s definition of what’s “right” is different? “Technology has been undermining humanity’s capacity for wisdom,” Harris said. “Not just individually, but our collective ability to operate with the wisdom that we need.”
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