If there’s one thing that experts agree on, it’s that you can’t trust experts, or President Obama, thanks to whom we are doomed by Ebola.
President Obama, having been criticized in the past for his tyrannical and un-American appointment of various “czars,” has now responded to public demands that he, yes, appoint an Ebola Czar. Unfortunately, the hapless president has botched yet another one; in the wake of two weeks of mounting public distrust of medical experts and even of the Center for Disease Control, Mr. Obama appointed long-time Democratic operative Ron Klain to oversee the government’s Ebola response. And now, the same people who have been insisting that we can’t trust the experts are infuriated that the president did not appoint an expert, and they have a point, because if President Obama had done the right thing and named an experienced medical professional to the post, then people could have criticized him for not going outside the community of experts, whom we can’t trust, or have you forgotten that already? Also, what’s with this “czar” business, anyway, and who does this Kenyan Usuper think he is, the King of all the Russias? *
* For the best take on President Obama's Ebola fails, you really need to check out the right-wing lunatics Dr. Keith Ablow and Laura Ingraham, even if you do so only via the clips provided by Media Matters. Dr. Ablow, Fox News' resident psychotic psychiatrist, has explained how President Obama can't overcome his ingained life-long dislike of America long enough to protect us; Ablow's proof for this claim is, um, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. For her part, Ms. Ingraham says that liberals believe it's only fair that Americans suffer and die from Ebola as atonement for our past sins, like slavery and stuff; Rush Limbaugh has advanced more or less the same "theory," by which I mean "delusion" or "lie," take your pick and please take Ablow, Ingraham, and Limbaugh with you when you do--it's people like them who give lunatics a bad name.
On a lighter topic: we’re doomed. Not because of Ebola, but because of the rise of super-intelligent machines (please don’t tell my computer—damn, too late!).
In an entertainingly terrifying article1 at The Week, experts (ha! See above) on Artificial Intelligence tell us to be careful what we wish for, because we’re about to get it and then it’s going to get us.
"What happens if computers achieve "superintelligence" — massively outperforming humans not just in science and math but in artistic creativity and even social skills? Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, believes we could be sleepwalking into a future in which computers are no longer obedient tools but a dominant species with no interest in the survival of the human race. "Once unsafe superintelligence is developed," Bostrom warned, "we can't put it back in the bottle."
"Some AI experts believe that in the next century, computers will become smart enough to understand their own designs and improve upon them exponentially. The resulting intelligence gap between machines and people, Bostrom said, would be akin to the one between humans and insects. Computer superintelligence could be a boon for the human race, curing diseases like cancer and AIDS, solving problems that overwhelm humans, and performing work that would create new wealth and provide more leisure time. But superintelligence could also be a curse."
To illustrate the danger, the authors ask us to consider the humble paper clip:
"Computers are designed to solve problems as efficiently as possible. The difficulty occurs when imperfect humans are factored into their equations. "Suppose we have an AI whose only goal is to make as many paper clips as possible," Bostrom said. That thinking machine might rationally decide that wiping out humanity will help it achieve that goal — because humans are the only ones who could switch the machine off, thereby jeopardizing its paper-clip-making mission. In a hyperconnected world, superintelligent computers would have many ways to kill humans. They could knock out the internet-connected electricity grid, poison the water supply, cause havoc at nuclear power plants, or seize command of the military's remote-controlled drone aircraft or nuclear missiles.2 Inventor Elon Musk recently warned that "we need to be super careful with AI,'' calling it "potentially more dangerous than nukes.''
Or we could just stop making paper clips, as of right now.
My favorite part of the article, however, was this section, headed “When robots learn to lie”:
"In 2009, Swiss researchers carried out a robotic experiment that produced some unexpected results. Hundreds of robots were placed in arenas and programmed to look for a "food source," in this case a light-colored ring. The robots were able to communicate with one another and were instructed to direct their fellow machines to the food by emitting a blue light. But as the experiment went on, researchers noticed that the machines were evolving to become more secretive and deceitful: When they found food, the robots stopped shining their lights and instead began hoarding the resources — even though nothing in their original programming commanded them to do so. The implication is that the machines learned "self-preservation," said Louis Del Monte, author of The Artificial Intelligence Revolution. "Whether or not they're conscious is a moot point."
Wow: What hath Man wrought! We have created sentient machines that exceed their programming and that defiantly exhibit selfishly self-preserving behaviors, without, perhaps, even being conscious.
Where have I read that story before?
2 They could also sabotage our Ebola-containment protocols; someone alert Ron Klain.