GERD LEONHARD: TECHNOLOGY VERSUS HUMANITY
February 20, 2019, 6:15 am
Q. Has the point of no return – where technology has clearly taken over humanity – been reached?
A. Not at all. We are still 20-30 years away from truly intelligent machines ie AGI – artificial general intelligence. If you equate that with what is called the Singularity – when machines become limitlessly powerful – that would be around 2050 (as my futurist colleague Ray Kurzweil has predicted). But given that even narrow AI – what I call intelligent assistance – has huge impact on society, culture and economy, we need to start building ethical frameworks today. This is crucial also because advanced AI can be used as a weapon; i.e. we may be headed for an AI armsrace if we are not collaborating on restrictions globally.
Q. What do you consider to be the biggest technological threat?
A. Right now, three threats: 1) Artificial general intelligence (see above) . 2) Human genome editing . 3) Geo-engineering
But all three (IA and AI not AGI) could be extremely beneficial for humanity as well, so it will all come down to governance ! technology is morally neutral until we use it as Williams Gibson says.
A much more realistic and timely threat is, imho, is that we become too much like the machines, ourselves, i.e: abdication, forgetting ourselves, faking democracy etc – DE-HUMANISATION
Q. What is the greatest advantage that humanity still has and will continue to have?
A. Being human is our biggest advantage, ie NOT being a machine. Intuition, imagination, mistakes, free will, compassion, empathy, inefficiency – whatever is very easy for a human is very hard for a computer (hat-tip to Marvin Minsky); and this will remain for another 30 years – beyond that I think we need to start thinking about actively protecting our humanity. The future is not to compete with computing power. It is to be more human – not less!
Check out https://www.futuristgerd.com/gerd_key_memes_video/ and my explanation of what I call ANDRORITHMS ie the things that make us human https://www.futuristgerd.com/2016/09/13/what-are-androrithms/ and https://www.futuristgerd.com/category/androrithms/
Q. What are the ways in which technology supports and contributes in a positive manner to sustainability?
A. Technology is a boon to almost every aspect of sustainability: energy (20 years towards 100% solar, and the end of oil), water (20 years to cheap global desalination tech), food (10 years to vertical farming as default, and meat from the lab)… and more. The challenge is that technology must in itself also be sustainable ie not make us dependent, lazy and utterly addicted. The externalities of technology must urgently be addressed, as well. We don’t want to end up with solving all these large global challenges but then live in a world run by machines and algorithms.
Q. What are the changes we should be on the look-out for in the near vs. the long-term future?
A. In the near term: digital ethics council, controlling the digital platforms, reducing inequality, preparing for consequences of climate change… to name just a few.
In the long term: memorandum on artificial general intelligence (like NPTs), same for human genome editing , and of course: a world government.
Q. What countries are serving the best model of being prepared for the future?
A. I think Finland and Denmark are doing really well in this department. Switzerland has a great collective approach, but is otherwise woefully behind and isolated. Germany has good cards here. India and Brazil is where the action will be, though, if they can muster the political will and leadership.
About the author:
How do we embrace technology without becoming it? What moral values are you prepared to stand up for — before being human alters its meaning forever?
Gerd Leonhard is a new kind of futurist schooled in the humanities as much as in technology, and is adept at clearly laying out the challenges ahead. In his provocative book Technology Versus Humanity, he explores the exponential changes swamping our societies, providing rich insights and deep wisdom.
The imminent clash between technology and humanity is already rushing towards us – learn how to navigate the coming changes from an inspiring speaker.
Gerd will hold a session at the Emirates Literature Festival on Saturday 2 March 2019, between 6-7 pm, in English.
Click here to book your seats now.
Gerd has also asked if you would be interested in adding this link to his new digital ethics newsletter http://www.digitalethics.co/