This was a weird evening.
I never got involved with debating societies at school or Uni (maybe I should have?) and the debate format isn’t one that I have any experience with.
That didn’t help.
Plus, I was asked to make the case for the “For” side – that is, that AI does pose an existential threat to humanity.
This isn’t really my view point. I do think there are risks, as there are with the application of any new technology. I absolutely think we need to be careful. And I think initiatives like OpenAI and Partnership on AI are important efforts to guide where this stuff goes.
But I don’t completely share the “we’re all doomed” mindset.
I still like Andrew Ng’s quote from a 2015 Wired interview:
“The reason I say that I don’t worry about AI turning evil is the same reason I don’t worry about overpopulation on Mars.”
The debate format they were after for this evening wasn’t really four people all giving a balanced “there are risks, but there are things we can do and we probably have time” view. They wanted two people to present the “we’re doomed!” side of the story, while another two people presented the “there’s no risks, it’s all completely safe” side.
The idea was a, perhaps somewhat contrived, way to present an introduction to the arguments to an audience that isn’t familiar with the current state of technology.
So I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing, and I was arguing a point of view I don’t really share. But… try everything once, right? And it was a chance to share a stage with some people whose work I greatly admire (seriously, The Technological Singularity is a great book – go read it).
And that’s how I ended up on that stage for a very weird evening.