Discover more from Singal-Minded
Win A Copy Of A Fascinating Book About Human Rationality, Artificial Intelligence, And A Lot Of Other Stuff
I highly, highly recommend "The AI Does Not Hate You"
(The cover of Tom Chivers’ book The AI Does Not Hate You, which has an image of a robot hand and a human hand reaching toward one another, “Creation of Adam”-style.)
Hello! Here are a couple recent Singal-Minded newsletters you missed if you are not a paid subscriber:
It's Important To Remember That They Will Never, Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever Stop Lying: In which, in an act of stunning bravery, I publicly state that I am not sure we should trust the Donald Trump administration when it comes to an extremely pivotal and mystery-shrouded military decision.
Two Terrible Campus-Related Anti-Free-Speech Stories: In which I gently, ever-so-lovingly critique Babson College’s treatment of an adjunct professor who published a Facebook-joke about the Iran situation that some conservatives were deeply offended — nay, scandalized — by:
As you know, I try to inject this newsletter with a great deal of nuance and empathy and hedging and caveats, so it brings me no joy to say this, but: Babson College is run by spineless, cowardly little weasels who shouldn’t be trusted with operating a bodega, let alone a university; who should feel suffocating pangs of white-hot shame over this for at least a few weeks; and whose children, ideally, would be told — perhaps via some sort of catchy song and cartoon — that their parents are utter failures.
If the spirit so moves you:
As for today’s newsletter, I’m very excited to be giving away three copies of The AI Does Not Hate You: Superintelligence, Rationality And The Race To Save The World by the extremely talented British science journalist Tom Chivers. To enter, send an email with ‘singularity’ in the subject line to email@example.com. I’m told the publisher will send copies to anyone, so no geographical restrictions. Remember that two copies go to anyone, and the third goes to a paid subscriber — one perk of susbcribing is a slightly higher chance of winning books. I’ll include in the drawing all entries sent by 11:59 p.m., Eastern time, tomorrow, January 14th. (The book actually isn’t available for sale in the States unless you jump through some hoops on Amazon or another online retailer, which, for reasons that will soon become clear, is a shame!)
The AI Does Not Hate You is about the Rationalists, an eccentric internet community with a growing real-world footprint. The community was more or less birthed by Eliezer Yudkowsky, who founded a very internet-famous site with the same moniker: LessWrong. These days, the movement’s public-facing epicenter is probably Scott Alexander and his consistently excellent Slate Star Codex blog. (In his book, Chivers explains why the center of gravity shifted.)
The Rationalists are fascinated with human belief itself: why we believe what we do, how our biases nudge us off the path toward truth, and how we can disagree in more productive ways. Along the way, many of them have also gotten quite concerned or excited or both about the possibility of artificial intelligence soon leapfrogging human capabilities, launching us, rather jarringly, into a future likely to be completely unpredictable and unrecognizable to those of us with mere fleshy human brains. This is usually called the singularity. As Wikipedia explains: “According to the most popular version of the singularity hypothesis, called intelligence explosion, an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) will eventually enter a ‘runaway reaction’ of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an ‘explosion’ in intelligence and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that qualitatively far surpasses all human intelligence.”
Many Rationalists are fascinated by the singularity, and for understandable reasons given how many of them are very into computers and technology in general. So in some parallel universe there’s a more boring version of this book in which Chivers just focuses in on that question of when and if AI will consume humanity or lift it up to previously untold heights (among singularity-believers, there is some rather heated debate on this front). Don’t get me wrong — it’s a very interesting issue. But at a certain point, you can really only interview so many people and play around with so many probabilities before the only option left is to throw up your hands and say, I guess we’ll know in a few decades, or thereabouts. This is not an easy thing to predict! (For what it’s worth, in canvassing the opinion of AI experts, Chivers found that most of them do seem to think that something very big is coming in the not-too-distant future. They could be wrong, but it is a mainstream belief among plenty of reasonable people who work on this issue closely.)
Chivers’ book is about way more than just that, however, and that’s why it’s such a great read. The Rationalists are a wonderful subject for this sort of in-depth journalistic treatment because the issues that most animate them matter, or should matter, to everyone. So The AI Does Not Hate You isn’t just about AI itself, but also about having a human brain; humanity’s baby-step advances toward truly understanding that organ’s limitations and how to account for them; the fuzzy nature of long-term risk and the question of what we should do today about things that may or may not unfold 50 or 100 or 200 years from now; the limits of tolerance and where the lines should be drawn in terms of what is allowed to be debated openly; why people who are socially odd or otherwise misfits are drawn to certain issues; and a lot of other stuff, too.
So yes, it is a fascinating book. Completely. If you enjoy this newsletter, it would surprise me if you don’t like it. Good luck!
Questions? Comments? Brainstorming suggestions for how I can upload my consciousness to the cloud and reign over all humanity, possibly in a benevolent manner but to be honest I haven’t decided yet? I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jessesingal.