We ask Prof Steven Pinker whether today’s doom and gloom headlines are a sign we’re worse off than in centuries gone by, or if human wellbeing is at an all-time high
Tagged with “society” (23)
We’re building an artificial intelligence-powered dystopia, one click at a time, says techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci. In an eye-opening talk, she details how the same algorithms companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon use to get you to click on ads are also used to organize your access to political and social information. And the machines aren’t even the real threat. What we need to understand is how the powerful might use AI to control us — and what we can do in response.
Machine intelligence is here, and we’re already using it to make subjective decisions. But the complex way AI grows and improves makes it hard to understand and even harder to control. In this cautionary talk, techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci explains how intelligent machines can fail in ways that don’t fit human error patterns — and in ways we won’t expect or be prepared for. "We cannot outsource our responsibilities to machines," she says. "We must hold on ever tighter to human values and human ethics."
"The actual path of a raindrop as it goes down the valley is unpredictable, but the general direction is inevitable," says digital visionary Kevin Kelly — and technology is much the same, driven by patterns that are surprising but inevitable. Over the next 20 years, he says, our penchant for making things smarter and smarter will have a profound impact on nearly everything we do. Kelly explores three trends in AI we need to understand in order to embrace it and steer its development. "The most popular AI product 20 years from now that everyone uses has not been invented yet," Kelly says. "That means that you’re not late."
Infrastructure investment tricks
All societies under-invest in their infrastructure—in the systems that allow them to thrive.
There is hardware infrastructure: clean water, paved roads, sewer systems, airports, broadband; and, Fallows suggested, software infrastructure: organizational and cultural practices such as education, safe driving, good accounting, a widening circle of trust.
China, for example, is having an orgy of hard infrastructure construction.
It recently built a hundred airports while America built zero.
But it is lagging in soft infrastructure such as safe driving and political transition.
Infrastructure always looks unattractive to investors because the benefits: 1) are uncertain; 2) are delayed; and 3) go to others—the public, in the future.
And the act of building infrastructure can be highly disruptive in the present.
America for the last forty years has starved its infrastructure, but in our history some highly controversial remarkable infrastructure decisions got through, each apparently by a miracle—the Louisiana Purchase, the Erie Canal, the Gadsden Purchase, the Alaska Purchase, National Parks, Land Grant colleges, the GI Bill that created our middle class after World War II, and the Interstate highway system.
In Fallows’ view, the miracle that enabled the right decision each time was either an emergency (such as World War II or the Depression), stealth (such as all the works that quietly go forward within the military budget or the medical-industrial complex), or a story (such as Manifest Destiny and the Space Race).
Lately, Fallows notes, there is a little noticed infrastructure renaissance going in some mid-sized American cities, where the political process is nonpoisonous and pragmatic compared to the current national-level dysfunction.
By neglecting the long view, Fallows concluded, we overimagine problems with infrastructure projects and underimagine the benefits.
But with the long view, with the new wealth and optimism of our tech successes, and expanding on the innovations in many of our cities, there is compelling story to be told.
It might build on the unfolding emergency with climate change or on the new excitement about space exploration.
Responding to need or to opportunity, we can tell a tale that inspires us to reinvent and build anew the systems that make our society flourish.
David Autor, Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), joins Social Europe Editor-in-Chief Henning Meyer to discuss the impact of technological changes on the world of work and the wider economy. The discussion highlights why washing machines will not go to the moon any time soon and why the developing world might have more to fear from the digital revolution than rich countries.
Digital pioneer Martha Lane Fox delivers 2015’s Richard Dimbleby Lecture on understanding the internet more deeply.
In the latest episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, journalist Malcolm Gladwell discusses the unforeseen benefits of being an outcast.
How Cooking Can Change Your Life 30th May 2013;
Cooking involves us in a dense web of social and ecological relationships: with plants and animals, the soil, farmers, our history and culture, and, of course, the people our cooking nourishes and delights. Cooking, above all, connects us.
And yet many people now spend a lot more time watching other people cook on TV than doing it themselves. And the outsourcing of this work to corporations has had disastrous effects on our health, our family life, and even on our agriculture.
Renowned journalist, activist and author Michael Pollan presents a compelling case that cooking is one of the simplest and most important steps people can take to improve their family’s health and well-being, build communities, help fix our broken food system, and break our growing dependence on corporations. Approached in the proper spirit, Pollan suggests, cooking becomes a political act.
Speaker: Michael Pollan is a food activist, and the author of Second Nature, A Place of My Own, The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defence of Food and Food Rules.
Chair: Tim Lang, professor of Food Policy at City University London.
RSA Keynote 7th Feb 2013; 18:00 (full recording including audience Q&A)
Technologist and writer Ben Hammersley explores the role of the internet and digital technologies in today’s workplace.
As social media, mobile devices, constant communication, online sharing, and open collaboration become the norms in the rest of our lives, the traditional workplace is failing to adapt.
How do our traditional workplace models conflict with our new internet-driven expectations of how we might live and work to our full potential, and how might companies and organisations learn to adapt in the 21st century?
Speaker: Ben Hammersley, Prime Minister’s Ambassador to TechCity, contributing editor, Wired UK, innovator in residence, Goldsmiths, University of London and author of ‘64 Things You Need to Know Now for Then’.
Chair: Matthew Taylor, chief executive, RSA.
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