Re: Major Public AI Backlash Inevitable.

Dan Hook (
Tue, 3 Aug 1999 18:29:12 -0400 (EDT)

On 3 Aug 1999 wrote:

> For those following the IA vs. AI thread, consider the
> backlash now escalating against genetic engineering
> (bioenhanced food, cloning). And this hysterical backlash
> is happening despite the most ethical intentions and
> carefully crafted rhetoric of working biotechnologists.
> Now imagine the public reaction when they discover the
> *real* agenda of most AI researchers who joyfully look
> forward to the day their creations make us all extinct!
> Now _that_ should do wonders for their popular approval!

Of course, I could say that it is not true that AI researchers want us dead, but that little detail is insignificant. I agree that there will be great fear but I think there are a number of things that will give AI a benefit over GM crops:

  1. Much greater economic potential. While a full blown AI may make us obsolete, the intermediate steps will make us rich. The people railing against GM crops are overfed busybodies whose food bill is such a trivial portion of their income that they can afford to give up the savings of GM crops without any noticeable harm to their expendable income. AI research will produce considerably more noticeable wealth.
  2. Faster pace of change. Once AI gets to the point where people start to notice, it should be moving at a good clip. GM crops have been around for a few years now (to some extent) and it is taking a long time for any legislative action to be taken against them, at least in the US. Europe is a different story. But Silicon Valley isn't in Europe.
  3. Underground or offshore development. AI development could be done in secret if that was really necessary. It could be done by enthusiastic AI researchers rebelling against the tyrranny of the Luddite masses or it could be done illegally in government labs. This is obviously a useless strategy for GM crops. The benefits of AI can be felt by a small group of conspirators. GM crops are useless without millions of consumers.

The GM crops - AI analogy is good for judging public reaction, but I don't think we can expect the quest for AI to fall as easily as GM crops.

Dan Hook
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