jaron on ai

via anne mccrossan fb share: ‘This is the thing.’ – [https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/mar/23/tech-guru-jaron-lanier-the-danger-isnt-that-ai-destroys-us-its-that-it-drives-us-insane] – Tech guru Jaron Lanier: ‘The danger isn’t that AI destroys us. It’s that it drives us insane’ – mar 2023 – simon hattenstone @shattenstone interviewing jaron lanier


Is AI really capable of outsmarting us and taking over the world? “OK! Well, your question makes no sense,” Lanier says in his gentle sing-song voice. “You’ve just used the set of terms that to me are fictions. I’m sorry to respond that way, but it’s ridiculous … it’s unreal.” This is the stuff of sci-fi movies s

Lanier doesn’t even like the term artificial intelligence, objecting to the idea that it is actually intelligent, and that we could be in competition with it. “This idea of surpassing human ability is silly because it’s made of human abilities.” He says comparing ourselves with AI is the equivalent of comparing ourselves with a car. “It’s like saying a car can go faster than a human runner. Of course it can, and yet we don’t say that the car has become a better runner.”

what computers can’t do et al.. intellect ness not even wise

In books such as You Are Not a Gadget and Ten Reasons For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts, he argues that the internet is deadening personal interaction, stifling inventiveness and perverting politics.

jaron lanier

not just net.. missing pieces from being in sea world from the get go..

There’s nothing Lanier likes more than showing technology can go wrong, especially when operated by an incompetent at the other end. So we switch to the rival Zoom.

“From my perspective,” he says, “the danger isn’t that a new alien entity will speak through our technology and take over and destroy us. To me the danger is that we’ll use our technology to become mutually unintelligible or to become insane if you like, in a way that we aren’t acting with enough understanding and self-interest to survive, and we die through insanity, essentially.”

rather.. to keep separating us.. what we need is tech to bring us together.. ie: tech as it could be (not about intellect ness)

Lanier was the only child of Jewish parents who knew all about inhumanity. His Viennese mother was blond and managed to talk her way out of a concentration camp by passing as Aryan. She then moved to the US, working as a pianist and stocks trader. His father, whose family had been largely wiped out in Ukrainian pogroms, had a range of jobs from architect to science editor of pulp science-fiction magazines and eventually elementary-school teacher. Lanier was born in New York, but the family soon moved west. When he was nine, his mother was killed after her car flipped over on the freeway on her way back from passing her driving test.

Both father and son were left traumatised and impoverished; his mother had been the main breadwinner. The two of them moved to New Mexico, living in tents before 11-year-old Lanier started to design their new house, a geodesic dome that took seven years to complete. “It wasn’t good structurally, but it was good therapeutically,” he says. In his 2017 memoir, Dawn of the New Everything, Lanier wrote that the house looked “a little like a woman’s body. You could see the big dome as a pregnant belly and the two icosahedrons as breasts.”

dawn of new everything

He was ludicrously bright. At 14, he enrolled at New Mexico State University, taking graduate-level courses in mathematical notation, which led him to computer programming. He never completed his degree, but went to art school and flunked out. By the age of 17 he was working a number of jobs, including goat-keeper, cheese-maker and assistant to a midwife. Then, by his early 20s, he had became a researcher for Atari in California. When he was made redundant, he focused on virtual reality projects, co-founding VPL Research to commercialise VR technologies. He could have easily been a tech billionaire had he sold his businesses sensibly or at least shown a little interest in money. As it stands, he tells me he has done very nicely financially, and obscene wealth wouldn’t have sat with his values. Today, he lives in Santa Cruz in California with his wife and teenage daughter.

Although many of the digital gurus started out as idealists, to Lanier there was an inevitability that the internet would screw us over. We wanted stuff for free (information, friendships, music), but capitalism doesn’t work like that. So we became the product – our data sold to third parties to sell us more things we don’t need.

Actually, he believes bots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard could provide hope for the digital world. Lanier was always dismayed that the internet gave the appearance of offering infinite options but in fact diminished choice. Until now, the primary use of AI algorithms has been to choose what videos we would like to see on YouTube, or whose posts we’ll see on social media platforms. Lanier believes it has made us lazy and incurious. Beforehand, we would sift through stacks in a record shop or browse in bookshops. “We were directly connected to a choice base that was actually larger instead of being fed this thing through this funnel that somebody else controls.”

still finite set of choices ness..

need:  infinitesimal structures approaching the limit of structureless\ness and/or or vice versa .. aka: ginorm/small ness

This is another area where we have a responsibility to sanity, he says – not to narrow our options or get trapped in echo chambers, slaves to the algorithm. That’s why he loves playing live music – because every time he jams with a band, he creates something new.

For Lanier, the classic example of restricted choice is Wikipedia, which has effectively become the world’s encyclopedia. “Wikipedia is run by super-nice people who are my friends. But the thing is it’s like one encyclopedia. Some of us might remember when on paper there was both an Encyclopedia Britannica and Encyclopedia Americana and they provided different perspectives. The notion of having the perfect encyclopedia is just weird.”

So could the new chatbots challenge this? “Right. That’s my point. If you go to a chatbot and say: ‘Please can you summarise the state of the London tube?’ you’ll get different answers each time. And then you have to choose.” This programmed-in randomness, he says, is progress. “All of a sudden this idea of trying to make the computer seem humanlike has gone far enough in this iteration that we might have naturally outgrown this illusion of the monolithic truth of the internet or AI. It means there is a bit more choice and discernment and humanity back with the person who’s interacting with the thing.”


That’s all well and good, but what about AI replacing us in the workplace? ..

need to let go of work..

In You Are Not a Gadget, he wrote that the point of digital technology was to make the world more “creative, expressive, empathic and interesting”. Has it achieved that? “It has in some cases. There’s a lot of cool stuff on the internet. I think TikTok is dangerous and should be banned yet I love dance culture on TikTok and it should be cherished.” Why should it be banned? “Because it’s controlled by the Chinese, and should there be difficult circumstances there are lots of horrible tactical uses it could be put to. I don’t think it’s an acceptable risk. It’s heartbreaking because a lot of kids love it for perfectly good reasons.”

As for Twitter, he says it has brought out the worst in us. “It has a way of taking people who start out as distinct individuals and converging them into the same personality, optimised for Twitter engagement. That personality is insecure and nervous, focused on personal slights and affronted by claims of rights by others if they’re different people. The example I use is Trump, Kanye and Elon [Musk, who now owns Twitter]. Ten years ago they had distinct personalities. But they’ve converged to have a remarkable similarity of personality, and I think that’s the personality you get if you spend too much time on Twitter. It turns you into a little kid in a schoolyard who is both desperate for attention and afraid of being the one who gets beat up. ..He smiles. “I always thought social media was bullshit. It was obviously just this dumb thing from the beginning.”

There is much about the internet of which he is still proud. He says that virtual reality headsets now used are little different from those he introduced in the 1980s, and his work on surgical simulation has had huge practical benefits. ..There is also huge potential, he says, for AI to help us tackle climate change, and save the planet.

oi.. to me..

need 1st/most: means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature so we can org around legit needs

imagine if we listened to the itch-in-8b-souls 1st thing everyday & used that data to connect us (tech as it could be.. ai as augmenting interconnectedness)

But he has also seen the very worst of AI. “I know people whose kids have committed suicide with a very strong online algorithm contribution. So in those cases life was taken. It might not be possible from this one human perspective to say for sure what the giant accounting ledger would tell us now, but whatever that answer would be I’m certain we could have done better, and I’m sure we can and must do better in the future.”

missing pieces.. wherever a person is..

Again, that word, human. The way to ensure that we are sufficiently sane to survive is to remember it’s our humanness that makes us unique, he says. “A lot of modern enlightenment thinkers and technical people feel that there is something old-fashioned about believing that people are special – for instance that consciousness is a thing. They tend to think there is an equivalence between what a computer could be and what a human brain could be.” Lanier has no truck with this. “We have to say consciousness is a real thing and there is a mystical interiority to people that’s different from other stuff because if we don’t say people are special, how can we make a society or make technologies that serve people?”.. t

mufleh humanity lawwe have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity– Luma Mufleh

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..

need 1st/most: means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature so we can org around legit needs

ie: tech as it could be

lanier beyond words law et al


jaron on humanity