It’s no secret that I have significant fears about the role of technology in our lives. Those of you who have listened to my song Machines Taking Over the World will know this is a big issue for me.
Well, today I had someone come to my flat to fix a problem in the bathroom. Before he carried out the work (it was a very simple fix) he got a tablet out of his bag and started answering questions on the screen. He voiced his frustration at the fact that, even as a plumber, the digital world has made his job more difficult in certain ways.
I voiced my sympathy with the plumber, and said the following:
The problem with technology, and machines, is that they make everything black and white, whereas in reality, life isn’t black and white.
I think this argument sums up why machines will never be able to do so many things as well as human beings. Scientists often get very enthusiastic about the capabilities of artificial intelligence to carry out a range of tasks, but anyone who has ever used technology will appreciate that it goes wrong so much of the time for this exact reason: organic beings do not do things in binary ways. There are always infinite possibilities regarding how events can unfold in any given situation. Computers simply can’t cope with that, and they never will be able to.
Now I’m not anti-technology per se; I love my MacBook and my iPhone which improve my life in many ways. But I will keep making the argument that technology should be employed in a strictly limited and controlled way if we are to avoid colossal societal catastrophes in the future due to a simple ‘nought’ or ‘one’ being out of place somewhere.
The over-excitement that many tech enthusiasts feel about AI makes me very angry, because I can clearly see that these people haven’t fully considered the consequences of their actions. Making machines that are ever more powerful is something that many people lust over, but it’s a kind of insanity that may prove catastrophic in the near future if we’re not careful. We have to learn to use technology only when it is advantageous to human (or creaturely) flourishing, not just because it boosts our egos to know that we have created something powerful.