Bioethics Blogs

“Computers Helping Computers Help People Help Computers”

That was how one wag, a fellow undergrad at my college in the late 70’s, rewrote “people making computers to help people,” the “tag line” that IBM was using in its TV commercials at the time.  It got a good laugh.  Indeed, it sounded more accurate than the original.

Even more so now, I was reminded last week by an interview on the Fox Business Channel with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.  The upshot:  although he had been a serious skeptic of artificial intelligence, he is now sufficiently surprised and alarmed to reassess his view about what computers might achieve.  The current reality and near-term prospects for computerized automation looks like it will clearly supplant an increasing number of heretofore uniquely human activities, with troubling implications for what will be left for people to do.

Consider:  stock trades are done by computer, more efficiently than by people.  The folks (mostly guys) are gone from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  Self-driving cars.  The prospect that goods ordered on the internet will be delivered by drone in, oh, say 10 minutes instead of by some unreliable delivery person.  Industrial robots replacing human workers.  Robot dogs, for cryin’ out loud.   You don’t have to believe in so-called “strong AI,” the notion that the sould, or something like it, will emerge from a future computer, kind of like Dr. Lanning thought in I, Robot and Ray Kurzweil thinks in real life.  (Why, music from Kurzweil’s synthesizer can be pretty darn indistinguishable from a “real” musical instrument, I understand.)  You just have to think that computers can fool us into thinking, for example, we are talking to a real person from wherever (India?) than to a computer on a telephone call to an automated service line.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.