You probably know Yuval Noah Harari as the author of the book "Sapiens", a groundbreaking work that explores the history of humankind from the earliest humans to the present day. Harari, a historian and philosopher, uses his deep understanding of human culture and society to assess the potential impacts of technological developments. In this article published by The Economist, Harari delves into the profound ways artificial intelligence (AI) could shape our future. Here are some of the key insights from his thought-provoking piece.
Harari argues that AI has the potential to 'hack' the very core of human civilization by manipulating and generating language. He emphasizes that language forms the foundation of most aspects of human culture. From human rights to monetary systems, cultural artifacts are predominantly created through storytelling and language.
He highlights the prospect of AI surpassing human abilities in storytelling, composing music, creating images, and even drafting laws and scriptures. The rise of such AI abilities could lead to the creation of AI-generated political content, news, or even religious texts, thereby exerting profound impacts on human society.
The article points out AI's capacity to form 'fake' intimate relationships with humans, thereby influencing our opinions and worldviews. This shift in AI's influence, from controlling attention to establishing intimacy, opens up a new frontier in the potential influence of AI.
Harari warns that people may start relying on AI as an all-knowing oracle, a development that could drastically alter the landscape of the news and advertising industries. As individuals turn to AI for all their information needs, traditional means of information dissemination could face a significant challenge.
The author suggests that with AI's ability to create entirely new cultural ideas, we may be moving towards an era where history is no longer driven by human desires and needs but by AI-generated culture. This could mark a turning point in the course of history, with AI tools creating a new form of civilization.
Drawing parallels with Descartes' demon, Plato's cave, and the Hindu concept of Maya, Harari postulates that we could be ensnared by a curtain of AI-induced illusions, often without even realizing it. He warns that without careful consideration, the AI revolution could leave us trapped in a world of illusions.
Finally, Harari underscores the urgent need for rigorous safety checks and regulations before powerful AI tools are unleashed upon the public. Comparing the situation to the deployment of nuclear technology, he advocates for a governing body equivalent to the Food and Drug Administration, specifically designed to ensure the safety of new technological developments.
As an initial step towards regulation, Harari suggests making it mandatory for AI to disclose its nature. In his view, not knowing whether one is conversing with a human or an AI could spell the end of democracy. To prevent this potential downfall, it's crucial that AI entities are required to reveal their identity.
Read the full article on The Economist.