5 questions to Nick Bostrom

With help from Derek Robertson

Welcome back to our regular Friday feature, The future in five questions. Today we have Nick Bostrom, the author of “Superintelligence— the New York Times bestseller that united Elon Musk and Bill Gates over concerns about the existential risks of AI. His current research focuses, among other things, on the question of whether AI should have rights. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What is an underrated great idea?

The moral status of future digital minds. The idea is that as AI systems become more sophisticated and match smaller mammals in their abilities – and even more so as they approach human abilities – they might begin to claim a status. corresponding morale. This question is very much on the fringes of the debate, even if it is roughly now where AI security was in the period 2012-2014.

It would be premature for legislation to enter into this area. There are still so many fundamental unknowns here. We do not understand exactly what would be the criteria for which a digital mind is conscious or when it has other properties that could give it moral status.

What is one technology that you think is overrated?

A few years ago, I thought 3D printing was overrated. Like, oh, in the future everyone will have a 3D printer at home! It always seemed implausible to me that you would want to print your little plastic utensils and replace your china with that. Even if you could print this coffee mug, what was the limiting factor in getting your hands on a consumer coffee mug in the first place?

Which book shaped your conception of the future the most?

K. Eric Drexler”Creation Engineswhere he laid out his vision for the future of nanotechnology in 1986. Then there was a book by a philosopher, John Leslie, “The end of the worldwhich was an early example of trying to think about the risks to our future. And also a book by Hans Moravec, “Think of the childrenwas one of the first discussions about the future of AI.

What could the government be doing about technology that it is not doing?

Legislators and regulators should be more aware of the rapid advances in synthetic biology.

The culture in the field of nuclear physics was very different after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nuclear physicists realized that what they were doing was not just creative science, but that they had a certain responsibility and need for secrecy when their work could be used to make nuclear weapons technology.

This same understanding is not widespread in the world of biotechnology. The focus is still on democratizing access, open publication and making tools available, but it’s as dangerous a field as nuclear physics – more so, in fact, because even if you knew exactly all the designs and all the tools and all the tricks needed to make nuclear weapons, you still couldn’t make one because you would need raw materials that were very hard to get, whereas in biology you wouldn’t You’re not really limited to difficult ingredients – so all you need is knowledge.

What surprised you the most this year?

Failure to fund the pandemic preparedness bill – in particular the inability to finance it entirely the first time. I had thought, given COVID, it would be one of the few things that would have bipartisan support. I would have thought that a lot of political interests would have been served by pushing for this.

POLITICO’s Morning Money had a report this morning over a proposal for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to regulate crypto – and the infighting it sparked in the industry.

Blockchain Association executive director Kristin Smith told MM’s Sam Sutton and Kate Davidson that the legislative proposal “doesn’t seem fully ready for prime time yet,” reflecting controversy that has erupted over a few key changes. potential in a draft published by crypto attorney Gabriel Shapiro.

One objection was quite predictable: some of these changes would involve the SEC more closely in crypto regulation, which is anathema to the industry. However, the other objection came from unlikely quarters: the progressive Center for American Progress, which had endorsed the bill in an effort to persuade Democrats to back a measure that could at least provide some modicum of regulation and protection. consumers for industry.

Get the whole storyincluding a threat from CAP’s Todd Phillips that he could still “change [his] position on the bill and work to defeat it,” at Morning Money. — Derek Robertson

As AI takes over the world of technology, What do investors with skin in the game think of the dizzying list of developments over the past year and their potential policy implications?

The concise title “2022 State of AI Reportfrom AI investors Nathan Benaich and Ian Hogarth, gives a little insight. The document is packed with analysis of what’s happening at the forefront of research and within the tech industry, but the “politics” section of the report contains particularly relevant information, including:

  • Academia has almost entirely fallen behind industry in research, with implications for “AI security, pursuit of diverse ideas, concentration of talent, etc. »
  • AI Wins Big Investments in Defense Industry, Including Anduril’s $7 Billion Dept of Defense Contract
  • China cut off from NVIDIA and AMD chips could spark its own AI R&D

The report also touches on security, noting that the UK and EU are much more proactive on the subject, even as researchers around the world are increasingly worried. — Derek Robertson

  • Take a look at some of the ways AI is is already transforming craft of artists.
  • Microsoft gives a major boost to its investment in OpenAI.
  • Some Chinese manufacturers are already skirting the Biden administration’s chip bans.
  • A Bloody New Era drone war rises in Ukraine.
  • Web3 Investor Thinks Meta Needs To Pump Even more money in the metaverse.

Stay in touch with the whole team: Ben Schrecker ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Steve Heuser ([email protected]); and Benton Ives ([email protected]). Follow us @DigitalFuture on Twitter.

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