Steve Omohundro's Talk
This was a couple of weeks ago but I had to write about it because I was so happy through it: Steve Omohundro’ s wonderful talk, AI and Transhuman Morality, organized by the Sillicon Valley transhumanist meetup. I brought Mauro with me and I was very nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. A couple of days ago I had gone to an AI meetup in the same room (in the wonderful TechShop) and it had been confusing and somewhat disappointing: we watched an overly long video, had some haphazard if interesting discussion, and it all ended up abruptly without me being able to make up my mind of the strange event (where these people quacks? mad geniuses? autists? were all meetings this awkward?).
Anyway, we went and I’m happy we did because I enjoyed Steve’s wonderful two-hour presentation so much I was smiling like an idiot the whole time (at one point, I even clutched Mauro to tell him simply, “I am happy” — and it was true). As I said, it was more than two hours long but I honestly didn’t want the presentation to end, particularly when so many of the interventions where, wonder of wonders, relevant and interesting of themselves.
The presentation was divided in 2 halves. The 1st for reviewing what we know of human morality, the 2nd for contemplating what AI morality will be like. Both were fascinating and chock full of surprising, cutting-edge ideas (and book recommendations!), but it was the 2nd where I was truly overjoyed, for, you see, it was when Steve plunged into how an AI’s morality might be structured.
I was struck by how the utility function ethics he considered for AIs were exactly the kind of ethics I had chanced on one day, not long ago, when in my desire to clarify how and for what I wanted to live, I thought, wrote, and rewrote about ethics with the most honesty and rigor I could muster. Heck, we even used the same examples! You have no idea how good it felt to finally find a fellow freak who not only understood and care about my conclusions but who had arrived to them through entirely different paths (conclusions like how ethics hinge entirely on purposes or goals and how we’re in for an ethical ride when these become much more varied and malleable than they’ve ever been before). Back in Guadalajara I talked about this all the time but no one ever really got it (or much cared).
Ah, this kind of stuff was why I came to the bay area! (Mauro liked it a lot too, saying afterwards he had felt as one should feel after going to mass — full of awe and excitement.)