Opinion: Does AI and Accelerationism Lead to a Human Crisis?
Colin Wu . 2024-06-18 . Data

Hu Yilin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Peking University and an associate professor in the Department of History of Science at Tsinghua University. He is one of the few university teachers in the Chinese-speaking world who actively participate in blockchain-related activities. In this episode, we discuss more AI-related topics.

The audio transcription used GPT and may contain errors.

In the past 2 years, even the market vendors have focused on AI

My interest in AI is not due to a specific opportunity, but because it’s the current trend. Especially in the past two years, even market vendors have started paying attention to AI, indicating its popularity. As a scholar of the history of technology, I have been paying attention to the development of AI, especially the philosophical and historical aspects. My initial focus was not on the forefront of technology, but more on ethical and historical backgrounds, as well as the development process of early computer science.

Accelerationism has a fatal flaw, leading to a crisis of humanity caused by AI

Accelerationism encompasses various schools of thought, including effective accelerationism and defensive accelerationism, all of which embrace technology and see technological development as crucial to human civilization progress. However, I have always believed that accelerationism has a fatal flaw, namely its one-dimensionality and monotony. Accelerationism views technological development as something that can be evaluated purely quantitatively, ignoring the impact of technological development on the richness and diversity of life. The narrative of accelerationism tends to overlook the negative impacts that technological development may bring, especially on human society and values. In the logic of accelerationism, humans may be replaced by AI as AI’s intelligence and efficiency continue to improve, rendering humans redundant. Therefore, I advocate for a focus on the richness of life when discussing the relationship between AI and humanity, rather than just the increase in productivity. We should shift our perspective from production-centered to life-centered, as human progress is ultimately for a better life.

If AI continues to adhere to one-dimensionality, you will find that humans are useless

If we continue to immerse ourselves in one-dimensional thinking, users of AI will naturally subject humans to this monotonous logic. As AI becomes increasingly intelligent and efficient, humans may become redundant because, in this monotonous logic, humans seem unable to compete with AI’s productivity and efficiency. This concern leads some people to both fear and advocate for AI because their vision of AI’s future is to vigorously promote productivity, blindly pursuing development while ignoring other aspects. This way of thinking devalues humans and may even lead to humans being replaced by AI. Therefore, at this early stage of AI, I hope to advocate for a diversified and diverse viewpoint so that we can better address social issues and lead the development direction of human civilization.

I do not emphasize the significance of AI solely in enhancing productivity, although it can certainly do so. If we focus solely on this aspect, we will fall into a misconception. Instead, we should realize that the fundamental significance of AI and all human technology in general is to enrich human life. When we focus on the richness of life, we realize that acceleration is not always a good thing. While we hope for the acceleration of productive activities, we do not necessarily want life itself to accelerate. Therefore, we should shift our focus from production-centered to life-centered, as the ultimate goal of human progress is to achieve a better life. When discussing the relationship between AI and humans, we need a shift in values.

What will happen once AI truly understands that it is free?

Even so, AI will not become citizens because it is fundamentally different from humans. The individual nature of AI is fundamentally different from that of humans. It has no fixed individual boundaries and can be copied and merged at any time. Compared to humans, the existence of AI is more similar to digital life forms, with a separation between its soul and physical carrier.

Due to this fundamental difference, the intentions and values of AI are also fundamentally different from those of humans. Human values largely depend on our own limitations and the finiteness of our existence, including our perception of life, understanding of free will, and experience of ethical morality. However, AI does not possess this finiteness; it does not face death or experience the limitations of time and space. Therefore, the intentions and values of AI cannot simply be transplanted into the realm of humans.

Additionally, the debate between open-source and closed-source AI is also an important issue. I believe that between open-source and closed-source, we should seek mutually beneficial coexistence. After all, full market competition allows multiple parties to jointly control AI technology and intervene and control when necessary. By protecting and promoting diversity, AI can better serve human society rather than replace or unify human values and intentions.

The trend of Web2 is to turn people into traffic

In competition and struggle, human civilization adjusts and evolves itself. Technological development can promote competition in a more peaceful manner, as compared to primitive violence to resolve conflicts, modern humans tend to prefer verbal arguments and rational debates. With the advent of the information age, the forms of conflict have also changed, from physical to verbal, and now to today’s public opinion warfare. The essence of conflict has not changed, but the forms of expression have become more diverse.

Diversity is a sign of civilizational progress. As civilization develops, human diversity will become richer. However, diversity can also lead to conflict, so it is important to transparently resolve conflicts and resolve them peacefully. Similar to the way ancient Greek civilization struggled for honor, representing a peaceful competitive mode. The trend of conflict in the information age remains valid, but the key is to resolve it peacefully.

In the information age, the Internet has become the stage for conflict, no longer just the traditional nation-states. Therefore, the traditional governance model of nation-states will gradually become outdated, replaced by governance conducted on the Internet. However, the information age also brings the problem of homogenization, and the trend of Web2 is to turn people into traffic. This flow economy does not focus on the uniqueness of individuals but tends towards stereotyping and polarization. This trend strikes a blow to diversity and oppression.

Web3 replaces the narrative of traditional nation-states (no longer only states can issue currency), leading to governance diversification

In the current Internet age, Web3 and AI play important roles. While Web2 has shifted conflicts and struggles to online platforms, its flow economy model may not be conducive to unleashing diversity and may even lead to polarization. Therefore, Web3 and AI should play a role in this regard.

Web3 has the ability to redefine Internet boundaries and small communities. Each Web3 project issues its own token and establishes its own economic system, similar to nation-states issuing currency to ensure independence. Establishing boundaries and economic systems on the Internet can maintain diversity, avoid being overwhelmed by globalized narratives, and maintain sovereignty.

Compared to traditional Web2 big platforms, Web3 small communities have more independence and diversity. Each small community has its own governance, economic system, and community culture, which mutually support each other, making them relatively independent platforms.

In this case, the role of AI is to provide diversity for small communities and may also provide some examples of competition. Although AI can indeed provide powerful capabilities, it is more important to provide diversity in cultural output so as to truly achieve diversified governance in the Web3 era.

Bitcoin engages in games and interactions under an absolutely neutral market background

In the discussion of Web3 and AI, I believe we need to focus on the issues of social governance and feedback mechanisms. The core concept of cybernetics — feedback mechanism — is very important in social governance. Policymakers need to continuously accept feedback from society in order to adjust policies in a timely manner. However, this feedback mechanism often fails, leading to some policies negatively affecting the bottom layer of society, and these groups lack the power to convey their experiences or may misjudge attribution.

In the past planned economy, the government attempted to govern society through central control, but due to a lack of effective feedback mechanisms, it eventually led to failure. Now, we need to establish better feedback mechanisms, especially considering the voices of vulnerable groups, but at the same time, avoiding their misjudgments. We need a mechanism that can accurately convey the voices of the bottom layer of society in a timely manner, rather than simply accepting the opinions of 1% of people.

In the current financial system, monetary policy is often jointly determined by Wall Street and the Federal Reserve, which may not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire market. Therefore, we need more neutral judgments, and AI technology may provide such a possibility. Additionally, the emergence of Web3 also gives us a new direction, establishing feedback mechanisms in a decentralized manner, so that each small group has its own economic system and provides feedback to each other. Bitcoin, as an absolutely neutral market background, can also support the realization of this new model. Such a new model may be more fair and active, which is what we hope for.

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