Getting to Yes, And

Evolutionary Intelligence


W. Russell Neuman

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Kelly talks to W. Russell Neuman,  a specialist in new media and digital education at New York University - whose career has also taken him to MIT and the White House - to discuss his new book “Evolutionary Intelligence: How Technology Will Make Us Smarter.”

You are decidedly someone who is not fearful of new technologies and, specifically, AI.

“When a new technology demonstrates some particular strengths, we go, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ So, there will be a hype cycle. We're probably at the peak of the hype cycle this year, and then there'll be some dramatic failures from which we will learn. But I think modesty, and avoiding the kind of hubris that implies that we've got the answer to everything is important. That said, my role in the public discussion about AI and its use in the minority, as so many of my colleagues have said, ‘Beware! Siri wants to kill you!’ And I keep saying, ‘I'm not so sure she does.”

So, where do you think this fear of technology in the human race comes from?

"Kelly, you're a storyteller. You're a student of the narrative as our many of us professionally. I just wanted to back up a little bit and say why is it that humans are so resonant with the notion of a story? And I think the answer is, if you think about the 400,000 years that modern humans have been roaming around the globe, we've only had partial speech. It was mostly grunts and gestures and partial language, and certainly no written language. So how do you remember stuff? Well, you tell epic stories, and one thing happens after another. And that's sort of how it makes it possible for the human brain to organize and make sense of a very complicated and confusing world. And there's a moral to the tale often that helps us make judgments in the future. So, if you think about it, that's why, when we project onto these robots that want to kill us: that's an anthropomorphic projection, because we grew up in the jungles and grasslands fighting for scarce resources against other humans and probably other animals; and computers didn't grow up that way.”

You also talk about our need to frame our relationship with AI in terms of a collaboration.

“When we think about intelligence, we usually think of you know, Einstein or some individual: an extremely bright, creative and perceptive person. But, really, in terms of when science gets developed, we've discovered that collaborative, collective, interactive, cooperative human behavior generates much better planning and smarter perception of what's going on. And so, what these technologies do is not just provide input from some database, but it provides collaborative intelligence.”

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