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Tim Knight has been charting and trading since 1987. His first stock trade was, in fact, on October 19, 1987 – the day of the crash – which perhaps goes a long way explaining his disposition ... more

Don’t Fear the Future

Date: Saturday, September 28, 2019 7:22 PM EST

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was grab a random volume of the World Book Encyclopedia, flop down on the couch, and just read random entries (the modern day equivalent of this would be to click the Random Article link in Wikipedia). Some letters of the alphabet were better than others, and a favorite of mine was the “C” volume, since it had an article about computers.

At the start of the article was an illustration of a kid, not much different than me, next to the Empire State Building. The caption said that if there was a computer that was as powerful as the human mind, it would be that big. Although I can see now that World Book was pandering to its audience, I nonetheless always felt a little flattered that I had such a powerful machine in my little cranium.

Years later, I had a real computer – – a reality I never imagined possible as a younger child – – and one of the first programs I bought for my TRS-80 Model I system was Eliza, which was sort of a pretend electronic psychologist. Eliza had actually been created at MIT in the 1960s, and as simple as it was, conversing with it actually seemed pretty natural (and was much cheaper than an actual therapist):

I am reminded of all this since I just finished reading Nick Bostrum’s widely-acclaimed book Superintelligence (it only costs like six bucks, so you might consider getting yourself a copy here). The book, brilliant as it is, does a tremendous amount of hand-wringing about how artificially intelligent machines pose an existential risk to mankind, and how we had better get our act together with respect to these creations to make sure they don’t wipe all of us out.

What I find striking about predictions from technologists is, bluntly, how dumb they can be. Look, I’m no brain trust. These guys have degrees and credentials I could never aspire to possess. And yet, time and again, as smart as these scientists and PhDs are, their prognostications and predictions are so fundamentally empty-headed, that I sometimes wonder if intellect is circular, and once you reach a certain degree of genius, you start orbiting around the “Dumb” mark on the playing board.

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