Tag Archives: Webstock

Bruce Sterling sideswipes AI evangelism

Bruce Sterling’s keynote speech at the Webstock conference in New Zealand last month contained the usual high concentration of non-fic eyeball kicks, and is well worth a read if you’re at all interested in the culture of the web, modern economics and the near future.

As usual, there are loads of provocative little asides nestled in the narrative, and I was particularly taken by this backhander to the face of artificial intelligence advocates:

I really think it’s the original sin of geekdom, a kind of geek thought-crime, to think that just because you yourself can think algorithmically, and impose some of that on a machine, that this is “intelligence.” That is not intelligence. That is rules-based machine behavior. It’s code being executed. It’s a powerful thing, it’s a beautiful thing, but to call that “intelligence” is dehumanizing. You should stop that. It does not make you look high-tech, advanced, and cool. It makes you look delusionary.

There’s something sad and pathetic about it, like a lonely old woman whose only friends are her cats. “I had to leave my 14 million dollars to Fluffy because he loves me more than all those poor kids down at the hospital.”

This stuff we call “collective intelligence” has tremendous potential, but it’s not our friend — any more than the invisible hand of the narcotics market is our friend.

Zing! I think we can be certain that Sterling doesn’t subscribe to any of the three schools of Singularitarianism.