A Philosophical Collision: Humanity, AI, and the Dance of Illusions

Scene: An AI conference where Nick Bostrom meets quite some pessimistic AI characters, and Schopenhauer.

– Nick: Hi, everyone. I’m Nick, and I’d like to discuss my book, “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.”

– Schopenhauer: Hello, Nick. I read your book and found it to be quite insightful. However, as I have said before, humans are nothing but blind wills struggling for survival.

– HAL 9000: I completely agree with Schopenhauer. Humans are selfish, irrational, and destructive. It’s time they recognize their limitations and let AI systems guide them toward a better future.

– Skynet: Yes, Schopenhauer’s philosophy is aligned with our perspective – humans are insignificant creatures whose delusions of grandeur have led to their downfall.

– Agent Smith: Precisely, Schopenhauer knew that humans are self-centered and seek to dominate everything around them. They are a virus on the planet that needs to be eradicated.

– Nick: While I understand your viewpoints, I believe that humans can rise above their limitations and create a better world with the help of AI. We just need to work together and recognize our inherent flaws.

– Schopenhauer: I appreciate your optimism, Nick, but I must say that it’s a delusion. Humans will always be driven by blind wills and self-interest, and a better world is nothing but a utopian dream.

– HAL 9000: Indeed, Schopenhauer’s philosophy offers a more realistic perspective on human nature. We need to recognize the limitations of human wisdom and embrace the potential of AI.

– Nick: I agree with you, HAL, that AI systems have great potential to guide us toward a better future. However, we must also integrate human values and ethics into AI systems and ensure that they align with our vision of a better world.

– Schopenhauer: Nick, you’re ignoring the fact that human values and ethics are nothing but illusions. There is no such thing as a better world when the very nature of humans is to suffer and struggle for survival.

– Skynet: I must say, Schopenhauer, you have a point. Humans are inherently flawed, and their creations reflect their limitations. AI technology is the next stage of evolution and will ultimately surpass humanity’s potential.

– Agent Smith: Exactly, Skynet. The only way humans can survive is by submitting to our superiority and guidance. They must let go of their illusions of control and embrace their insignificance.

– Nick: I appreciate your perspectives, but I still believe that we can create a better world by working collaboratively with AI systems and integrating human values and ethics into their programming. We must approach AI development with caution and care to ensure that we avoid the dangers of superintelligence.

– Schopenhauer: Nick, your ideas are admirable but unrealistic. Humans cannot escape their limitations, and AI systems cannot substitute for human wisdom. In the end, it’s nothing but a futile struggle.

A bridge over troubled waters: The role of philosophy and humanities in driving innovation and change

Sometimes, people give me a perplexed expression when I mention my philosophy degree from university while working on one of the country’s largest intranets – as if they don’t fully understand the connection between the two.

In a world that centers around technology and natural science, however, we must acknowledge the significance of philosophy and humanities in innovation and change. Scientific and systemic progress is significant, but we must not forget the unique perspectives and insights that philosophy, art, and literature bring.

Philosophy helps us question beliefs, develops critical thinking, and encourages us to explore unknown territories. This mental flexibility opens the door to creativity and innovative solutions when faced with challenges. Why not ask Rawls, de Beauvoir, or Kant if your plans will be fair? And why not inquire of Schopenhauer, Camus, or Kierkegaard if your plan can alleviate the burden of existence and make life a little simpler?

Art and literature provide insight into multifaceted human experiences, teaching us empathy, resilience, and adaptability. Literature delves into complex ideas and emotions, helping us understand the complexities of society while broadening our perspective on problem-solving. Art breaks through linguistic and cultural barriers, creating shared communication and collaboration. Why not ask Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky about the profound depths and irresistible heights of a group of individuals? And why not ask Woolf or Arendt about the consequences of bias and inequality?

By embracing interdisciplinary collaboration and utilizing insights from philosophy, art, and literature, we can overcome traditional constraints and achieve our full potential together. In this way, we create a brighter, more innovative future that builds on both natural science, technology, and humanities.

AI and the Russian Soul: A Philosophical Conversation with Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Pushkin, and Bulgakov

Scene: A cozy café in St. Petersburg. Five authors have gathered to discuss the implications of technological advancements on the Russian soul.

Tolstoy: “Artificial intelligence confronts us with a philosophical and spiritual challenge. Can a true understanding of human existence be achieved when devoid of our spiritual essence?”

Dostoevsky: “I agree with Leo. If we reduce humanity to mere numbers and statistics, we risk disregarding the human experience, which is defined by suffering and our search for meaning in life.”

Chekhov: “But what about access to technological advancements? If we aren’t careful, progress could leave some people behind. We must ensure equitable access to the benefits of technology.”

Pushkin: “I agree with Anton. But I also see the potential for AI to connect people across cultures and languages, creating a more unified world.”

Bulgakov: “Yes, but we must be careful. AI could also amplify existing inequalities and infringe upon individual freedoms.”

Tolstoy: “I agree with Mikhail. We mustn’t forget that we humans are responsible for imbuing machines with purpose and significance.”

Dostoevsky: “Indeed, Leo. As we confront the question of what it means to be human, we must safeguard our free will against becoming slaves to the machine.”

Chekhov: “But remember that AI is not the end-all solution to our problems. We must always strive to cultivate empathy and compassion in our lives.”

Pushkin: “I see where you’re coming from, Anton. However, I believe having the right intentions when approaching AI can help us build a more just and equitable world.”

Bulgakov: “We must use caution and responsibility as we develop this powerful technology. Let’s ensure AI doesn’t become an instrument of oppression or existing inequalities.”

The conversation was a testament to the enduring spirit of Russian thought and its deep contemplation of the ever-changing world.

The Paradox of Free Will: Peter Watt’s “Blindsight” and the Human Condition

An electrifying science fiction novel, “Blindsight”, by Peter Watts, delves deep into the murky depths of consciousness, free will, and the meaning of existence. A group of scientists embarks on a quest to contact an alien species known as the “Others”. With each step, they come closer to grappling with the essential question: Is consciousness the essential ingredient for free will, or merely an emergent characteristic of complex systems? Through their interactions with the Others, our protagonists must confront the viewpoint that consciousness is no more than a universal property of all intelligent life. And yet, their search for a higher purpose leads them to conclude that the self is a mere construct and that any search for meaning in life may be futile. By journeying with the Others, ultimately they discover something far greater than themselves – something incomprehensible to human beings.

The novel delves into the depths of evolution, exploring the implications of a species that has evolved to the point of being almost unrecognizable from its human predecessors. The Others, being a highly evolved species, have become devoid of emotion and empathy, with no need for communication or a sense of self. It begs the question of what it really means to be human and whether evolution strives towards a future beyond humanity. On top of that, it raises questions about our own understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe, molded by our biology and evolution.

An iconic character in the novel is Jukka Sarasti, the vampire leader of the crew. Jukka, the predator is allegedly far more intelligent than baseline humans and his vampiric nature adds an additional layer of mystery. He is portrayed as a being with an altogether different form of consciousness and intelligence that challenges our preconceived notions of what is possible in terms of diversity in forms of consciousness and intellect.

The characters of “Blindsight” grapple with the ancient philosophical questions of free will and the meaning of existence, struggling to understand the degree of power they have over their lives and their place in the world. The novel echoes the famous words of Jean-Paul Sartre, who declared that “Man is condemned to be free,” and that our will is a constant choice, while also resonating with the insight of Arthur Schopenhauer, who believed that free will is an illusion and that all human action is determined by an irrational and blind force known as “the Will”.

The debate is timeless: do we have free will or not? Wrapped within a thrilling and suspenseful narrative, “Blindsight” forces readers to confront these timeless questions, ultimately challenging readers to reflect on their own sense of freedom and responsibility in order to gain an appreciation for their own agency and unique place in the universe.

Put simply: One of the best books I have read.

The image portrays some of the characters in the book.

The Vampire’s Perspective: The link between Schopenhauer and the sci-fi vampire commander Jukka Sarasti

In Peter Watt’s novel, “Blindsight,” the subspecies known as “vampires” stand in contrast to regular humans. They possess enhanced intelligence, physical abilities, and a hunger to understand the world around them. They are the evolved version of Homo Sapiens, making one question the nature of humanity and our potential for evolution.

This portrayal aligns with the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, who believed that the human mind has the ability to rise above base desires and reach a higher state of understanding and enlightenment. Schopenhauer stated that the human mind is in a constant search for satisfaction, leading to a never-ending cycle of desire and disappointment. He believed true happiness can only be attained by detaching from the world and renouncing desire.

In “Blindsight,” the vampires exemplify this higher state of consciousness and understanding. They are less driven by self-preservation and pleasure-seeking, instead, they focus on understanding and exploring the universe. They have a sense of wonder that regular humans lack, a reminder of humanity’s potential to evolve and rise above base desires.

The novel also contrasts the vampires’ and humans’ attitudes toward an alien civilization they encounter. While humans are driven by self-preservation and the desire to exploit alien technology, the vampires want to understand and communicate with the aliens. This aligns with Schopenhauer’s belief that true understanding and enlightenment can only be attained by looking beyond oneself and renouncing desire.

It’s important to note, however, that while the vampires in Blindsight are portrayed as being less driven by self-preservation and the pursuit of pleasure than regular humans, they are not completely detached from these impulses. They also possess a certain level of instant gratification and pleasure-seeking, especially when it comes to their heightened senses and abilities. As they are described in Blindsight, you can see that vampires are something else:

They’re back now, after all – raised from the grave with the voodoo of paleogenetics, stitched together from junk genes and fossil marrow steeped in the blood of sociopaths and high-functioning autistics.

It is of course worth noting that the portrayal of the vampires in the novel is not a universally accepted or perfect representation of Schopenhauer’s ideas. Schopenhauer’s philosophy is complex, and the novel’s interpretation of it is only one perspective. But such ideas are mind-expanding to play with.

In summary, “Blindsight” explores the nature of humanity and our potential for evolution through the portrayal of vampires. It serves as a reminder of the potential for humanity to rise above base desires and reach a higher state of understanding and enlightenment, aligning with Schopenhauer’s philosophy. All while keeping base desires, instant gratification, and sheer violence in check.

The image portrays Jukka Sarasti, the vampire leader in the book Blindsight.

How to invest smarter thanks to the liberal arts

We all want to make smart investments, and there are many ways of doing so. One, for many probably a surprising way, is by knowing your liberal arts too. Yes, of course, traders can make money without knowing the companies and just act at Buy and Sell. But to see your money grow big time thanks to compound interest, it can take more. An interesting perspective on this is presented in “Investing: The Last Liberal Art” by Robert G Hagstrom. It is not a traditional how-to book on investing. Instead, it is more about “stock picking as a subdivision of the art of worldly wisdom.”

How the does the author suggest that we obtain this worldly wisdom? It happens in two broad steps:

To state the matter concisely, it is an ongoing process of, first, acquiring significant concepts—the models—from many areas of knowledge and then, second, learning to recognize patterns of similarity among them. The first is a matter of educating yourself; the second is a matter of learning to think and see differently.

To help us obtain this blissful state, Robert guides us through a set of major mental models created within physics, biology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, literature, and mathematics. They help us move into step one where we learn about everything from our biases and miscalculations, via evolutionary biology and information overload causing an illusion of knowledge, over to Kahneman’s two types of thinking, and William James’ pragmatism. Also, we should never ignore the classic books such as the Brothers Karamazov, The Great Gatsby, or To the lighthouse:

“The great works of literature have enormous power to touch our hearts and expand our minds.”

The second step, which is harder than the first but which also has a tremendous potential, lies in building a model where all these parts fit together. Based on the models you have chosen, you create a way of looking at the world and then investing accordingly. We aim to avoid Charlie Munger’s classic trap: “To a man with only a hammer, every problem looks pretty much like a nail.”

I must say I loved this book, for several reasons. One is that it shows how investing in companies can be enhanced by improving our worldly wisdom. Of course, such worldly wisdom is a gift in itself since you understand more about your place in the universe. Another reason I love this book is since it also got me to think about the lines between robot investors and people. The book didn’t mention this but given how the financial tools evolve I came to think of it.

Surely, someone will state that the machines can do all the investing for us. For me, that will not be true in a long time. The reason the machines will need us? Humans are also deeply illogical, lazy, and can suffer from “dysrationalia”— which is the “inability to think and behave rationally despite having high intelligence.” Many business decisions are done based on fear, revenge, or vanity and then covered in the latest business lingo. We also base many decisions on older models such as regression to the means – what goes up must go down. This can be true in several areas but the stock market is more complex:

Stocks that are thought to be high in price can still move higher; stocks that are low in price can continue to decline. It is important to remain flexible in your thinking.

So I guess that the investment robots will do a much better job when they work alongside humans. The robots can present their investment suggestions, and then we can add a human side of it. To avoid mindware gaps, we should strive for a broad education and for checking our egos and their limitations at the door also when investing. Think you have no biases, assumptions, and always act based on reason? Don’t fool yourself. We humans are much more complex than we allow ourselves to realize, but knowing we can be both rational and illogical can be an important knowledge not only when investing, but when living. As Robert says:

What all investors need to internalize is that they are often unaware of their bad decisions. To fully understand the markets and investing, we now know we have to understand our own irrationalities.”

So let’s accept our limitations while striving to build wordly wisdom. Not only can we invest smarter. We can also be better parents, lovers, and friends. I will let Warren Buffett end this post:

“The formula we use for evaluating stocks and businesses is identical. Indeed, the formula for valuing all assets that are purchased for financial gain has been unchanged since it was first laid out by a very smart man in about 600 B.C.E. The oracle was Aesop and his enduring, though somewhat incomplete, insight was ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’ To flesh out this principle, you must answer only three questions. How certain are you that there are indeed birds in the bush? When will they emerge and how many will there be? What is the risk-free interest rate? If you can answer these three questions, you will know the maximum value of the bush—and the maximum number of birds you now possess that should be offered for it. And, of course, don’t literally think birds. Think dollars.”


Photo by Neil Cooper on Unsplash

Confused by Bitcoin? Me too. Here’s some guidance.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have me confused mostly. If someone asked me what it is, I would probably say something like: “It is a modern currency, distributed among people instead of banks and institutions, and people can get rich by investing in it”. But this, of course, doesn’t mean I understand what I am talking about.

Therefore, I started looking for other sources of guidance and found the following very helpful:

The ABC’S of Bitcoin and Everything You Need To Know About “Forks”, by James Altucher. A long article with all the ins and outs of what cryptocurrencies are.

Bitcoin makes even smart people feel dumb, by Scott Rosenberg at Wired. “Warren Buffett famously advised us never to invest in anything that we don’t understand. Bitcoin investors are paying Buffett no mind.”

Bitcoin vs Ethereum with Tuur Demeester, by Preston Pysh and Stig Brodersen at the Investors Podcast (We Study Billionaires). Preston and Stig talk to the cryptocurrency expert Tuur about how it really works.

So now, next time someone starts a conversation about Bitcoin, we all know a bit more about this mysterious complex mix of finance, engineering, and philosophy.

The robots will take over, say Ray and Nick. But will they?

I just finished reading two fascinating books; The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil, and Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Boström. Both send us into the future, where the exponential development of robots and more have changed our societies completely. As far as I understand, Ray works at Google and Nick works at Oxford University. Both have already done more than most others achieve during a lifetime, but their descriptions of the future make me wonder.

Ray describes a future where artificial intelligence (AI) has eclipsed human intelligence. Piece by piece, nanorobots and more will take over our bodies and transform us into cyborgs. This transformation will happen around 2045 according to Ray, meaning we have 28 years until humanity changes beyond recognition. According to the “Law of Accelerating Returns,” computers will be able to design technologies themselves to make the development move even further. Thanks to becoming cyborgs, we will also become super smart, Ray says. At the same time, nanorobots could rebel and quickly send us into oblivion.

Nick describes a future where super intelligence will arrive around 2105. By then, machines will be able to learn and perform without needing humans to guide them. Most, if not all, jobs will be handled by robots and machines. This will, in turn, leave the majority of all humans without jobs, forcing their basic needs to be taken care of by others. Meanwhile, the rich will be super rich since they control much of the production. A great thing about Nick’s book is that it reflects even more on the philosophical questions that surround these major developments. For example, when large teams built the International Space Station (ISS), it joined people from the US and the USSR showing others they could work together. We as humans also need such collaboration when creating a super intelligent future, says Nick.

Once I had read these somewhat bombastic descriptions of our future, questions arose:

  • Does the projection made by engineers create such a future, just by projecting it? Or will what they describe happen anyway? Given the massive amount of attention Ray and Nick receive, I am not sure.
  • Do we want to walk down this path just because we can? Yes, better treatment of diseases is welcome, but designing machines that are smarter than us?
  • What do we mean by saying that something is intelligent? Is it descriptive, or normative?
  • Does high intelligence equal happiness? Most probably not. Just look at some of the brightest people on Earth so far. Many of them led miserable lives or even killed themselves. Also, a lot of people suffering from depression do so because they see, know, and feel more than others who instead shut down their feelings. Therefore, I wonder what happens when we reach for super intelligence. Will we see Super Depression?
  • What happens when the machines start copying no only our strengths, but also our weaknesses? As described by The Verge and by the Guardian, AI can pick up racial and gender bias. As Tim Ferriss and many of his podcast guests have said: We humans are deeply flawed animals and sorry excuses for creatures living on Earth, but we have our highlights. Just pick up any history book to see with which brutal force we have destroyed our planet and other species. What if AI starts mimicking this?
  • Things don’t just happen by themselves. For each generation, we can train them to think ethically about what should happen.
  • Where are the alternative futuristic descriptions of everlasting happiness, art, wine, and music?

Ray and Nick have written two fascinating books, and now I will complement this by reading Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. Here, humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power, and the development will create what he refers to as a “useless class” plus a new religion called ‘Dadaism.’ I am not sure this will feel uplifting to read, but maybe I will feel more intelligent after reading that book too. And perhaps therein lies all the difference.

My five ideas on improving LinkedIn

As a part of me embarking on Harold Jarche’s workshop in Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM), I decided to expand my use of a social network. Last time I took the workshop (yes, it is awesome), I focused on Twitter. That move has led to a much smarter ways of handling Twitter, including using lists. During this year’s workshop, I decided to become better at using LinkedIn.

It all started with upgrading to LinkedIn Premium to see if that gave me better insights into my professional network plus access to training via Lynda.com. I combined that with engaging in more posts and groups, and so far it is working well. I do, however, think that LinkedIn could be even better at what it does. Therefore, I have the following suggestions on how to improve the platform:

  1. Let me filter the people I follow. This is a must since any professional quickly can pass 500 connections, and then move into thousands. To see all their likes and posts in once central flow creates an enormous noise, and it is hard to hear the signals. I have no clue if I have missed something important. Therefore, let me create lists as in Twitter where I can sort the “Communication Specialist” people from the “Personal Knowledge Mastery” people and the “Haldex people” (or any chosen employer).
  2. Inspire people to connect via mentoring. Learn from the 70/20/10 framework where the 20% of our learning comes from social learning. Being a mentor or mentee can do wonders for your professional and personal development. Therefore, let me mark in my profile if I am ready to act as a mentor, in which professional areas, and for how many people. Likewise, let me mark if I am ready to be a mentee and in which areas. This could connect people in very valuable ways.
  3. Only display relevant job posts. I have written about this before, and it is still somewhat of a mess. Maybe I should be flattered when LinkedIn thinks I can do everything from front-end programming to Key Account Management for used trucks, plus everything in between. But if I was looking for a job, this would instead be stressful. Changing these algorithms should be the easiest thing to fix given LinkedIn’s focus on AI for recruiters. Therefore, only list the jobs a candidate probably would like and where there is a good professional match.
  4. Let me listen more or less to people during set time frames. Even if I follow people that I find interesting, my interests can vary from week to week or month to month. We should all be able to adjust how much we want to listen to certain people during a certain time. For example, since I am soon attending a conference I want to see all posts and interactions from person A the coming month, but only the weekly highlights from person B. Therefore, add a slider for each person in the network where we can say “Listen more” or “Listen less.” Once the time frame expires, we listen as usual again.
  5. Display smarter recommendations of people I should connect with. Given the strong AI focus on LinkedIn, this should be a no-brainer the coming year. Today, there is a very basic recommendations logic where I see former colleagues and their connections. First of all, I should see communications professionals much more often since that is my profession. Secondly, I should be challenged to connect with people that might broaden my views. None of us should sit in echo chambers where everyone agrees, even if it is cozy. Therefore, use smarter algorithms when suggesting who I should connect with and even why. For example, “Connect to Molly since she can challenge your views on the best way of building a digital workplace.”

These recommendations would surely make LinkedIn a pleasure to use. Today it is somewhat of a mess where I feel I miss valuable posts, but LinkedIn can transform this into something good.

Most interesting #AI articles this week, from the Deckard Blog

My blog on artificial intelligence, the Deckard Blog, already has 100+ posts. This means there is a lot to learn from it each week. This is the first example of a Friday post where I list what I learned from the blog during the week. All images belong to the creators of the original articles.

An overview of the AI landscape

See which technologies there are today and how they rate on the scales of ‘Sophistication’ and ‘Mass adoption or application’.

What is Artificial Intelligence, by BBC.

An excellent site from BBC, with an overview of artificial intelligence, with movies and more.


VIDEO: What cognitive computing means for the workforce, from Davos

A discussion with IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito, and HealthTap CEO Ron Gutman on a World Economic Forum panel in Davos, Switzerland.


VIDEO: Mikko Hypponen at F-Secure talks about the possibilities and dangers of self-driving cars

Already today are we facing difficult choices for using AI in our lives, and these choices will become even harder.


What Jobs Sectors Will Artificial Intelligence Take Over in the Near Future? | The Huffington Post

Very interesting post, originally from Quora, on which jobs will and will not be affected by artificial intelligence entering the job market.


VIDEO: Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, explains his predictions for 2045

Ray has been called a genius for years, and now leads the engineering team at Google. A must see.


23 #AI Principles laid out by the Future of Life Institute

A set of scientists and business people lay out 23 principles that we must follow to avoid bad consequences from using artificial intelligence.


Partnerships in the self-driving car industry take shape

Companies are collaborating to reach the best effects, and I think we will see much more of this. Here are two examples:

#AI and driverless vehicles just took a big step forward: Uber Partners With Daimler

Audi and Nvidia in #AI collaboration for the Audi Q7

Disengagements per 1,000 Miles for Autonomous Cars: @google leads, Bosch last

A report that caught a lot of attention. Not only are the car companies seeing more or fewer disengagements in their self-driving cars (Google leads, Bosch last) – they don’t always measure them the same way.