What makes us human, and how do we preserve that in an age when artificial intelligence is encroaching on our lives? Paul Mason, a former BBC correspondent, looks for answers in his new book.
“Suppose there was a machine that knew more than you… and could make better decisions than you. Would you hand control of all the important decisions in your life to that machine?” Mason writes in Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being.
Mason calls for a radical defence of the human being, with his or her universal rights and freedoms. He goes into his personal experiences — his childhood in an English mining community, his reporting on mass protests in Istanbul and riots in Washington — to show that the notion of humanity has eroded. Yet he offers a vision of humans as more than puppets, customers or cogs in a machine.
In its review, The Guardian describes Mason as underestimating the real danger — the “value alignment problem”: how to give AIs the right goals and values to ensure that things turn out well from a human perspective.
“Mason blunders his way through the value alignment problem, failing to recognise its subtleties,” the review states, but acknowledges: “Mason does do us an important service by reminding us that AI risk, like the risk posed by climate change, is something we all have to be vigilant about, and is not just a problem for thinktanks and tech firms.”