AI Debate Distorted by Controversial Longtermism Philosophy

JJohn August 27, 2023 5:16 AM

Longtermism, the controversial philosophy favored by Silicon Valley, is shaping the debate on artificial intelligence (AI), with critics arguing it distracts from real issues like data theft and biased algorithms. This piece dives into the influence of longtermism on AI discussions and its potential dangers.

Silicon Valley's longtermism shapes AI debate

Longtermism, the philosophy that has found favor among Silicon Valley’s tech moguls, is significantly influencing the artificial intelligence (AI) debate. Central to this philosophy is the idea that human extinction is a real possibility, a narrative that has been picked up and propagated by tech giants like Elon Musk. Critics, however, argue that this focus on extinction is derailing the conversation from pressing issues such as data theft and algorithm bias.

Longtermism's extinction focus: a distraction from real issues

Critics of longtermism have raised concerns that its fixation on human extinction is distracting from real and immediate problems associated with AI. Issues like data theft and biased algorithms, they argue, should be the prime focus of the AI debate. Unfortunately, the sensationalism surrounding the idea of human extinction is steering the conversation away from these significant challenges.

Longtermism's dangerous historical principles

The principles at the core of longtermism are seen by critics as alarmingly dangerous. The ideology is said to rest on principles that have historically been employed to justify grave atrocities like mass murder and genocide. This, critics argue, paints a troubling picture of the philosophy and its potential implications on the AI discourse.

Origins of longtermism and its ethical concerns

Longtermism, as we know it today, emerged from the work of Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom. His research and theories around existential risk and transhumanism - the notion that humans can be technologically enhanced - provided the foundation for the longtermist philosophy. However, this connection to transhumanism, which was linked to eugenics from the start, has raised serious ethical questions about longtermism.

Nick Bostrom, the philosopher who paved the way for longtermism, has faced accusations of endorsing eugenics. Bostrom listed 'dysgenic pressures' as an existential risk, raising concerns about his views. However, he has firmly denied these allegations, stating that he does not support eugenics in the way it is traditionally understood - a tool used to justify some of the gravest atrocities of the last century.

There is growing belief among critics that the focus on human extinction in the AI debate is less about genuine concern for humanity and more about profitability. The argument is that the narrative of human extinction is more sensational and captivating, thereby driving more attention and, ultimately, more profit. This, critics argue, is at the expense of addressing real issues like wage discrepancies and exploitation of artists and writers.

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