Intelligence is not Artificial

by piero scaruffi

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(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")

Intermezzo: A Remedy to the Echo Chamber

Humans cannot be trusted with their most important decisions. While studying the psychology of judgment, the Israeli-born psychologists Daniel Kahneman at Princeton and Amos Tversky at Stanford demonstrated that we pretend (and convince ourselves) to be objective and rational when in fact we are not ("Subjective Probability", 1972). Emily Pronin introduced the expression "bias blind spot" to describe the fact that we excel at noticing the flaws of others, not our own ("The Bias Blind Spot", 2002). In a nutshell: i am too stupid to understand how stupid i am. If you think that you are too intelligent to fall into this category, think again: a study by Richard West of James Madison University and Keith Stanovich of the University in Toronto showed that you are precisely the problem ("Cognitive Sophistication does not Attenuate the Bias Blind Spot", 2012) . In fact, the smarter you are, the more vulnerable you are to some silly mistakes And there is nothing worse than someone who is not smart but thinks that he is smart: unfortunately, David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University discovered that this is a very common phenomenon ("Unskilled and Unaware of It", 1999). We assume to be "competent enough" for sound judgment when we are actually "incompetent enough" to infer terrible judgment. It is precisely my incompetence that makes me think that i am competent.
Possibly the most human of tendencies is the "confirmation bias" (as Peter Wason called it in 1960), already noticed 500 years ago by Francis Bacon in his "Novum Organum": we tend to pick the information that confirms what we already believe. We want to live inside an "echo chamber". That's precisely the opposite of what Karl Popper asked science to do in 1959: falsifiability is the criterion that distinguishes science from mere chatter. It turns out that we don't really like to be proven wrong. We tend to like people who like us. Subconsciously, i apply this simple rule to every person: the faster you realize that i am smarter than you, the smarter you must be; i rate your I.Q. as inversely proportional to how long it takes you to fully agree with me, i.e. to recognize that i am more intelligent than you.
Social media have compounded this tendency. As of 2017, Google filters the search results based on your previous clicks, and Facebook customized your feeds based on your past behavior (what you clicked on and what you liked), so you mostly consume news and opinions that confirm your opinions, and you mostly find what you already found before. Farhad Manjoo, in her book "True Enough" (2008), argued that the new digital media are restructuring society into a set of isolated tribes whose members consume only that information which confirms their beliefs. The Internet is not the "global village" that Marshall McLuhan foresaw in "The Gutenberg Galaxy" (1962) but a federation of tribes that are drifting further apart each day because digital media makes us live inside a rapidly expanding echo chamber. Our echo chamber is the biggest it has ever been.
This long preamble is meant to show you that you are not to be trusted with any decision: you are biased, you always were, and now you are even more biased because you live inside the biggest echo chamber ever.
In 1933 the British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote an essay titled "The Triumph of Stupidity" after the Nazist Party of Adolf Hitler won the German elections. Had only A.I. bots be allowed to vote in the 1933 elections, would Hitler have won? Had only A.I. bots voted in the 2016 election, would a vulgar real-estate tycoon with a sordid past and dubious links to Russia have won? Any person is biased, no matter how much they have been trained not to be. An A.I. bot designed not to be biased is not biased. For real: it is not racist, it is not sexist, it doesn't live inside an echo chamber. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to build a more fair society.

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