Tag: Robin Hanson

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Saturday Night Science: The Age of Em

 

“The Age of Em” by Robin HansonMany books, both fiction and nonfiction, have been devoted to the prospects for and consequences of the advent of artificial intelligence: machines with a general cognitive capacity which equals or exceeds that of humans. While machines have already surpassed the abilities of the best humans in certain narrow domains (for example, playing games such as chess or go), you can’t take a chess playing machine and expect it to be even marginally competent at a task as different as driving a car or writing a short summary of a newspaper story, things most humans can do with a little experience. A machine with “artificial general intelligence” (AGI) would be as adaptable as humans, and able with practice to master a wide variety of skills.

The usual scenario is that continued exponential progress in computing power and storage capacity, combined with better understanding of how the brain solves problems, will eventually reach a cross-over point where artificial intelligence matches human capability. But since electronic circuitry runs so much faster than the chemical signalling of the brain, even the first artificial intelligences will be able to work much faster than people, and, applying their talents to improving their own design at a rate much faster than human engineers can work, will result in an “intelligence explosion,” where the capability of machine intelligence runs away and rapidly approaches the physical limits of computation, far surpassing human cognition. Whether the thinking of these super-minds will be any more comprehensible to humans than quantum field theory is to a goldfish and whether humans will continue to have a place in this new world and, if so, what it may be, has been the point of departure for much speculation.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why Are We So Dumb About Healthcare?

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.20.03 AMWhen Sarah Palin first started talking about “Death Panels,” I cringed: Not because the prospect of a government panel empowered to make medical decisions on citizens’ behalf wasn’t totally creepy (it was) but because private insurance does the same thing. Now, I’d argue that a system based on free-market, private insurance has, regardless, enormous advantages to the alternatives, but this doesn’t mean that private insurers don’t sometimes need to be cold-hearted bastards. The sad fact of life is that there’s no way to pay for top-end medical care for everyone, so some form of rationing (even the free-market kind) is inevitable.

But for some reason, nearly every society tries to pretend otherwise. Some of this can be explained away as leftism, but it always seems to hit healthcare the hardest? Consider, for example, how Senator Bernie Sanders made “Medicare for All” a major part of his platform, but not “SNAP for All.” Via Megan McArdle, part of the answer may be that human beings are hard-wired to see providing healthcare as a social good in itself, rather than treating the matter as service we trade for. From a paper by economist Robin Hanson, whom McArdle cites, this may explain many of our irrationalities regarding health care:

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