As we continue to develop more and more sophisticated AI systems, an increasing number of economists, technologists and futurists have been trying to predict what the likely end point of all this progress might be. Will human beings be irrelevant? Will we offload all of our decisions — from what we want to do with our spare time, to how we govern societies — to machines? And what is the emergence of highly capable and highly general AI systems mean for the future of democracy and governance?
These questions are impossible to answer completely and directly, but it may be possible to get some hints by taking a long-term view at the history of human technological development. That’s a strategy that my guest, Ben Garfinkel, is applying in his research on the future of AI. Ben is a physicist and mathematician who now does research on forecasting risks from emerging technologies at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute.
Apart from his research on forecasting the future impact of technologies like AI, Ben has also spent time exploring some classic arguments for AI risk, many of which he disagrees with. Since we’ve had a number of guests on the podcast who do take these risks seriously, I thought it would be worth speaking to Ben about his views as well, and I’m very glad I did.