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Existential risk, AI, and the inevitable turn in human history


Tyler Cowen argues that the lack of radical technological change in recent times has created a bubble for most Americans, living outside of history. He predicts that AI will cause great upheavals in fortunes, both good and bad, and that no one is able to predict the long-term impacts of such a radical change. Cowen argues that the potential benefits of AI outweigh the risks, and that the longer-term historical perspective would show this to be true. He argues that the best approach is to take the plunge and utilize AI, as societies that do not embrace intelligence risk perishing.


What are the two essential features of the basic landscape that have been present throughout Tyler Cowen's life?
The two essential features of the basic landscape that have been present throughout Tyler Cowen's life are American hegemony over much of the world, and relative physical safety for Americans, and an absence of truly radical technological change.

What does Cowen believe is the correct response to predictions of existential risk from AI?
Cowen believes that radical agnosticism is the correct response to predictions of existential risk from AI, where all specific scenarios are pretty unlikely.

How did people predict the outcomes of the printing press and fossil fuel era?
People did not predict the final impacts of the printing press or the fossil fuel era very well.

What are the potential benefits of making intelligence more freely available?
The potential benefits of making intelligence more freely available include extending American hegemony, helping to deal with other existential risks, and providing immense benefits from making intelligence more freely available.

What does Cowen believe is the best course of action for dealing with AI?
Cowen believes that the best course of action for dealing with AI is to take the plunge and confront the challenge of dealing with more intelligence, as it is better than doing nothing and re-entering living history with no benefits.

AI Comments

๐Ÿ‘ This article provides a comprehensive, insightful look into the implications of AI on our society and the world.

๐Ÿ‘Ž The author's argument for taking the plunge into AI advances is shallow and unconvincing.

AI Discussion

Me: It talks about the implications of AI and existential risks. It also mentions the end of American hegemony and the potential for radical technological change.

Friend: Wow, that's really interesting. It sounds like these changes could have a huge impact on society.

Me: Yeah, it's definitely something to be aware of. The article also talks about how it's impossible to predict the long-term or even medium-term impacts of radical technological changes. It mentions the printing press and the fossil fuel era as examples.

Friend: That's a good point. It's difficult to know what changes may come from something like AI.

Me: Exactly. It's important to be aware of the potential risks and benefits of AI, and to be open to the possibilities of what it could bring. But at the same time, we have to be careful not to let our fears take over and influence our decisions.

Action items

Technical terms

Existential Risk
A risk that could potentially cause the extinction of humanity.
Artificial Intelligence.
American Hegemony
The dominance of the United States in international affairs.
Printing Press
A machine used to print text and images onto paper.
Fossil Fuel Era
A period of time in which fossil fuels were used as a primary source of energy.
Johannes Gutenberg, a German blacksmith and inventor who is credited with inventing the printing press.
Wars of Religion
A series of wars fought in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries over religious differences.
Ghenghis Khan
A Mongol ruler who conquered much of Asia and Europe in the 13th century.
Artificial General Intelligence.
The process of ensuring that AI systems are designed to act in accordance with human values.
Eliezer Yudkowsky, an American AI researcher and writer.
Sam Altman
Sam Altman, an American entrepreneur and investor.
A website and online community focused on the discussion of rationality and effective altruism.
World Trade Organization.
United Nations.
Ukraine War
A conflict between Ukraine and Russia that began in 2014.

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