This piece originally appeared at Second Best.
How did a species of hairless primates stumble into technological civilization? And what does that say about where AI could be taking us?
The human brain is a neural network that evolved through blind optimization, so the fact that we learned to hack our own reward system and survive far outside our evolutionary niche at least give precedence to the risk of advanced AI going rogue. Going rogue is our everyday lived experience! It follows that one way to shed light on the AI alignment problem is to deepen our own self-understanding. Futurism via historicism.
And indeed, for most of the last 300,000 years, humans lived in small bands of hunter-gathers, struggling to accumulate knowledge through oral tradition and ritual. Religion was largely animistic, with no distinction between the symbolic and natural orders. In a sense, there was no history: no record of what came before, no process to unfold the world to come.
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