Reply To: The Master and His New Emissary

  • Helen Asuka

    October 4, 2023 at 10:59 pm

    Hi Zack,

    I figured if I can’t get any response here, I must have got something horribly wrong, tho I have no idea what that might be. So thank you thoughtful response!

    The article was my attempt to get past the “AI will take our jobs” narrative and point out that it may in fact represent the first real opportunity to break out of the left hemisphere prison built in the years since the Enlightenment.

    But I do agree that it is not without risks. It would be more accurate to say that GenAI represent a crisis – danger and opportunity, and it’s up to us to steer it toward the benefit of all humanity. Which would not be likely in the binary “human vs. AI” dichotomy popularized by mass entertainment, starting with Dune, Battle Star Galactica and The Terminator, to name just a few. Incidentally, this binary (us vs. them) is just how the left hemisphere would respond to anything that isn’t itself.

    Here are some of my initial thoughts on the caveats you’ve raised:

    1. I’d say that the master is already fully dependent on the original emissary, the left hemisphere. After all, that is how the left hemisphere has been able to marginalize the right. As for being fully dependent on the new emissary, ie GenAI, I’d suggest that society would have a hard time functioning, if not outright collapse in the absence of the internet. At least with GenAI, there doesn’t appear to be any intrinsic desire to dominate. AI (and computers in general) are content to simply sit there and wait for instructions. The fear of AI suddenly gaining desire to dominate or even eliminate humanity is largely rooted in ignorance about how computers actually work (and in no small part thanks to the aforementioned mass entertainment). In short, computers have no intrinsic motivation or drive of any sort – the most faithful servant/emissary one can hope for.

    2. The problem with regulation is an age old one – who watches the watchers? Who regulates the regulators? In retrospect, would it be better if the internet were limited to a handful of qualified individuals? It’s a hard question to answer definitively, but if I had to choose, I’d rather not have to go through a gatekeeper to get my iPhone.

    3. Yes, we should absolutely not trust AI to not make mistakes. They are, after all, man-made and can never be perfect (if such things can exist). It is why I think of AI as the emissary, nothing more. Our right hemisphere is still very much needed for wisdom and judgement. Incidentally, this is why I believe weaponizing AI is a serious problem that needs much stronger oversight and participation by the general public. But that’s a whole other topic I hope to address in a future article.

    4. Yes, there are always limitations to what AI and computers in general can do. The key realization is that GenAI can augment, but never replace human creativity. After all, as Iain articulated in TMAHE, creativity is only possible when both hemispheres are involved. We are simply talking about replacing the left hemisphere with one that is much more capable and much less (ie not at all) ambitious. What passes for “creativity” these days are simply remixes, which is the left hemisphere counterfeit to the real deal.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful response. I look forward to having further conversations about this and other topics. I’m currently working on a piece about how GenAI will indeed take all of our jobs (eventually) and why that can (though not inevitably) lead to liberation for all of us.