Daniel Dennett: “Will AI Achieve Consciousness? Wrong Question”

Daniel C. Dennett in Wired:

From “What Can We Do?” by Daniel C. Dennett. Adapted from Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman.

WHEN NORBERT WIENER, the father of cybernetics, wrote his book The Human Use of Human Beings in 1950, vacuum tubes were still the primary electronic building blocks, and there were only a few actual computers in operation.

BUT HE IMAGINED the future we now contend with in impressive detail and with few clear mistakes. More than any other early philosopher of artificial intelligence, he recognized that AI would not just imitate—and replace—human beings in many intelligent activities but would change human beings in the process. “We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water,” he wrote. “We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.”

When attractive opportunities abound, for instance, we are apt to be willing to pay a little and accept some small, even trivial cost of doing business for access to new powers. And pretty soon we become so dependent on our new tools that we lose the ability to thrive without them. Options become obligatory.

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