Five Questions with Arthur I. Miller and George Zarkadakis - Part II

In Part II of this guest post series we asked authors Arthur I. Miller and George Zarkadakis to interview each other about their books, and we received fascinating conversation about the future and realities of AI. Arthur Miller is the author of The Artist in the Machine: The World of AI-Powered Creativity, which just released in paperback last month. George Zarkadakis is the author of Cyber Republic: Reinventing Democracy in the Age of Intelligent Machines, which published in October.

Arthur Miller (AM): Your book centers around AI. Can you give me a brief overview of the angle of your book?

George Zarkadakis (GZ): In Cyber Republic I aim to respond to two big concerns about how intelligent machines are impacting our politics and economics. The first concern is how AI algorithms in social media platforms are manipulating public opinion, spread fake news, and exacerbate political polarization; in my book I suggest that we should develop a new type of AI algorithms that empower citizen deliberation and help drive consensus - and I describe how this could take place in the context of citizen assemblies. The other main concern with AI is the future of work and the elimination of jobs; here, I propose new business models that leverage distributed ledger technologies and cooperative ownership structures, in combination with Data Trusts, as the building blocks of an AI economy that works for all, reduces social and economic inequalities, and provides economic security and opportunities for personal and community growth.

AM: You say that we shouldn’t fear artificial intelligence – are there any aspects surrounding AI that we should be concerned about?

GZ: You and I agree in that a world without AI would be poorer, culturally, socially, scientifically, and economically. Indeed, one of the greatest risks of overregulating the use of AI is that liberal democracies will lose their competitiveness over their authoritarian adversaries. Nevertheless, we must find ways to incorporate this general-purpose technology into our system of ethics and democratic values, which include the rights of individual privacy and freedom. My main motivation in writing Cyber Republic was to propose practical ways by which we can do this while retaining economic liberty that encourages breakthrough innovations and wealth creation.

AM: Will AI have consciousness someday? If so, how does that affect the issues raised in your book?

GZ: You make a compelling argument for AI consciousness in his book “The Artist in the Machine”, and I agree with you. Logic dictates that if a physical object, such as the human brain, can exhibit consciousness then there is no reason to expect that some other physical object, of a certain complexity, may not exhibit consciousness too. That other physical object may a machine, such a “computer”. In my previous book (In Our Own Image, Pegasus Books) I explored how a conscious machine would probably need a different type of architecture and internal organization than the one we currently have and is based on the separation between software and hardware. Moreover, I also suggested that conscious machines should obey the laws of ergodicity and reduce their internal entropy when calculating, which is not the case in modern computers that require massive amounts of energy to execute AI calculations, especially when compared to the very energy efficient human brain. But would we want to develop a conscious machine? I am very sceptical of the need to do so. In fact, in Cyber Republic, I am challenging the concept of machine autonomy that sits at the core of AI ideology; and propose that we should rethink AI in cybernetic terms, i.e. as part of a human-machine system with specific human-centric (rather than machine-centric) goals.

AM: Is the future of AI one that’s dystopian or one that’s utopian?

GZ: As an engineer, I am trained to be an optimist. However, I am also aware that what drives future outcomes is not good intentions, or good engineering practices, but ideology. My concern is that the current ideology of AI, which is system autonomy, in combination with ideas about the dominant role of state authority in exercising social and economic control, are likely to result either in a lost opportunity to better everyone’s life or – worse – to an Orwellian nightmare of private and state surveillance and oppression. My hope is that, by writing “Cyber Republic”, I may inspire a few minds out there to start thinking of a new, human-centric, ideology for AI, and a new playbook for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, so we can use intelligent machines to deliver a more democratic and prosperous future for all.

AM: What do you think people or the workforce should be doing now to introduce better AI to society?

GZ: I think that the debate on AI and the future should leave the walls, corridors, pages and institutions of experts, business leaders, politicians and academics, and enter the streets, places, town halls, and chatrooms of public discourse. I am very concerned of the fear that most people feel about how quickly technology is changing their lives without them have a saying. If we truly uphold democratic values, then we must also strive to democratise the debate on the future of AI and include the voice of the demos.

Thanks for reading! Did you miss Part I? Find it here.