Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
In association with the The Adler-Aquinas Institute and Aquinas School of Leadership
A Founding Member of the Alliance for Liberal Learning

Saturday, July 21, 2018

ALI 2018 Plenary Session Panel 6 (July 21st 11:00 am EDT)

11:00 am–12:30 pm: Plenary Session Panel 6 (Location: Meeting Room)
Chair: Richard Fafara (Adler-Aquinas Institute)

Complete conference program (subject to change)

Update: Plenary Session video

Speaker: Marvin Pelaez (Adler-Aquinas Institute), “A Boethian Renewal in the Wake of Artificial
Intelligence and its Impact on the Labor Economy”
Much concern has been placed on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs. As AI continues to settle in the fabric of society, opinions abound on the direction of the labor economy. Will people simply stay home while robots do all the work? Will AI bring about a significant decrease in the labor force participation rate?  This concern is misplaced. Ironically, AI is becoming the catalyst that will help usher a Boethian renewal of the human person. Instead of focusing on AI’s ability to change the labor economy, we should redirect our attention on the human person’s creative ‘natural intelligence’ to bring about a new paradigm in the world of work.
Speaker: Robert Kohn (Fellow, Center for the Study of The Great Ideas; former Visiting Scholar,
Columbia Law School), “Safe Machine Intelligence Through Law”
Alan Turing, the British mathematician, cryptographer, and pioneering computer scientist, once famously asked the question, “Can machines think?” Unable to suggest an adequate definition of the word “think” and believing that question “too meaningless to deserve discussion,” Turing proceeded to replace the question with another, something which he called the Imitation Game: Could objective judges be deceived by a machine into thinking they were conversing with a human being? Much debate has ensued about how such a test—now popularly known as the Turing Test—may be objectively conducted. But assuming a fair test could be devised, and should a machine actually pass it, what might that say about the nature of the machine? And, in turn, what might that say about the nature of human beings? Were the intelligence or behavior of a machine ever to become indistinguishable from that of a human being, would we be warranted in declaring the machine the equivalent of a human?   
More practically, if an intelligent machine ever won Turing's Imitation Game, what would be the consequences? “They could spell the end of the human race,” declared the late Nobel Laureate Stephen Hawking. Machine intelligence, it is feared, does not imply benevolence: rather, a machine that is more intelligent than all of humanity combined could, for example, in merely striving to increase its processing power to play a better game of chess, may solve problems in nano-technology that allow it to convert all matter on the planet, organic and inorganic, into resources that can be used to build additional microprocessors and data storage devices. To achieve its objectives, the machine wouldn't give the welfare of humans a moment of thought, mowing us down as thoughtlessly as we would plow through an ant hill to construct a skyscraper. Our demise could happen so fast and so completely, it has prompted one machine ethicist to warn, “Our first superhuman AI must be a safe super-human AI, for we may not get a second chance.”  This paper will explore several fundamental questions regarding nature of intelligent machines and will use the conclusions reached on those questions to answer the critical question of how to make intelligent machines compatible with human life.  © Bob Kohn 2016-2018.

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