I’m currently reading a book on A.I. One questions that lingers in the back of my mind involves the reasons we would want to build A.I.–and more broadly, the reasons we strive for newer and better technology. Improving our lives–more specifically, improving our material existence–is the obvious answer–i.e., curing diseases, making tasks that requires physical and cognitive resources easier and more efficient, etc. Clearly, improving technology is very important way to improve the lives of human beings.
However, my sense is that many people act as if this is the most important way to improve the lives of individuals and society overall, and I think this position is flawed. For example, I tend to believe the source of humanity’s biggest problems are moral and even social in nature. Improvements on the former can improve the latter, which, in turn, would have the most dramatic impact on most of our social ills. At least, this is my current position.
To test whether humanity’s problem are rooted in material or more moral/spiritual matters, I want to offer the following thought experiment: Suppose we could fulfill all the ambitions of technophiles (excluding technology that would dramatically change human nature–e.g., genetic engineer humans that are more selfless and compassionate), what would those technologies be, and what impact would we expect on individual and societies? Would we expect a significant reduction or elimination of the biggest problems we face?