Artificial intelligence tries to construct rational systems that can interpret the world and make predictions about it. Dr. James Caton, assistant professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University, spoke to Ideas in Progress host Dr. Anthony Comegna about this topic before he led the graduate student Discussion Colloquium: ‘Artificial Intelligence and Liberal Futurism’.
Dr. Caton had not started with the plan of researching artificial intelligence. He intended to study Austrian and monetary economics at George Mason University. However, as he went deeper into rationality and economic decision-making, this became a gateway to his interest in artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is a rational system.
This is basically what rational systems are doing: trying to order the world to use logic to make a decision about it. Sometimes that decision is as simple as just rating the data or predicting the data . . . but with humans it’s looking at all the information, gathering it, and trying to make the choice that’s going to generate you the most value.–Dr. James Caton
Dr. Caton noted that there are multiple types of artificial intelligence, a topic that would be further discussed over the Discussion Colloquium.
The concept of technological singularity was an idea Dr. Comegna wanted to explore more for listeners of the podcast.
There’s no single definition of singularity, Dr. Caton explains. Some may describe it as a unification between artificial and human intelligence, while others view singularity is human life no longer keeping up with the rapid advancements in technology. The most compelling definition of singularity for Dr. Caton is a more general artificial intelligence: a system that appears to have sentience and can have a conversation. This imposes its own questions about property.
Do we get to a point where robots are no longer capital owned by humans, but rather they own themselves, control themselves, and are subject to all of the same sort of regulations that humans are generally held to?–Dr. James Caton
They explore the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, including a further loss of privacy. With more data available, there’s an increased ability for governments and private organizations to analyze individuals on a more personal level through artificial intelligence. Additionally, some in positions of power may want to monopolize these technologies, which could pose its own risks to citizens.
“I think every change, or especially every significant change, is both an opportunity for good developments and bad developments,” Dr. Caton says. “Some changes carry with them opportunities for more bad developments or more chaos than others.”
Ultimately, Dr. Caton concludes, there are going to be new problems to confront that had not previously existed, but we will find new modes of learning and personal empowerment in order to circumvent some of these issues that could emerge.