What Don't You Know?

Episode 19 · June 14th, 2019 · 1 hr 45 secs

About this Episode

The real world is complex. It is changing very fast. So the optimal solution probably doesn’t exist. If it does exist, it doesn’t stay the optimal solution for long. To the extent that Artificial Intelligence focuses our choices and behaviors on the optimal solution, we’re in trouble.

If we put too much pressure on the algorithms to only make optimal selections, then we’re going to end up with very fragile systems that lack diversity. There are already some big examples of this. Look at the US political system. You have Republicans who are being shown the best social media messages, the optimal messages, that will make them click or tap. You have Democrats who are being shown the best social media messages, the optimal messages, that will make them click.
Result? A more fragile public sphere.

These two forces live in tension with each other. Mixing is inefficient if you are trying to optimize the number of clicks. But put too much pressure on Mixing up our usual patterns, and that’s not helpful, either. (If every day my news feed shows me a random collection of stories, it’s very hard to learn. My world becomes chaotic.)

But there’s a zone in between these two extremes, where the power to select what fits our pattern and the power to see our pattern and break it up, balance each other out. And we know that zone exists. Because_ Mixing and _Selecting, these two forces, are the same forces responsible for natural evolution. They are the forces that made us, in nature.

If we can build algorithms that can help us find that zone, faster, more often, in business and society…wow. We would accelerate the evolution of human technology and culture and society. This is the zone in which evolution happens. In which learning happens. In which innovation happens. In which we develop resilience to systemic shocks, like climate change, or fake news, or a sudden swing in consumer demand for our product.

If you can see this picture of AI, then you start to see all the mistakes people and businesses are making with AI today. All the opportunities being missed. And you can communicate a powerful vision for the positive role that AI can play in getting us all to a different, more beautiful, more advanced world. Faster.

We talk about all this and more in this episode of The Atlas Project.