One Half of a Manifesto, Why stupid software will save the future from neo-Darwinian machines.
Jaron Lanier, wired 8.12, December 2000

Ten years later - 2020 - a critic of the idea that machines are becoming smart and autonomous.

Arguments against 'cybernetic totalism'

In a rebuttal to Bill Joy's technological nihilism Jaron Lanier writes an overdue manifesto (at wired.com;or at edge.org) against the seduction of technological wonders and nightmares. Part of the cyberspace revolution himself, he debunks the blind belief in the power of machines to save or destroy mankind and the world. It is astonishing to find this article in Wired magazine, the voice of cybernetic totalism. Because this article is not available online (some other versions can be found through Lanier's home page) I think it is appropriate to cite a few sentences that highlight Lanier's core believes.

"We kid ourselves when we think we understand something, even a computer, merely because we can model or digitize it." (p162)

"I'm hoping the reader can see that artificial intelligence is better understood as a belief system instead of a technology." (p164)

"The quest to rationally prove the possibility of sentience in a computer (or perhaps in the Internet) is the modern version of proving God's existence." (p164)

"There are various reasons that software tends to be unwieldy, but a primary one is what I like to call 'brittleness'. Software breaks before it bends, so it demands perfection in a universe that prefers statistics." (p171)

"And what worries me about the 'Young Turk' cultural temperament seen in cybernetic totalists is that they seem not to have been educated in the tradition of scientific skepticism. I understand why they are intoxicated. There is a compelling simple logic behind their thinking, and elegance in thought is infectious." (p179)

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