Anything and everything that’s wrong with AI

I am closely following the idea of “ethics”, but to be understood in the Indian context (Dharma) rather than the religion. There are nuanced differences for a later post. However, this interview from Semafor is being included here for the reference.

Vinod Khosla on how AI will ‘free humanity from the need to work’ | Semafor

Q: In other words, you saw this as a geopolitical issue, too?

A: I’ve always thought it’s a huge geopolitical issue. In 25 years, 80% of all jobs will be capable of being done by an AI.

This large transformation is the opportunity to free humanity from the need to work. People will work when they want to work on what they want to work on. That’s a utopian vision. But getting from here to that utopia is really disruptive and it is terrible to be the disrupted one. So you have to have empathy for whoever’s being disrupted. And the transition is very messy. It hurts people, hurts lives, destroys lives.

This is exactly what’s wrong with the “Artificial Intelligence” (and generative AI or whatever next model is being hawked next). This is to assume that social structures would “take care” of the ones “laid-off”. There are fancy ideas around “universal basic income” and that would kill the motivation to work outright.

That’s what is wrong with these basic assumptions around what AI is capable of doing, and only sharpens the critical voices.

Some more ideas on “fundamental research”:

Q: That’s a critique in itself I guess. You’ve also talked about the need for fundamental research. Typically that’s a government role. What role do the VCs play versus the government in this race?

A: Fundamental research is important. Germany has some of the best research. Cambridge in the UK is great at research. In Japan, there’s really good research. They’ve not been able to commercialize it and turn it into societal impact [at the same rate that you see in the U.S.].

Pat Brown [Founder of Impossible Foods] took a bicycle from Stanford, came to our office, and said: “I want to change animal husbandry on the planet.” We worked with him on starting the whole thing that is now called plant proteins. That is the venture community’s traditional role.

Q: I sometimes wonder why people in SIlicon Valley are not bigger cheerleaders of government-funded research. Instead, there’s sort of this anti-government vibe.

A: There’s a vocal constituency that is anti-government. It’s not the majority of tech. Just like Trump voters aren’t the majority of voters. But they’re louder. And the press likes to amplify either Trump or AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], but not Mark Warner, who’s sitting in the middle sort of being sensible.

Fundamental research is key. Bob Mumgaard, who’s the founder and CEO of Commonwealth Fusion Systems, wasn’t an entrepreneur when I met him. He was a senior research fellow at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center. This is why fundamental research is so critical — so people like me can come along and say, boy, I’d like to fund that. Let’s try and start a company.

I have been working on the idea of “innovation” and it’s at crossroads with the availability of “fiat currency”. Once the fiat currency is pegged and the real “valuations” will tumble, the fanciful ideas of someone streaming into a VC office and claiming to “change the world” will evaporate. How did the innovation happen? I traced the Marshall plan from World War II thereof. US stole the industrial technology from Britain, which in turn exploited its colonies for over three hundred years. US then lured the German engineers, and WWII (and the atomic bomb) was a result of mass mobilisation. Beyond 1971, they lost the plot, but created “institutes of higher learning” that “lead in manipulated world rankings” while basic education flounders. These are broad strokes and require yet another blog-post, but whatever Vinod Khosla is saying is nonsense. The Japanese had raced ahead in the industrialisation (and real innovation) through their Keritsu model, including fundamental research, while Germany has stayed focused on the specific skill sets in engineering. Germany has hitched its wagon behind the wrong horse (China), but that is a geopolitical domain.

The earlier chip wars were fought in the 1970s, and all the innovation happening in the US has fuelled extreme capitalism. AI won’t solve societal structural problems or even “generating ideas for the next wave of research”. Those require human input and a strong culture of discipline, consistency and transparency.

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