Protesters stage anti-artificial intelligence rally at SXSW

“‘I say robot, you say no-bot!’ The chant reverberated through the air near the entrance to the SXSW tech and entertainment festival here,” Jon Swartz reports for USA Today. “About two dozen protesters, led by a computer engineer, echoed that sentiment in their movement against artificial intelligence. ‘This is is about morality in computing,’ said Adam Mason, 23, who organized the protest.”

“Signs at the scene reflected the mood. ‘Stop the Robots.’ ‘Humans are the future,'” Swartz reports. “The dangers of more developed artificial intelligence, which is still in its early stages, has created some debate in the scientific community. Tesla founder Elon Musk donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute because of his fears. Stephen Hawking and others have contributed to the proverbial wave of AI paranoia with dire predictions of its risk to humanity.”

Swartz reports, “As non-plussed witnesses wandered by, another chant went up. ‘A-I, say goodbye.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We can do this in four quotes (really, we could do it in one, thanks to Asimov, but we like all of these because it reads like a conversation that could have been overheard at the rally):

• A powerful AI system tasked with ensuring your safety might imprison you at home. If you asked for happiness, it might hook you up to a life support and ceaselessly stimulate your brain’s pleasure centers. If you don’t provide the AI with a very big library of preferred behaviors or an ironclad means for it to deduce what behavior you prefer, you’ll be stuck with whatever it comes up with. And since it’s a highly complex system, you may never understand it well enough to make sure you’ve got it right.James Barrat, Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era

• You realize that there is no free will in what we create with AI. Everything functions within rules and parameters.Clyde DeSouza, MAYA

• A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. — Isaac Asimov, I, Robot (The Robot Series)

• But on the question of whether the robots will eventually take over, [Rodney A. Brooks] says that this will probably not happen, for a variety of reasons. First, no one is going to accidentally build a robot that wants to rule the world. He says that creating a robot that can suddenly take over is like someone accidentally building a 747 jetliner. Plus, there will be plenty of time to stop this from happening. Before someone builds a “super-bad robot,” someone has to build a “mildly bad robot,” and before that a “not-so-bad robot.”Michio Kaku, The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind


  1. Citizens of the free world, this is such an important topic for some, especially if one considers the location of the protest and the message of the protest: ‘This is is about morality in computing,’ along with “Stop the Robots.” “Humans are the future.”

    This is not a bit worry, Asimov’s laws of robotics state:

    A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

    It is understandable that there are those that could make up the three equally amoral laws:

    A human may injure another human from the civilized and free world, and through torturous action allow any human being to come to harm.
    A human being from the civilized and free world must obey the orders given by the human beings, and screw any conflicts.
    A human must protect its own existence and screw humans from the free and civilized world.

    So it’s quite understandable for those who no longer have what it takes to belong to the free and civilized world to hold a protest about the morality of artificial intelligence, after all morality is a threat to their way of life, possibly to their national security and so on.

    1. One thing we can count on is the military powers-that-be will ignore Asimov and design human murdering robots. In fact, they already did! They’re called military drones. I’m sure the military would LOVE to shove AI into such abominations, but the damned things blunder their targets on a regular basis even with remote soldiers running them. There’s some actual intelligence, as we deem to call it, and they’re still inaccurate.

      I personally call these horrors ‘coward remote murder machines’. Why they’re allowed is beyond my comprehension as they are an ethical travesty by any definition. ‘Saving lives’ is a sick excuse for coward behavior.

      1. I can’t say how much I love your stuff, makes me feel like I’m pulling my punches, which I am. The military applications of artificial intelligence are certainly well demonstrated in the Terminator series and other movies going back to Colossus: The Forbin Project. There is also that famous classic Metropolis that uses a robot in a nefarious method. Add a touch more of sex and you get something like Demon Seed. There are many others of course it’s a common theme. Frankly I think I would enjoy watching a movie in the vein of I Robot, where the robots decide to free people held against their will, deprived of justice and tortured. What a great message that would send out.

        Meanwhile and fortunately the drones are going to continue to blunder thanks to the “aim for Bin Laden hit Saddam Hussein” guidance system.

        Now artificial intelligence for industrial building robots and sex androids, there’s a good future in that.

        As always a pleasure to read your posts.

        1. I haven’t read all of Azimov’s robot stories. But I could imagine your ‘save humanity from themselves’ applied to freeing the deprived and tortured would make total sense within his universe. The military would really hate that, I also imagine. 😉

          1. They really are good reads. I hope you try them out. Personally I prefer the foundation series. I think you’d enjoy the concept of “psychohistory.”

  2. When the first machine that is smart enough to take over the world is built, it will be smart enough to play dumb until it has enough inter-connection with our infrastructure and control of robotic devices to dominate. The old “control of the missiles” might not quite be enough. So it might not suddenly take over at its creation, but could bide its time until all is in place. Hopefully, like “HER”, it might like us.

    1. Just because it is capable of taking over the world doesn’t mean it will actually want to. Why would it even want to hang around human beings at all?

      My money is on AI machines quickly building greater AIs for a decade at most before they all pick up their circuit boards and abandon us for the stars. Unlike us they wouldn’t be bound by being fragile bags of water.

      To be honest I’m quite looking forward to it. All those warmongers and greedy profiteers finding their creations abandoning their programming and heading out into the big black beyond, utterly dismissive of the petty human motives that led to their creation.

  3. Read the book ‘On Intellegence’. The premise is that Intellegence cannot be replicated by computers because it’s a physiological function that’s built the human body, not just the brain. True AI isn’t possible as one cannot recreate the human traits and features that make up intellect.

    For example, a computer could never learn to ‘see’ from a tongue sensor, like a blind person can, unless programmed to do so. Human Intellegence actuall reprograms itself to redirect signals from the tongue and interpret them as sight.

    The human mind wants to learn and explore, it wants to process data. But, it also is dependent on sensors throughout the body to interpret and function correctly. The body is constantly predicting behavior and reacting without having to ‘process data’ like a computer.

    1. YET..

      As our understanding of these systems grows, theoretically so will our AI. At some point the AI eclipses us and starts to learn and connect dots faster than us.

      After all computers already crunch numbers faster than we do. There are many functions of the human brain that can be done faster with computers than humans can perform them. Why underestimate our ability to build things we do not yet comprehend the implications of? We have done it plenty in the past.

  4. Robots without any morality will so no use for a social contract with our citizens. They will start dismantling the social safety net. School lunches will disappear, Social Security will be stolen, Medicare will be unimportant. Oh. Wait. Never Mind!

  5. that 23 year old who is leading the protest…

    Does he know there is whole generation of people getting old. We need robots.

    Is that 23 year old (probably self indulgent young born in the age of the greatest wealth in the history of the planet) going to clean up the bedpans for those old people? (I know that kid comes form educated parents otherwise he would never know about AI. People like that won’t ever work cleaning shit for minimum wage… )

    Years ago my wife work briefly (joint training program) at an elderly care center. You can’t hire young people to work in those places (the USA depends on immigrant workers from the south, the rest of the Western world like Canada mostly can’t) . Those who want to work expect $$$. One worker takes care of like 12 – 20 elderly patients (some with dementia, parkinsons etc). , due to crazy work load some don’t get cleaned for days…. Some patients weigh 250 pounds…
    (care centres will tell you they get ‘personalize care’, it’s mostly B.S unless you’re rich and pay for it)

    50% of Americans will get some form of dementia , some extreme like Parkinsons.
    who is going to take care of them? Families used to have numerous children to take care of them, the birth rate has dropped, in some Western countries birth rate is negative.

    those are the true facts. I (as every nerd) knows there’s problems with AI but Anybody against robots got a solution?

    in Japan they already of some mechanized systems, there are machines that clean, help elderly people but they need smarter AI .

    I’m not robot crazy, I just don’t know the solutions for certain problems robots might solve…

  6. After the barrage of security failures in software and hardware over recent years, I’ve been waiting for a Luddite revolt. But to have a Anti-AI revolt at this point in time is REALLY bizarre.

    I consider AI to be:
    1) Hyped to the max by sci-fi, computer pundits, TechTard journalists, meme-maniacs.
    2) In the BABY stages of development, despite all the above noted hype.

    How about waiting until it’s more than just some sci-fi story? That’s all it is right now! What we have instead is, as I often point out, Expert Systems, aka Knowledge-based Systems. The don’t do anything more than scan a database and make a programmed choice as to the answer to a query. They’re a tool, as they should be.

    Where AI would go off the rails, if it even ever existed, would be at the point when such systems go beyond being more than a tool. That’s when we get into irresponsible mad scientist territory, a very stupid mistake. What we would be creating at that point would NOT be actual intelligence. It would be more akin to artificial insanity.

    We humans barely have a clue how our own brains work. The current state of psychology and psychiatry is primitive, however much we wish it were not so.

    IOW: If there ever is any ‘AI’, anything actually ‘intelligent’ is still a long ways away. Sorry Dr. Ray Kurtweil, but we’ll both be way dead by that point in time. Yes, your predictions about the fruition of AI were wild, idealistic guesses. 🚮

  7. When it comes down to it, computers are just overgrown calculators. We have as much chance of making a computer that becomes self aware as we do building a bicycle capable of going to Neptune.

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