Don’t Trust People Who Worship Technology

10 March 2016
Scott Timberg

Jaron Lanier and Andrew Keen make powerful arguments against tech utopianism.

A debate on artificial intelligence took place at the 92nd St Y on Wednesday night, and it took on real sweep that went beyond the subject of AI. This wasn’t just because the victory of a Google bot over a South Korean champion at the ancient game of Go has made the matter of AI especially pressing. Wednesday’s discussion highlighted some of the best ‘ and worst ‘ ways we think about technology. The whole debate, called ‘Don’t Trust the Promise of Artificial Intelligence,’is worth watching.

The best came from Jaron Lanier, who has an important place in these conversations. One of the key ways cyber-utopians shut down anyone who express doubts about technology is to brand them as a ‘Luddite,’ but this computer scientist who helped develop virtual reality and recently sold a company to Google is hard to tar that way. On Wednesday night, he gave a technical description of how AI worked and didn’t, and he concluded with one of the sharpest things anyone has said about our assumptions about the digital world.