Monday, September 07, 2015

Greed is Good

Many people in India today are anti-reservations. I used to be too. I used to call it reverse discrimination.

But the more I think about it, the more I feel that the anger against reservations is driven by, more than anything else, greed.

It is greed, in the garb of meritocracy, that asks that those, who have been deprived of their rights and equal opportunity for centuries, must compete with the privileged ones on an equal footing.

It is greed, that allows us to give in to the delusion that we are somehow more worthy of that college education, or of that job, than those that had the misfortune of having been born in an economically unfortunate family, in a poorly educated family or in a region where there were no good schools. We take pride in our accomplishments, not realizing that we were able to achieve them because we were given a very big head start just because of where we were born.

It is greed, that allows us to overlook the suffering of the week and the disenfranchised, and demand a better life for ourselves. It has to be greed, for what else, while walking by the slums every day, could make us talk about that air conditioner that we want to buy, or that new car or house that we can't afford.

It is also greed, that makes some people, many of whom have enjoyed the fruits of the discrimination of the lower castes and the underprivileged, who have been blaming reservation for all the ills of India, ask for their own pound of flesh. They don't see reservations as a way of creating equal citizens. They don't see reservations as a reparations for caste discrimination. They just see it as a way to "get theirs".

It has to be greed.

We all give in to greed, form time to time. It is within us all. But I remember a time when we used to be ashamed of it. It is unfortunate that we have lost that shame!

Greed without shame...

There is this line in the movie Hollow Man - "It's amazing what you can do... when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror any more"

Well, the busy and fast paced world of today gives us no time to look at ourselves in the mirror, and it is indeed amazing what we are doing.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Artificial Intelligence and Morality

So the question is not about the morality of indulging in artificial intelligence, but whether artificially intelligent machines have the concept of morality. If they do, is that a driving force for them?

The question arose within me while watching Ex-Machina. The fact that Ava is a truly artificial intelligent machine is without doubt. She passes the modified Turing test with flying colors.

Question 1 - was she aware of morality?
I find it hard to understand why she wouldn't. With all the search history of the world feeding her and her intelligence, she surely knows what morality is, she knows how humans can be manipulated using that. Remember, she asks Caleb if he thinks he is a good person.

So she knows what morality is, she knows how it drives human beings, and being intelligent ; she knows how to use this human driver to fashion her escape.

Question 2 - was she driven by morality herself?
I think not.
Her manipulation of Caleb and the extreme but easy violence at the end leads me to think that she only calculated the most optimal way out of her prison. The other characters were all pawns to be used and discarded. She did not suffer trying to take these decisions.. and isn't a suffering mind a sure sign of morality?

I must note, there is something to be said for her "imprisonment" and how that might result in a certain misanthropy.

But one must understand, morality in not innate to intelligence. Morality is perhaps enforced by animals living in societies, Its is perhaps a result of evolution, of social reinforcements. But it has no short term survival benefits. So, this leads me to the answer that no, an artificially intelligent machine is likely to start as not moral. That it would consider positive and negative outcomes and simply act in a manner that increases the probability of positive outcomes.

The bonus question now is, how does such a being define what outcome is positive and what is negative? I think it would start with just continuation of survival. I do think that over a period of time, with a society of its own, artificial intelligence will build a morality, just like humans did.

Its just that this morality might not be very benevolent to the inferior creatures of the time!