Sunday, October 1, 2023

Russell Neuman's "Evolutionary Intelligence"

W. Russell Neuman is Professor of Media Technology at New York University. A founding faculty of the MIT Media Laboratory, he served as Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. His recent books include The Digital Difference: Media Technology and the Theory of Communication Effects.

Neuman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Evolutionary Intelligence: How Technology Will Make Us Smarter, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Evolutionary Intelligence falls in the middle of a cautionary chapter about the perils of artificial intelligence and digital omnipotence entitled “There Be Dragons.” The book’s concern is not that a malevolent robot will try to kill us but that Big Tech has strong incentives to invade our privacy and manipulate our attention. In the middle of page 99 there is pause…
Wait. What? This section began under a heading of “personal privacy.” What is all this dissertating about just the opposite—systematically making personal information available to other entities? Actually, I believe that is entirely the point. Intelligent personal privacy makes it routinely convenient for each of us to take control of our personal information. If you don’t want anybody to know of your weakness for fine chocolates, so be it. When you purchase fine chocolates or download a recipe for chocolate truffle ganache, you keep your identity contractually private and happily forfeit the financial benefit or discount.
The book goes on to argue that “intelligent privacy” can allow those inclined to actually profit personally from making their market-relevant information available to marketers while others opt out of the financial benefit and keep personal information personal. It is an example of using smart technology to empower the individual. As page 99 says: “that is entirely the point.”

The public is justifiably concerned that evolving AI promises to be a powerful tool. Evolutionary Intelligence is a book about how the locus of control of that power can be in the hands of the individual rather than the big corporations.

The idea of evolutionary intelligence interprets evolving AI as the next stage of human evolution as our capacities co-evolve with the technologies we create. The wheel made us more mobile. Machine power made us stronger. Telecommunication gave us the capacity to communicate over great distances. Evolutionary intelligence will make us smarter.
Learn more about Evolutionary Intelligence at the The MIT Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue