Thursday, May 10, 2018

Free-Market Economics is the only Moral Economic System


Usually, when we talk about ‘markets’, we are referring to ‘free markets’.

If someone is referencing economic exchange, then we can use the term ‘free-market economics’.

Think about an open-air market where merchants are selling their goods. You walk by a merchant whose product you want, and if you agree on a price, you buy it. If not, you don’t. No one can make you buy anything. And no one can stop you from being a merchant.

(Although the government may require health and safety regulations).

This is a good example of free-market economics.

In the United States and most other developed countries, free-market economics is the norm. You can buy cars from whomever you wish if you agree upon a price. You can buy coffee from McDonald’s or Starbucks.

Here is something I consider essential: Free economic markets are the only moral basis for an economy. Why? Because if you can’t choose with whom to do business, or if you can’t open up your own business, then someone else (e.g. the government) is deciding for you.

What right does anyone have, even the government, to tell you what goods and services you can have? Or what business you may start?

The United States’ Declaration of Independence has what might be the most profound words written in the English language:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Because it is our God-given right to be free, no one has the legal right to infringe on our freedom.

(If a person infringes on another’s life or liberty, it is appropriate for the government to prosecute that person).

It’s interesting to see that a free-market economic system is not an economic system at all. It just allows people to freely trade with one another.

Some people mistakenly call this Capitalism, but that is a misnomer. It is a word used my Karl Marx pejoratively, and we know how well Communism has turned out wherever it has been tried.

If we use the term ‘markets’ more broadly, it can refer to the freedom we have in all of the aspects of life. For example, we have a free market in friendship: You can be friends with anyone who wants to be friends with you.

We even have a free market in our food choices: eat whatever you wish.

The only sustainable society is one that allows free markets.

This is why there are so few Communist countries left. Even China, which is a Communist country, has started to prosper because they are allowing more and more free economic markets.

Freedom is essential to any good society. 

But in order to have an enlightened civilization, most people must use their freedom to improve themselves, and make the world a better place.


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Tim Farage is a Professor and Graduate Advisor in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. He writes about mathematics, computer science, physics, the reconciliation between science and spirituality, Intelligent Design, and the application of Natural Law to our various systems such as education, government and economics.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Is it possible to program benevolence into an AI?

Benevolence is really an emotion, just as are anger, enjoyment, and other emotions

We have no idea as to how to program a computer (or AI which is a computer program possibly controlling some hardware) to have feelings. We have no idea as to how to program a computer to be self-aware or to care about anything.

There is a debate about this. Some computer scientists think that we’ll eventually be able to program AI’s to have feelings and be self-aware and some computer scientists don’t think so.

And if they do become self-aware, would that be bad? More than a few scientists think so.

Stephen Hawking, for example, has stated: “I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is equally concerned: "I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First, the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned."

And this is what Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, a US car-maker, said: "I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out."

Basically, these gentleman are worried are a “Rise of the Machines”, or SkyNet”, or “Terminators” run amok. Seriously.

I’m in the opposite camp. So far, no matter how fast a computer computes, and no matter how cleverly it is programmed, there is not even a semblance of emotion or self-awareness. So it is not possible to extrapolate as to when AI’s will be programmed to achieve these, if ever.

Yes, I know you’ve heard that such AI’s will be created by 2045 or some such year, but these are guesses without a factual foundation.

Consider what Richard Socher has to say. He is the chief scientist at software maker Salesforce and a computer science lecturer at Stanford. Socher is ideally positioned to resolve the debate between the humanists and the Terminators. He’s firmly in the humanist camp. “There’s no reason right now to be worried about self-conscious AI algorithms that set their own goals and go crazy,” he says. “It’s just that there’s no credible research path, currently, towards that. We’re making a huge amount of progress and we don’t need that kind of hype to be excited about current AI.”

Let’s look at self-driving cars. Commercial production of such vehicles is expected to begin in just a few years. GM says they will have completely self-driving vehicles commercially available by 2020.

Programming these vehicles is a monumental task. Their top priority is to get their occupants safely from point A to point B. So they will be programmed to avoid getting into crashes. And if they are in a situation in which they are going to hit either a dog or a human pedestrian, they will be programmed to not hit the human.

Are self-driving cars programmed to care about humans? No, because they don’t ‘care’ about anything. If someone changes their programming to hit a human rather than a dog, that is what they will do.

Furthermore, we already have military drones that can be ordered by a person to drop a bomb. Again, the drone doesn’t understand or care what it’s doing. Could someone program a tough, military robot to kill the enemy? Certainly. But it will not be because the robot ‘wants’ to kill.

We can program what looks like benevolence to us. For instance, if you observe self-driving cars long enough, you might think they were programmed to be benevolent, because they appear to be careful with human life. But they are not benevolent, nor are they hostile.

They are just machines.


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Tim Farage is a Professor and Graduate Advisor in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. The views expressed herein are those of the author. He writes about mathematics, computer science, physics, the reconciliation between science and spirituality, Intelligent Design, and the application of Natural Law to our various systems such as education, government and economics.