As to the issue of dangerous consequences, we believe much of the current concern derives from the fact that, with the exception of New Sapience, the field is dominated by Data Science, that is Machine Learning or Deep Learning, and as Jerome Pesenti, formerly IBM’s VP for Watson said: “we’re starting to build systems we can’t fully understand.” If you succeed at building something that has human or super-human intelligence and you don’t know how it works, you had better be concerned.
Machine Knowledge systems, in contrast, are fully deterministic. We know exactly how they work and no matter how intelligent they become they will function as designed. They will only be a threat to humans if we build them to be – and we will not. This issue is dealt with more fully in the article “The Third Singularity.” We do believe we have a classic “disruptive technology” but to understand the potential scope of that disruption requires that we first look, not ahead but back in time, a long way back.
The beginning of the upper Paleolithic period, around 30,000 years ago, was marked by an explosion in the cultural and technological sophistication of Cro Magnon humans as seen in their tools, clothing, art, and behavior. All things had been basically static since the earliest origins of modern Homo sapiens 160,000 to 190,000 years before that time. Most of what we now recognize as modern human behavior first appeared during the upper Paleolithic. What happened? A good bet would be the invention of spoken natural human language which permitted knowledge created in one human mind to be efficiently transferred to another. People became much more productive.
6000 years ago humans learned to write their languages down and store their knowledge in persistent forms. Written language is far superior to spoken language for communicating complex concepts, especially over long periods. Written language permits large quantities of knowledge to be accumulated and passed down through generations and without the distortions that come from oral traditions.
The invention of written language marks, by definition, the beginning of history but more to the point, it marks the beginning of civilization. Every civilization is built upon a sophisticated and clearly defined vision of what the world is and people’s place in it: a common world model shared by its inhabitants. Such models and the sophisticated technology that is the recognized hallmark of civilizations are not possible without the large, stable body of knowledge that written language makes possible. People working within the framework of civilization are vastly more productive than people in primitive societies. Indeed civilization itself is the by-product of that enhanced productivity.