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Charting Our AI Future

New artificial-intelligence applications will not confirm scaremongers’ warnings or usher in a dystopian science-fiction scenario. But they will oblige us to reflect seriously on who we are, could be, and would like to become, while challenging the exalted status we have conferred on our species.

OXFORD – Galileo viewed nature as a book written in the language of mathematics and decipherable through physics. His metaphor may have been a stretch for his milieu, but not for ours. Ours is a world of digits that must be read through computer science.

It is a world in which artificial-intelligence (AI) applications perform many tasks better than we can. Like fish in water, digital technologies are our infosphere’s true natives, while we analog organisms try to adapt to a new habitat, one that has come to include a mix of analog and digital components.

We are sharing the infosphere with artificial agents that are increasingly smart, autonomous, and even social. Some of these agents are already right in front of us, and others are discernible on the horizon, while later generations are unforeseeable. And the most profound implication of this epochal change may be that we are most likely only at the beginning of it.

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