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At the same time as we’re seeing breakthrough after breakthrough in artificial intelligence, we’re also seeing the fulfillment of the vision of Vannevar Bush, JCR Licklider, and Doug Engelbart that computers could augment human information retrieval and problem solving. AI turned out not to be a matter of developing better algorithms, but of having enough data. The key applications of the web combine machine learning algorithms with techniques for harnessing the collective intelligence of users as captured in massive, interlinked cloud databases. Bit by bit, this is leading us towards a new kind of global brain, in which we have met the AI, and it is us. We and our devices are its senses, our databases are its memory, its habits, and even its dreams. This global brain is still a child, but as its parents, we have a responsibility to think about how best to raise it. What should we be teaching our future augmented selves? How can we make the emerging global consciousness not only more resilient, but more moral?
Tim O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media. His original business plan was “interesting work for interesting people,” and that’s worked out pretty well. He publishes books, runs conferences, invests in early-stage startups, urges companies to create more value than they capture, and tries to change the world by spreading and amplifying the knowledge of innovators.
Tim is also a partner at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, a founder and board member of Safari Books Online and Maker Media, and on the boards of Code for America and PeerJ.
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