AI has been with us for hundreds of years; there’s no “singularity” step change. Joanna Bryson explains that the main threat of AI is not that it will do anything to us but what we are already doing to each other with it—predicting and manipulating our own and others’ behavior.
We are breaking down the traditional lines of autonomy that defined nations, corporations, and even families. This has implications for our economy, our democracy, and our individual liberty. It’s not necessarily a disaster, though it has already caused some significant disruptions. Getting on top of this problem requires better understanding and accepting the mechanistic aspects of ourselves and our society, then working to find new ways to keep ourselves socially and emotionally engaged, politically organized, and economically productive. Until we do so, we run the risk of handing control of ourselves and our nations to other individuals and organizations.
Joanna J. Bryson is a transdisciplinary researcher on the structure and dynamics of human- and animal-like intelligence. Her research covers topics ranging from artificial intelligence through autonomy and robot ethics to human cooperation and has appeared in venues ranging from Reddit to Science. Joanna is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath, where she founded and for several years led the Intelligent Systems research group. Joanna is also affiliated with Bath’s Institutes for Policy Research and Mathematical Innovation, as well as their Centres for Networks and Collective Behaviour and for Digital Entertainment. She has held visiting academic positions with Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy (where she is still affiliated), the Mannheim Centre for Social Science Research, the Department of Anthropology at Oxford, where she worked on Harvey Whitehouse’s Explaining Religion project, the Methods & Data Institute at Nottingham, doing agent-based modeling in political science, and the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution & Cognition Research in Austria, where she researched the biological origins of culture. She has conducted academic research in Edinburgh’s Human Communication Research Centre and Harvard’s Department of Psychology. Outside of academia, Joanna has worked in Chicago’s financial industry, an international organization management consultancy, and industrial AI research. Joanna has served on the senate, council, and court for the University of Bath, representing the academic assembly. She is currently a member of the College of the British Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and serves as a member of the editorial board for several academic journals, including Adaptive Behaviour, AI & Society, Connection Science, and the International Journal of Synthetic Emotions. Joanna holds a degree in behavioural science (nonclinical psychology) from Chicago, an MSc in artificial intelligence and an MPhil in psychology from Edinburgh, and a PhD in artificial intelligence from MIT.
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