What The AI Movement Has To Learn from the Space Exploration Age

The sacrifice of your loved ones has stirred the soul of our nation and, through the pain, our hearts have been opened to a profound truth — the future is not free, the story of all human progress is one of a struggle against all odds. We learned again that this America, which Abraham Lincoln called the last best hope of man on Earth, was built on heroism and noble sacrifice. It was built by men and women like our seven star voyagers, who answered a call beyond duty, who gave more than was expected or required, and who gave it with little thought to worldly reward.
Reagan’s Remarks On the Challenger Disaster

On the heels of the first pedestrian death due to self-driving cars, I think we’re forgetting that. We’re getting scared of the costs of Artificial Intelligence, which already included lost jobs, destroyed futures, an irreversible economic change (and the psychological downstream effects of that). Now, we’re scared innocent lives will be added to the tally too.

The bad news is, they probably will be. And as we go on, the costs will continue to climb.

Thinking about this reminded me, of all things, of the space race.

It’s easy for us to look back on those glory days now and revel in the fact that man made it to the moon before we could even produce a cell phone. During the space race, things weren’t nearly so certain. The Soviets beat us to every major space-race milestone (first manned flight, first space walk, etc) while our costs continued to climb higher and higher as our progress stagnated. People died in training accidents, more so than actually died in flight. People wondered whether it was even worth the effort.

Now, it’s easy for us to see that it was. Aside from the profound psychological boon it gave our nation, the space race bequeathed us with an unimaginable amount of technology which was propagated through the private market.

Artificial Intelligence, I think, is in these darker initial days. The technology isn’t advanced enough to make the incredible day-to-day changes futurists know it’s capable of. It is advanced enough, however, to extract costs that makes people who are more resistant to change nervous. But it’s worth it.

Some examples of AI that’s worth it that pop right into my head are the AI of RoBotany and Olive. RoBotany is a company which uses robotics and artificial intelligence to grow crops indoors. This means that they get a great yield, no matter what season or location. That kind of technology can change the way food is produced and distributed around the globe. Olive is a company which, right now, makes AI for the healthcare administrative system — but they are working towards an internet of healthcare which will change the way we interact with health providers forever. And those are just two of the myriad ways AI is going to change the world.

We just need to stay the course.


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