The Path Of AI: Machine Intelligence or Machine Usefulness

Frank Diana
3 min readAug 16, 2023

Central to my thinking on innovation is a belief that human advancement is within our grasp. The innovation wheel I developed was inspired by this belief, and while I am an optimist, I also appreciate the role that history plays in providing perspective. Just because we have the opportunity to advance human development doesn’t mean that we will take it. History tells us that opposing forces fight to influence our path. With that as context, I ventured into reading a book titled Power and Progress. Authors Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson explore a thousand years of history and contemporary evidence, making the case that progress depends on the choices we make about technology.

This journey through the middle ages and industrial revolutions illuminates the point around choices. The path that technology takes is not predetermined or inevitable. Both in times of human misery and prosperity, it is human choice that defines an era. The authors take these historical signals and apply them to this emerging age of AI. Will we strive for machine intelligence and the automation that follows, or will we seek machine usefulness and the expanded possibilities it represents? The authors build towards recommendations that are rooted in altering the narrative, building countervailing powers, and developing and implementing specific policies to deal with the most important issues. Another very good book that forces us to consider the lessons from history, take a hard look at our current path, and consider the alternatives. I have added it to my library.

AMAZON ABSTRACT

The bestselling co-author of Why Nations Fail and the bestselling co-author of 13 Bankers deliver a bold reinterpretation of economics and history that will fundamentally change how you see the world

A thousand years of history and contemporary evidence make one thing clear: progress depends on the choices we make about technology. New ways of organizing production and communication can either serve the narrow interests of an elite or become the foundation for widespread prosperity.

The wealth generated by technological improvements in agriculture during the European Middle Ages was captured by the nobility and used to build grand cathedrals, while peasants remained on the edge of starvation. The first hundred years of industrialization in England delivered stagnant incomes for working people. And throughout the world today, digital technologies and artificial intelligence undermine jobs and democracy through excessive automation, massive data collection, and intrusive surveillance.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Power and Progress demonstrates the path of technology was once-and may again-be brought under control. Cutting-edge technological advances can become empowering and democratizing tools, but not if all major decisions remain in the hands of a few hubristic tech leaders.

With their bold reinterpretation of economics and history, Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson fundamentally change how we see the world, providing the vision needed to redirect innovation so it again benefits most people.

Originally published at http://frankdiana.net on August 16, 2023.

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Frank Diana

TCS Executive focused on the rapid evolution of society and business. Fascinated by the view of the world in the next decade and beyond https://frankdiana.net/