Saturday, December 26, 2015

Owl of Minerva?

Long-Eared Owl

A big hat-tip to Malcolm Pollack for directing me to Raffi Khatchadourian, staff writer at The New Yorker since 2008, who has written a near epic-length article - "The Doomsday Invention" - about the futurologist, Nick Bostrom, a genius who worries that superintelligent machines may assume control of their own evolution and not only surpass us but even dominate us, so Bostrom is putting his own formidable intellect to work at determining how to avoid such domination, which he discusses in his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.

For those of us who put off thinking about this 'problem,' Bostrom offers a 'fable' about how the sparrows learned a 'good' answer on how to protect their species from harm at the talons and beaks of owls:
[Bostrom's] book begins with an "unfinished" fable about a flock of sparrows that decide to raise an owl to protect and advise them. They go looking for an owl egg to steal and bring back to their tree, but, because they believe their search will be so difficult, they postpone studying how to domesticate owls until they succeed [in obtaining the egg]. Bostrom concludes, "It is not known how the story ends."
Why no ending to the story? Because they learned the wisdom of owl domestication only at dusk?



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