Author Peter Svarre on AI and the horrors of disembodied consciousness

Peter Svarre, author of the book ”Hvad Skal Vi Med Mennesker” concerning Aritificial Intelligence and the future of humanity’s relationship with technology.
Image: Peter Svarre

The relationship between artificial intelligence and humanity is constantly evolving, nowadays more than ever. For some people, technology is a great opportunity to elevate the quality and efficiency of their work, while for others it is a frightening presence threatening to nullify their own abilities and creativity. 

Human Hotel host Peter researches this topic and is the author of ‘Hvad skal vi med mennesker?’ (What should we do with people?), a book that explores the relationship between ethics and technology. On the one hand, he acknowledges that technology gives us tremendous power of shaping the future and changing the world we live in. On the other, he questions the ability of humankind to develop technology with respect for moral and ethical boundaries. 

When thinking about the possibility of having his brain stored inside an AI, Peter’s opinion is extremely clear: “I could probably not imagine anything more horrifying than having my mental faculties locked inside a bodily detached machine. [..] I am very much an anti-Cartesian – I believe that body and brain are uniquely interconnected and the idea that you can separate body and mind and live on as pure mind is preposterous and actually really really scary“.

 

Images: Peter Svarre

He pushed his thought process further questioning the actual ability of a modern AI to keep up with the tremendous speed and power our human brain is capable of. He is sure AI will improve and ultimately get ahead of us, but he doesn’t feel this is the case just yet. “I also think that AIs, for many years to come, will be so primitive that uploading your mind to an AI would feel like driving a tricycle when you have been used to driving a Ferrari. I would much rather die and be consumed by nice little hungry worms.

Video by Peter Svarre

For Frank Beck Lassen, journalist at information.dk[Peter] han det i [‘Hvad Skal Vi Med Mennesker?’] klart, at meget kommer til at forandre sig så meget, at vi muligvis befinder os på tærsklen til en 2. industriel revolution, men også, at teknologi er en umiskendeligt menneskelig affære. […] Bogen har en rigtig fin titel. Hvad skal vi med mennesker? Spørgsmålet lyder lidt mærkeligt, men træffer den eksistentielle sårbarhed, der følger med spørgsmålet om kunstig intelligens.” 

(“[Peter] makes it clear in [‘Hvad Skal Vi Med Mennesker?’] that much is going to change so much that we may be on the threshold of a 2nd industrial revolution, but also that technology is an unmistakably human affair. […] The book has a really nice title: What are we going to do with humans? The question sounds a little strange but strikes the existential vulnerability that comes with the question of artificial intelligence.”)

“Peter Svarre har skrevet en på en gang udramatisk og dramatisk historie om kunstig intelligens. Udramatisk, fordi han ikke falder for hype og dum teknologibegejstring. Dramatisk, fordi han overbeviser om, at kunstig intelligens kommer til at forandre vores alle sammens verden på kort tid. Han er god til at pege på alt det ved kunstig intelligens og maskinlæring, der kan begejstre. Men vigtigere endnu forsøger han at forklare os de måder, vi kan misforstå de mange potentialer. Mellem jubelidioti og maskindepression ligger der en nøgtern og tænksom vej, og det er den, Peter Svarre prøver at tegne.” 

(“Peter Svarre has written an at once undramatic and dramatic story about artificial intelligence. Undramatic because he does not fall for the hype and the stupid technology enthusiasm. Dramatic because he believes that artificial intelligence is going to change the world of us all in a short time. He is good at pointing out all that about artificial intelligence and machine learning that can excite. But more importantly, he tries to explain to us the ways we can misunderstand the many potentials. There is a sober and thoughtful path between jubilation, idiocy, and machine depression, and that is what Peter Svarre is trying to draw.“)

Original quotations in Danish by Frank Beck Lassen for Information: ‘Kunstig intelligens kan erstatte mere end vi tror – men mindre end vi frygter‘, translated to English by Human Hotel.

  • Visit Copenhagen, one of the happiest cities in the world and home to magnificent museums, art galleris and even a hippie commune that attracts foreign visitors from across the globe.

  • Stay at Peter’s spacious flat in Nørrebro, probably the most vivacious neighborhood in Copenhagen and enjoy its kebab places (the best in town), hip cafes and micro breweries. 

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