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What do you get when you put Henry Kissinger and AI in the same sentence? Well, a lot of raised eyebrows of Millennials and absolute AI beginners for starters.
You have to admire the man. At the age of 98, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has a whole new area of interest: artificial intelligence. How in the world that happened and why? It's not that one thing led to another. It's more that one man led to another. Back in 2016, Eric Schmidt was still the executive chairman of Google. Of all people, he invited Kissinger to have a "little chat" with Daniel Huttenlocher, who was the dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. Of all the things they could possibly talk about, these "three musketeers" tackled the AI. What was the result of thier brainstorming about the future of AI and the whole of mankind?
You think that a couple of courtesy handshakes, smiles, and "see you next time" would do, but, oh no. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that, "great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." I dare to add that great minds with quantum computers instead of brains gave birth to books. A bestseller, to be precise, according to Barns & Noble:
What were the conclusions and potential implications of playing a game of chess with the AI, especially from Kissinger's point of view?
In 2019, Kissinger wrote about the increasing tendency to give control of nuclear weapons to computers operating with Artificial Intelligence. Kissinger argued that giving power to launch nuclear weapons to computers using algorithms to make decisions would eliminate the human factor and give the advantage to the state that had the most effective AI system as a computer can make decisions about war and peace far faster than any human ever could.
But, if you take into consideration what Kissenger had been through, personally, from Nazi Germany in his childhood to the Cuban missile crisis, professionally, then you know that the there-is-a-catch part is simply unavoidable.
Just as an AI-enhanced computer can win chess games by anticipating human decision-making, an AI-enhanced computer could be useful in a crisis as in a nuclear war, the side that strikes first would have the advantage by destroying the opponent's nuclear capacity. Kissinger also noted there was always the danger that a computer would make a decision to start a nuclear war that before diplomacy had been exhausted or the algorithm controlling the AI might make a decision to start a nuclear war that would be not understandable to the operators. Kissinger also warned the use of AI to control nuclear weapons would impose "opacity" on the decision-making process as the algorithms that control the AI system are not readily understandable, destabilizing the decision-making process.
Now, we all know that the AI experts and enthusiasts can and would write us more than one book on how the "AI-enhanced computers" that "play" and "move" nuclear warheads instead of chess figures are something completely different and ridiculous to use for this kind of comparison. Of course, it would be disrespectful to ask a living legend, Mr. Kissinger, "Sir, with all due respect, is the Terminator one of your favorite movies?"
Talking about movies, contrary to a common misconception, Kubrick's classic Dr. Strangelove wasn't about Kissinger. On the contrary:
It has been claimed that the character was based on Henry Kissinger, but Kubrick and Sellers denied this; Sellers said, "Strangelove was never modeled after Kissinger—that's a popular misconception. It was always Wernher von Braun (a central figure in Nazi Germany's rocket development program recruited to the US after the war)." Furthermore, Henry Kissinger points out in his memoirs that at the time of the writing of Dr. Strangelove, he was a little-known academic.
It would be an unforgivable waste of time and ink to limit this story about Kissinger and AI to a speculative and trivial Skynet (Terminator) discussion and interpretation. This great man whose mind defies to be trapped in the past, and whose decisions shaped our present time, has a lot to say about our future.
“I don’t look at it as a technical person,” said Kissinger. “I am concerned with the historical, philosophical, strategic aspect of it, and I’ve become convinced that AI and the surrounding disciplines are going to bring a change in human consciousness, like the Enlightenment.
Kissinger said that two years ago in front of the audience attending the “Strength Through Innovation” conference held at the Liaison Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C. This conference was organized by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which was set up by Congress to evaluate the future of AI in the U.S. as it pertains to national security.
His invocation of the 18th-century European Enlightenment was a reference to the paradigmatic intellectual shift that occurred during this important historical period, in which science, rationalism, and humanism largely replaced religious and faith-based thinking.
Just imagine living a life on this planet for a century. Let's leave politics and diplomacy aside. Experiencing countless technology shifts and witnessing revolutionary discoveries must have been something - special. Here we are, sharing a story about one of the finest representatives of the so-called "old school."
I stumbled upon this amazing line when Kissinger shared his thoughts about AI with college students.
A hat off to a chess master in life, policy, diplomacy, and AI. Kissinger had spoken. We had been warned. I sure hope that our AI pioneers aren't going to get lost in no man's land between applications and implications.
I am this year's Nominee for the Noonies2021 Award in the following categories: Business, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, and COVID-19. Real people. Real readers. Real stories. Real votes. Let's leave the good old new AI to do some other things.