On the latest episode of Giving Ventures, Peter talks with leaders tackling tough tech topics like artificial-intelligence programs threatening to remake industry as we know it. His guests include George Gilder, co-founder of the Discovery Institute; Zach Graves, executive director of the Foundation for American Innovation; and Chris Koopman, founder of the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State.
Artificial Intelligence ‘Tremendous Advance’
George Gilder — who co-founded the Discovery Institute in 1990 and is a senior fellow for its center on wealth, poverty and morality — says artificial intelligence is progress in the area computer science and that the discovery of the microchip is a bigger deal than recent advancements in artificial intelligence.
“I think AI is a tremendous advance. It’s the next step in computer science. It’s not different from previous steps. I think much of Silicon Valley has hallucinations about the actual achievements of AI. AI is a development in computer science, probably smaller than the discovery of the microchip.
He says that artificial intelligence — while not the chart-topping discovery some think it is — will benefit from advancements in microchip technology and that it’ll have newfound bells and whistles thanks to the microchip producers transitioning from the use of silicone to carbon-based graphene.
“It’s not a mind. It’s not going to usurp human intelligence. We understand the principles that underly all computer technology and because we understand this we grasp that AI is not a threat to the human capabilities or the human race as some overwrought observers have been claiming,” he says.
The Discovery Institute is a nonprofit dedicated to better understanding that human beings are the result of intelligent design rather than the result of happenstance and is committed to scientific research into biology, technology and other issue areas and communicating those findings to the general public.
Governments ‘Subsidize Technologies of the Past’
One of the messages Gilder is endeavoring to communicate is the importance of graphene, a new carbon material, and the transformative impact it’ll have on technological progress — akin to the splash silicone made in the 1980s, he says — but that governments threaten to get in the way of its adoption.
“The basic challenge, I think, is governments around the world are trying to nationalize technology under industrial policies and — when they do that — they always subsidize the technologies of the past, and the incumbent companies all ally with government to suppress the technologies of the future.”
“I wrote a book called ‘Life After Google’ — it was a modest worldwide bestseller — and life after Google is an entrepreneurial life where new technologies always surprise us, and technologies that everybody believes are dominant in Washington are unlikely to be the technologies that prevail in the world.”
In Technology Policy ‘Bias Should Always Be Towards Innovation’
Zach Graves is executive director of the Foundation for American Innovation — previously “Lincoln Network” — and primarily researches the “intersection of technology and governance issues,” according to the Foundation for American Innovation website.
Like any tool, says Graves, technology can be used for good and it can be used for destructive purposes, too. Take, for example, he says, the development of “nitrogen synthesis” — something critical for fertilizer and feeding the world population but that also led to the atomic bomb and World War II.
“We always have to be careful about evaluating these kinds of risks but the bias should be towards innovation and should be towards harnessing these tools to advance human ends and part of doing that in a responsible way is to have a strong, principled framework for how you approach different types of technologies.”
The mission of the Foundation for American Innovation is to create better collaboration between technological innovators and policymakers and inspiring confidence in new technologies rather than stoking the distrust that exists among a lot of constituencies and lawmakers.
‘Suffering Through Nearly a Half Century of Economic Stagnation’
Chris Koopman, executive directorof the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State, is serving a four-year term on the Utah Personal Privacy Oversight Commission and a member of the IT & Emerging Technology working group, a project of the Regulatory Transparency Project at the Federalist Society.
“We have been suffering through nearly a half century of economic stagnation,” he says, adding that our growth has slowed from about 4% from 1950 through 1970 to 3% the 20 years following and finally to about 2% today. The majority of the growth we have experienced came from emerging technologies.
“During that time, the tech and innovation sector has been probably the single most productive aspect of our economy. While the rest of the economy is grinding to a halt, tech and innovation in America has taken off, and I think that’s because a vision was cast in the early ‘90s that said, ‘As a government, we are not going to meddle in this sector.’”
Americans ‘Just Want to Use Antitrust as a Punitive Tool for Companies They Don’t Like’
To get a pulse on where people fall on the issue of Big Tech and anti-trust laws, Koopman and his team began polling people in 2020 and discovered Americans overwhelmingly do believe tech companies have become too big but Americans also don’t trust the government to break up the big-tech companies.
“Our takeaway from this and what we’ve explaining to policymakers is ‘Look — there are people who just want to use antitrust as a punitive tool for companies they don’t like. Zoom is the reason why people feel like they can’t get away from the office anymore. Twitter is the reason why Thanksgiving stinks with your in-laws because the opinions we’ve all been posting.”
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