MIT Prof. Costis Daskalakis Talks about Artificial Intelligence

Humanity’s journey toward developing true Artificial Intelligence “is the human brain’s wager with Darwinian evolution,” according to Prof. Constantinos Daskalakis, the X-Window Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The 36-year-old professor who is noted for his work advancing the understanding of Nash Equilibria, was interviewed by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) during a recent trip to Greece, where he gave lectures at Greek universities.

“One of the highest functions that the human brain can do is to copy itself. When humans reach the point of reproducing their own abilities in an artificial way, then everything is open and everything is possible. This can be amazing, it can lead us to a Wonderland where the existence of machines will work in humanity’s favour or it can lead us to unpleasant situations,” Daskalakis said, when asked if he shared the fears expressed by noted scientists and leaders in the field of technology – such as Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk – about the possible negative repercussions for humans of rapidly developing AI and especially Artificial General Intelligence.

“Elon Musk has said that AI could be the cause of World War 3. I would remind you, however, of what Einstein said: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones,” Daskalakis noted.

Even though AI causes serious social upheavals that are a direct threat to democracy in the dystopian view of the future, Daskalakis noted, the positive slant promised great gifts and benefits: “I believe that there is a very capable and democratic family of ‘hackers’ – and I include in this family anyone capable of understanding the technology and contributing to it. It is up to them and up to all of us to protect the access of all people to the benefits of the progress that will be made, so that ‘two-speed’ countries, companies or citizens do not exist. This is not a thing that we can play with,” he said.

Asked whether humans, whose primacy on the planet is in question for the first time, will suffer an existential shock, he replied: “I hope that the opposite will happen. That we will be able to say ‘We are no longer hostages of politicians and governments; we can change the world.’ This is the good scenario, of course, and that is what I want to see happen.”

Asked if systems such as education or the law will have time to adjust, Daskalakis noted that the current systems for education, legislation and justice “are no longer adequate, given the rate with which technology is progressing.”

“Look at it this way: before we had time to pass legislation on fake news, there was a tornado of fake news that been and gone. We will draw up the legislation for fake news and something else will turn up. The way that democracies and education works is not fast enough to keep pace with developments, therefore we need to change our models. That is why I think that the base, the people, have enormous power. If the base itself does not protect me from fake news, for example, I cannot expect that legislation will be passed that will defend me. All this is turning into something like a guerrilla war,” he said.

The Greek professor, a winner of the Kalai Prize awarded by the Game Theory Society and the Giuseppe Sciacca research prize, also spoke to ANA about the use of technological implants in humans, the moral and philosophical questions that arise from the development of AI and the way things are likely to unfold over the next five to 50 years.

He was interviewed by the ANA a few hours before his lecture at University of Thessaloniki, as part of an event organised by the university’s Mathematics and IT faculties.