How Should a Society Be? A conversation with Brian Christian

This is another example where AI—in this case, machine-learning methods—intersects with these ethical and civic questions in an ultimately promising and potentially productive way. As a society we have these values in maxim form, like equal opportunity, justice, fairness, and in many ways they’re deliberately vague. This deliberate flexibility and ambiguity are what allows things to be a living document that stays relevant. But here we are in this world where we have to say of some machine-learning model, is this racially fair? We have to define these terms, computationally or numerically (…)

Brian Christian: My academic background is in computer science and philosophy. My work has been about the relationship between those two fields. What do we learn about being human by thinking about the quest to create artificial intelligence? What do we learn about human decision making by thinking of human problems in computational terms? The questions that have interested me over the years have been, on the one hand, what defines human intelligence at a species level? And secondly, at an individual level, how do we approach decision making in our own lives, and what are the problems that the world throws at us?