DOS Won’t Hunt: A Disagreement With Neil deGrasse Tyson on AI

The astrophysicist downplayed doomsaying about AI recently. Part of his argument presumed society would ultimately reject misinformation.

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Editor

June 5, 2023

At the Rev 4 conference last week, famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a keynote that included his response to a question about his optimism or pessimism about AI’s future.

He pointed out the role AI has already played in everyday society, in navigation apps for example, and the usefulness of computing power to shoulder tasks that can free up people’s time.

Tyson acknowledged the need for some guidance, checks and balances on the technology’s use, but dismissed the idea of mechanized AI overlords dominating the world as often depicted in various media and entertainment. “You have people -- heads of AI, captains of industry -- saying, ‘We should fear this,’ and we presume they understand what they’re talking about.”

Tyson pointed out that the current conversation about AI tends to frame the technology in ways where fear of the unknown kicks in, yet he said we should also maintain a healthy respect for what any powerful tool might do.

The benefits of AI, even its early forms, have long been part of innovation from the enterprise to the individual, in private and professional spaces. However, there was an area where Tyson’s perspective on AI may have presumed too much: what will the masses embrace versus what they will reject.

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About the Author(s)

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth

Senior Editor

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth covers tech policy, including ethics, privacy, legislation, and risk; fintech; code strategy; and cloud & edge computing for InformationWeek. He has been a journalist for more than 25 years, reporting on business and technology first in New Jersey, then covering the New York tech startup community, and later as a freelancer for such outlets as TheStreet, Investopedia, and Street Fight. Follow him on Twitter: @jpruth.

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