by Scott Carey
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
When the creator of the Internet speaks, people
ought to listen, but they will not.
The technology that was meant for good is being used
for unchecked evil, and is steering us straight into
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
lays out nightmare scenario where AI runs the financial world
The architect of the world wide web laid out a scenario where AI
Intelligence) could become the new masters of the universe by creating and
running multitudes of companies better and faster than humans
The architect of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee today
talked about some of his concerns for the internet over the coming
years, including a nightmarish scenario where artificial
intelligence (AI) could become the new 'masters of the universe'
by creating and running their own companies
Masters of the universe is a reference to Tom Wolfe's
The Bonfire of the Vanities, regarding the men
(and they were men) who started racking up multi-million dollar
salaries and a great deal of influence from their finance roles on
Wall Street and in London during the computerized trading boom
Speaking at the
Innovate Finance Global Summit today, Berners-Lee
envisioned a world where AI systems start to develop decision-making
capabilities and the impact this will have on the fairness of our
He laid out the scenario where AI could decide which companies to
acquire and took this to its logical conclusion:
"So when AI starts to
make decisions such as who gets a mortgage, that's a big one. Or
which companies to acquire and when AI starts creating its own
companies, creating holding companies, generating new versions
of itself to run these companies.
So you have survival of the fittest going on between these AI
companies until you reach the point where you wonder if it
becomes possible to understand how to ensure they are being
fair, and how do you describe to a computer what that means
Although it's hard to
imagine shedding too many tears over the loss of the decision makers
the 2008 crash, the scenario does
threaten to wipe out an entire industry and raises some serious
questions about how fair a financial system without any human
involvement can be.
This is similar to the fear laid out recently by AI-skeptic Elon
"Let's say you create
a self-improving AI to pick strawberries and it gets better and
better at picking strawberries and picks more and more and it is
self-improving, so all it really wants to do is pick
So then it would have
all the world be strawberry fields. Strawberry fields forever."
No room for human beings.
Berners-Lee was the
recipient of the Association for Computing Machinery's AM Turing
award last week, and he has taken the media spotlight to criticize
the Trump administration's rollback of net neutrality protections in
an interview with
published a letter on the 28th anniversary of the
world wide web, detailing what he views as the three main challenges
for the web:
loss of control
over personal data, the spread of misinformation across the web
and the need for transparency with online political advertising.
Speaking in London
today he built on these concerns, asking if social networks like
Twitter are "net good for the planet" and calling for a rethink of
how the internet tends to propagate "nasty ideas" over
conclusion is a complete change of strategy," he said.
"We need to not
leave people to create whatever social networks they like, we
have to think about the impact that things have on society and
possibly rethink the entire platform."
Speaking in what
appears to be a reaction to Donald Trump's election, Berners-Lee
also reiterated his concerns over political advertising being
introduce a rule that if you're a political organization, you
may not target?"
"I talk about
the horror scenario of going to a candidate's webpage and
depending on who you were you get a different message and that
is just marketing 101 for the political websites out there.
we need to rethink the way we have built society on top of the