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Opinion: Earth’s favored children — a postscript

In my darkest moments, I wonder if there will be generations of human beings who will live a full life to follow today’s older generations. There is an existential question that is not being addressed seriously enough by those in charge (or who think they are in charge) of today’s powerful artificial intelligence systems.


With the exception of a relative handful of centenarians, nearly all of the “Greatest Generation” (born between 1901 and 1924) are gone. Far more of my cohort, the “Silent Generation” (born 1925 to 1945) are alive, the youngest having outlived life expectancy for the time that we were born by about 20 years. The youngest of the “Baby Boomers” (born 1946 to 1964) will turn 60 this year, the oldest will be 78. For all intents and purposes, members of these generations have lived all or nearly all of a “full life,” based on life-expectancy tables.

Given the current state of the world, I worry about the generations that have followed us and those yet to be born. Will they have the opportunity to live a full life? In his highly respected book, “Homo Deus” (Godlike Man), Yuval Noah Harari, Professor of History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, posits that the 21st Century will witness a quest for immortality. This book was published in 2015, long before most people knew about artificial intelligence and before AI was nearly as powerful as it is today. But, consider this: According to Harari, human beings have risen to the top of the food chain because of our ability as data processors.


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