“Ich lehre euch den Übermenschen. Der Mensch ist Etwas, das überwunden werden soll. Was habt ihr getan, ihn zu überwinden? (I teach you the Superman. Man is something to be surpassed. What have you done, to overcome Man?)” – Nietzsche

I know that you’re afraid. Machine Intelligence is just another nail in our coffin, another link on the slave chain, another system of total control. And you might be right.

But you might be wrong. Look, our autonomic nervous systems Hate Change. And for Good Reason. Just look at how dangerous the world, much less the Universe, is! Most of us have lived most of our lives in a state of emergency, trying to figure out whether to run or hide. We are constantly looking for safe places, for spaces where we can be protected from the nightmare that is reality. And this has such a basic, primitive effect on us that when these anxiety chemicals constantly pour through our body our physical health suffers, as well as our ability to observe, judge rationally, and make decisions accurately.

So I am asking you to spend your time at AgoraFest playing at whatever you like to play at, to hug others often, to cuddle with those who want to cuddle with you, to enjoy yourselves and each other. And while you are doing this, consider that Artificial Intelligence might be one of the greatest technologies of individual freedom that we have ever seen.

Humanity has been a tool-making and using species for many tens of thousands of years, and the better our tools, the better our lives have become. Today we use tools that allow us to access libraries and encyclopedias of knowledge, enable us to communicate quickly with millions of people, and help us learn, trade, and otherwise improve our lives immeasurably. Fifty years ago this would have all seemed like magic.

Yet there is still one big drag on our goals and dreams. The problem is, there is only one of us, and we are stupid sometimes, we get tired, we get bored, we sleep a third of our lives. But finally, we have a chance to create tools that are smart enough to help us solve problems, avoid threats, point out opportunities, and assist us with the most difficult task in our lives – thinking.

Sure some will (and already are) using this technology to become more stupid, less self-aware, more insect-like. But those people have always been willing to be herded and enslaved – AI wasn’t necessary. But for the independent individual, AI is a way to multiply our skills, our talents, our effectiveness.

So like last year, this year at AgoraFest we will have a demonstration on how to do machine learning, how to get started creating your own machine intelligences, and we will also have a discussion time to argue about whether this is the road to freedom, or the road to hell.

I don’t know the future. Like the dude in the Jesuit outfit said in the phone booth, I’m not here to tell you how this is going to end. I’m here to tell you how it’s beginning. Where we go from here is up to you.

To learn more and to sign up for AgoraFest 2018: