Yes, Wheelbarrows Make us Weaker – Relatively Speaking

July 25, 2013

There was another interesting point that Jay Richards made in this old article that I was discussing recently. Richards wrote:

Was the inventor of the wheelbarrow made weaker because he created something that could carry more than he could carry by himself? Of course not.

Well, when he invented the wheelbarrow, it became clearer that the man was not as physically strong as he wanted to be. He wasn’t made weaker, but his original weakness was highlighted. In the same way, if we make a machine smarter than us, we won’t be made less intelligent, but our relative lack of intelligence will become apparent to all.

Scaffolding with cables in Toranomon - Aug. 7, 2013

Scaffolding with cables in Toranomon – Aug. 7, 2013 (Enlarge)

The only reason this bothers us is because humans have gotten used to thinking of themselves as the most intelligent beings in the world. It was hubris all along.

Actually, the main threat from AI does not come from the machine’s intelligence at all. Instead, it comes from the machine’s ability to reproduce itself and evolve. We aren’t threatened by wheelbarrows because they don’t reproduce by themselves.

But imagine a world where wheelbarrows proliferated to the point where it was getting crowded. Wheelbarrows stacked in great tottering towers, with more coming all the time! It would be a nuisance. And then it turns out we have a shortage of iron, rubber and wood because the wheelbarrows are hogging those resources for themselves. There’s competition! And the wheelbarrows might be defeating us. This might really make humans “weaker.”