Reality Checked

I have not yet experienced a meaningful conversation with a digital agent, an agent that processes data and instructions as sequences of zeros and ones.


Questions about computers reaching or surpassing human level intelligence are rather distracting. IMHO, the critical question really is to what extent humans equipped with digital intelligence might exceed the intelligence of humans who are acting without such tools. Intelligence is demonstrated by the ability to solve problems by visualizing the goals and possible paths to reach the goals.


The conversation I want to have with Jaybay, that's the name I want to give my digital agent, is about the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Earth Charter. I want Jaybay to help me unite with other people around the world in recognizing and observing these principles.


The conversation would partly be about the problem of humanity's greenhouse gas emissions. Part of the problem is that in our market-based economy, the market does not tell the truth about the costs of dying coral reefs, depletion of oxygen and acidification of the oceans, rising sea levels, and other effects from burning fossil fuels. Part of the solution is expressed in Article 7d of the Earth Charter, to internalize those costs in the prices, so the market tells us the truth.


Conversational digital agents that can process the input from billions of people may be what is needed to take our collective problem solving to an entirely new level. How much would the prices of fossil fuels rise if the full environmental and social costs were internalized? How would the money be collected? How would that money be used? It would be the job of the digital agents to find the points of unity in these billions of conversations.


Google Assistant in my phone often succeeds at answering questions, but it is not yet able to carry on a meaningful conversation about the topics of the questions. To the best of my knowledge, none of the other digital assistants are any better at carrying on conversations. I prefer "agent" to "assistant" because an agent has a legal responsibility to act on behalf of someone else.


When our digital agents gain the ability to carry on meaningful conversations, we won't need to hear about it in the news.  It will be self-evident.  If it hasn't happened by the Spring Equinox in March of 2020, I certainly hope it will by the Fall Equinox in September, which would be in advance of the next presidential election in the United States.  We seriously need to take things to a completely new level.  That's reality as I see it.


BTW, I thought I would buy a new phone in the second half of 2019, and didn't. The reason I didn't is not that I was waiting for a phone that has a conversational digital agent. What I want is a phone that will allow me to participate in a distributed processing network to help develop a conversational digital agent and other things.


John Kintree

January 1, 2020


The previous article was "Why Not Here?"