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Communications of the ACM

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Vinton G. Cerf wonders "whether there is any possibility of establishing 'watcher networks'" in his October 2022 Communications "Cerf's Up" column. I must point out to all who have the same concern about "who will watch the watchers" that Philip K. Dick describes this problem in his story The Minority Report (see wikipedia where a group of three precogs (organic versions of AI) attempt to predict the future. It works often, but not always. So the question arises: How much authority are we willing to provide for AI and is the concept of three AIs working independently on the same problem a feasible solution. I agree with Cerf that we need to come up with a solution before the problem overwhelms us.

Tom Jones, Seattle, WA, USA


Alexandru Plesca


I would like to share some thoughts on "Critical thinking". It has been a subject of discussion and apparent divergence of opinions between Vint Cerf and Luiz do Valle Miranda.

So, I will assume that whatever "Critical thinking" is, it is most likely mentioned as a tool one can use to their benefit. Even not caring what "Critical thinking" is I see how Luiz do Valle Miranda could have shared their concern of dropping responsibility on people. I.E. without this tool you will not be able to do something. I agree that a position like this can be concerning and can be suboptimal. For example, women are still misrepresented and discriminated. However, a solution in which we give women testosterone patches and make them be "more like men", I think, would pose problems on many levels. I still think there is value in some cases to adapt in an unnatural way, but that should not be the norm.

Now, I do agree with Vint Cerf that "Critical thinking" in general should not be coupled with criticism. A possible solution would be using "Abstract thinking" as a concept. The two of them share some commonalities. Critical thinking is associated with Objectivity, but this noun can also pose confusion like relation to objectivisation. And I so much agree and support adopting abstract thinking as a foundation for thinking in general. However, I think, a system should not "punish" people that do not rely that much on critical thinking. I do not think we should leave the environment unsafe for people that are not fond of critical thinking.

As a result, I think there might be a controlled platform with special safety standards that will allow people feel free in their actions. I.E. there is a version of YouTube for children. I think we should build in that direction. This would be a scalable solution in which we exercise our responsibility and people can choose whether they want to interact with the internet in the safe space or experiment with more responsibility and more abstract thinking requires. For QR processing we might create QR codes that render just text, that can be used in a search engine of trust to get us where we expect to arrive. This process can be made automatic. Trusted texts would automatically be mapped to an entity, just like DNS. So we lose some precision and we add some extra layers, but we gain control and trust.

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