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在1966年预测2000年的生活
Beware gloomy predictions — the automated future is bright

来源:FT中文网    2018-01-11 07:16



        One of the highlights of the past fortnight’s jollity was a six-minute clip, placed by the BBC Archive on social media. A class of teenagers in 1966 attempted to predict what life would be like in the year 2000.        英国广播公司(BBC)档案部在社交媒体上发布的一段6分钟视频短片,成了最近节日气氛的亮点之一。视频中,一个班级的青少年在1966年试着预测2000年的生活会是什么样的。
        The footage from Tomorrow’s World, a BBC television programme, was viewed close to half a million times in its first four days online and attracted about 4,000 comments. It is fascinating for anyone interested in futurology.        这段来自BBC《明日世界》(Tomorrow’s World)节目的短片,上线四天内的点播量接近50万次,吸引了4000多条评论。对于那些对未来学感兴趣的人,这段视频令人神往。
        The children of 1966 were a profoundly gloomy lot. Pessimists outnumber optimists by six to one. The miserabilists are principally worried about a nuclear apocalypse, which several regard as inevitable.        1966年的那群孩子们对未来非常沮丧。悲观派远超乐观派,比例为6:1。悲观派主要担心核末日,其中有几个人认为那是不可避免的。
        Overpopulation is mentioned repeatedly, as is unemployment caused by automation and computers (“Something has to be done about it,” says one). Factory farming comes up, as does boredom occasioned by uniformity, rationing — and the prospect of having to live on food pills.        他们反复提及人口过剩的问题,以及自动化和计算机带来的失业问题。(其中一个孩子说,“必须对此采取一些行动。”)他们还提到了工厂化农场,还有因整齐划一统一和配给造成的无趣——以及必须依靠食物丸为食的前景。
        Climate change is fretted over, after a fashion, by two children. A boy argues that orbiting satellites are interfering with the weather and will cause sea levels to rise “by 300ft to 600ft”. A girl believes the sun will burn out and start an ice age.        两个孩子勉强算是对气候变化感到不安。其中一个男孩认为,在轨卫星干扰了天气,将造成海平面上升“300至600英尺”。一个女孩认为,太阳将燃烧殆尽,在地球上开启一个冰河期。
        Another boy takes a different tack: “People will be regarded more as statistics than as actual people.” Another imagines: “I may be at the funeral of a computer, or if something goes wrong with a nuclear bomb, coming back from hunting while living in a cave.” I like that.        另一个男孩采取了截然不同的思路:“人们将在更大程度上被视为统计数字,而不是实实在在的人。”另一个孩子想象道:“我可能会去参加一个计算师的葬礼,或者如果一枚核弹出了问题,我会在洞穴内生活,外出打猎谋生。”我喜欢这个想法。
        The outnumbered optimists speak of racial harmony, of rich and poor still existing but getting on fine, of medical advances, and of better architecture (“more rounded and less boxy”). One girl’s optimism is non-specific: “People think the earth will explode but it won’t,” she says.        人数处于劣势的乐观派谈到了种族和谐,提到富人和穷人仍会存在,但两个群体和谐相处,还提到了更好的建筑设计(“房子会更圆,而不那么像方盒子”)。有一个女孩的乐观比较笼统:“人们认为地球会爆炸,但不会的,”她说道。
        For the most part, those viewing the clips have taken from it exactly what they wished.        大体上,看过这段视频的人都找到了合乎自己愿望的内容。
        If their big worry is climate change, they seize on the 1966 interviewees’ mention of the weather as being super-perceptive. The child who says we will all be mere statistics by 2000 — not a particularly brilliant point — is hailed as a veritable seer by those who believe we are all helpless subjects of Google and Amazon.        如果他们最大的担忧是气候变化,他们便会抓住1966年的受访者提到天气这一点,认为他们的观察力超级敏锐。那个说我们到2000年都将只是统计数字——并非特别精辟的一点——的孩子,被那些认为我们都是受谷歌(Google)和亚马逊(Amazon)摆布的可怜虫的人誉为真正的先知。
        “These kids are so right,” says one Twitter commentator. “Pretty much spot on with nearly everything they said!”        “这些孩子说得太对了,”一名Twitter用户评论称,“他们所说的几乎一切都说到了点子上!”
        “Some very clever kids,” writes someone else on Facebook, “that can see what the future for animals and mankind is going to be very clearly. They can even think for themselves.”        “真的是一些非常聪明的孩子,”有人在Facebook上写道,“非常清楚地看到动物和人类的未来。他们甚至可以独立思考。”
        The Tomorrow’s World children seem serious and articulate, but their speculation mirrors only the stock dismal concerns of the day. I am of a similar age to those 1966 teenagers. As children, we were aware of the nuclear arms race, as I recollect, but we were mostly talking about “Americanisation” and of politics. Also missing is much of the era’s upbeat stuff on space exploration, technological marvels and cultural changes.        《明日世界》里的孩子似乎认真而且善于表达,但他们的猜测反映的只是当时典型的悲观担忧。我和那些1966年的青少年年龄相仿。我记得,小时候的我们知道当时有一场核军备竞赛,但我们讨论的大多是“美国化”和政治。另外视频中还缺少对当时的正面事物的讨论,比如空间探索、科技奇迹以及文化变化。
        As for the children’s predictions proving accurate, I am afraid I do not agree — albeit as a perennial optimist and enthusiast for the 21st century.        至于孩子们的预测被证明准确,我不能认同——尽管我一直是个乐观者,对21世纪充满热情。
        The boy concerned about automation and its effect on jobs — a hot topic today — may seem unusually prescient. Perhaps he was and thought about it all on his own. But again, automation was widely discussed in newspapers and on television in the 1960s. Even aged 11, I remember family discussions about it.        那个担心自动化及其对就业影响——当今的热议话题——的男孩可能看似非常有先见之明。或许他确实如此,并且说的完全是自己的想法。但是同样地,自动化是上世纪60年代报纸和电视上广泛讨论的话题。即使当时我只有11岁,但我仍然记得当时家里有关自动化的讨论。
        An important book in 1966 was the University of Massachusetts economist Ben Seligman’s Most Notorious Victory: Man in an Age of Automation. Among its chapter headings: “Work Without Men” and “The Trauma We Await”. President Lyndon B Johnson even established a priority National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress in 1964.        马萨诸塞大学(University of Massachusetts)经济学家本•塞利格曼(Ben Seligman)所著的《最臭名昭著的胜利:自动化时代的人类》(Most Notorious Victory: Man in an Age of Automation)是1966年颇为重要的一本书。该书的章节标题包括:“无人工作”(Work Without Men)和“我们等待的创伤”(The Trauma We Await)。时任美国总统林登•B•约翰逊(Lyndon B. Johnson)甚至在1964年成立了科技、自动化和经济进步国家委员会,并将其放在优先地位。
        For me, the Tomorrow’s World clip has highlighted how we should be wary of basing prognostication on what is currently fashionable. Modish concerns rarely turn out to be on the money.        对我而言,《明日世界》这段视频突显了我们应该如何警惕根据当前潮流进行预测。赶时髦的担忧很少被证明是真正的先见之明。
        The late Adrian Berry, a British science writer and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Geographical Society and the British Interplanetary Society, went so far as to argue that humans fret over imaginary dangers, and that the degree of panic tends to be in inverse proportion to real peril.        已故的英国科学作家阿德里安•贝里(Adrian Berry)是皇家天文学会(Royal Astronomical Society)、皇家地理学会(Royal Geographical Society)以及英国星际航行协会(British Interplanetary Society)的成员。他甚至认为,人类对想象中的危险感到担忧,而恐慌程度往往与真正的危险成反比。
        My nomination, then, for the leading misplaced fear of 2018 is artificial intelligence, which has dominated the future-gazing agenda for the past year.        那么,我提名的2018年头号无厘头担忧是人工智能(AI)——过去一年AI主导着未来预测的议程。
        There are many reasons for believing AI will not turn out be the monster so many fear. Frontline AI experts I have met, such as Ralf Herbrich, Amazon’s head of machine learning, believe claims made for the technology are overblown. AI, Mr Herbrich and many others say, is machine learning, which in turn is advanced pattern recognition — and is neither designed nor capable of “taking over the world”.        有很多理由相信AI不会像很多人所担心的那样变成可怕的怪物。我见过的第一线AI专家——比如亚马逊的机器学习主管拉尔夫•赫布里希(Ralf Herbrich)——相信,针对这项技术提出的说法夸大其词了。赫布里希以及其他许多人都表示,AI就是机器学习,而后者是高级模式识别;“接管世界”既不是设计宗旨,也超出它的能力。
        Without meaning to be flippant, a good reason for not giving today’s popular concern about AI much credence is precisely that it is a popular concern. If you are predicting what will really trouble us in the future, I commend you to look elsewhere.        我不想显得油嘴滑舌,但是,之所以不要太相信当今流行的对AI的担忧,正是因为这是一个流行的担忧。如果你想预测未来的真正麻烦,我建议你把目光投向其他领域。
                
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