'Trust the Science' Is Exactly Wrong. We Must 'Trust But Verify'

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The possibility that the COVID-19 epidemic will have been found to have originated in a Wuhan lab is becoming increasingly likely. At any rate, it is no longer impossible. CNN says “Senior Biden officials finding that Covid lab leak theory as credible as natural origins explanation”.

Washington (CNN)Senior Biden administration officials overseeing an intelligence review into the origins of the coronavirus now believe the theory that the virus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan is at least as credible as the possibility that it emerged naturally in the wild — a dramatic shift from a year ago, when Democrats publicly downplayed the so-called lab leak theory. …

On Thursday, the director-general of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it had been “premature” to dismiss the possibility that a lab leak had spawned the pandemic and urged China to provide “direct information on what the situation of these labs was before and at the start of the pandemic.”

It is no longer premature to consider what a lab-accident finding would mean in terms of science policy, geopolitics, the economy, and culture.

For science policy, it would be a vindication of claims by both the Oxford and Cambridge centers for existential risk warnings that biotechnology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence are among the gravest sources of danger to humanity today. “‘We’re like children playing with a bomb’ ..Sentient machines are a greater threat to humanity than climate change, according to Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom.”

A lab accident in Wuhan would underline as nothing else could the dangers of biotechnology. It would make the public aware of what the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk has been saying for years: “This growing biotechnological knowledge and capability will have many benefits – new and better drugs, improvements to agricultural productivity and environmental protection. But it is a dual-use technology, and so can also be misused in ways that cause harm.”

Dual-use means it’s up to us. Science in and of itself has no morals. That must be supplied separately by political oversight, culture, or religion.

There is nothing paradoxical about an AI whose sole final goal is to count the grains of sand on Boracay, or to calculate the decimal expansion of pi, or to maximize the total number of paperclips that will exist in its future light cone. In fact, it would be easier to create an AI with simple goals like these than to build one that had a human-like set of values and dispositions. …

The orthogonality thesis Intelligence and final goals are orthogonal: more or less any level of intelligence could in principle be combined with more or less any final goal.

“Trust the science” is exactly wrong. The science is controlled by people in the NIH and the Communist Party of China. The right formula is “trust but verify.”

The geopolitical implication of a Wuhan lab leak as an accident is that technologically advanced but politically opaque systems cannot be fully confided in. Even before the Biden report is finished, China’s giant gene harvests are giving the U.S. military the creeps.

A prenatal test used worldwide sends gene data of pregnant women to the company that developed it with China’s military. The U.S. sees a security risk…

U.S. government advisors warned in March that a vast bank of genomic data that the company, BGI Group, is amassing and analyzing with artificial intelligence could give China a path to economic and military advantage. As science pinpoints new links between genes and human traits, access to the biggest, most diverse set of human genomes is a strategic edge. The technology could propel China to dominate global pharmaceuticals, and also potentially lead to genetically enhanced soldiers, or engineered pathogens to target the U.S. population or food supply, the advisors said.

China, like the West, must supply its own values. Perhaps they are taking their cues from a Superman movie.

Faora : [Beating up Kal-El] You are weak, Son of El, unsure of yourself. The fact that you possess a sense of morality, and we do not, gives us an evolutionary advantage. And if history has proven *anything*…

Faora : [Faora picks up Kal-El throws him into another building]

Faora : …It is that evolution always wins.

Economically, a Wuhan lab escape finding would mean that the disruption to the globalist supply chain, far from being temporary, is here for the duration. The world economy would have to change structurally, not simply monetarily, to be proof against the threat of potential catastrophes that may at any time sweep across the planet. To use a naval analogy, the world will have to trade speed for armor to safely proceed. Indeed, the barriers to travel that have already been erected internationally suggest that this is already happening.

Culturally, the finding of a Wuhan lab accident would mean the end of the nuclear bomb as the movie villain of the technological age. No longer will we anxiously scan the waterfront for the arrival of the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The doctors we will fear the most will not be Dr. Strangelove. It will mean we can no longer rely on progress as an infallible engine. If we are wise, we will learn to scan our own hearts to see if we can find our way around Ernst Mayr’s terrifying prophecy that”intelligence is a lethal mutation.” Or else we will finally understand why the night sky is so empty — even of Superman villains.


Books: Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom. If machine brains one day come to surpass human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become very powerful. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on us humans than on the gorillas themselves, so the fate of our species then would come to depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence. But we have one advantage: We get to make the first move.