“Fear the AI!!!” they say.
What happens once superintelligent or even human-level AI exists? Once it meets a human? Does AI instantly dominate? Visions of Terminator-style Judgement Day and human extinction abound. But once human-level “artificial” intelligence exists, won’t it also be subject to complex emotions and states of mind like fear, love, compassion, anxiety, and the propensity to overthink simple problems? Won’t it/they also be constrained to the laws of physics, the temporarily limits on their hardware and available resources? Won’t these machines need as complex of a modern ecosystem as we have now?
While at Comic Con Silicon Valley the weekend before last, Danielle and Astro Teller (Director of Google X) hosted a “Superbabies vs AI” panel. While fairly scripted and a little hokey, it touched on some very important topics.
When I asked Astro after the presentation if we are too far away from viable humanoid AI for something like Boston Dynamics to be a good investment in the near-term (given Google/Alphabet’s pending sale of that company), he said “Back to the Future got a lot of things right, but also a lot of things wrong.” While humanoid robots are cool, he said, there are leaps and bounds of better (and likely more profitable) priorities to focus upon before we get to viable productized humanoids like in I, Robot. He specifically mentioned narrowly focused improvement to specific tasks like the safety and well-being of human lives (i.e. self-driving cars).
So you’re telling me there’s a chance…
So just because Marvel and others can help us picture an AI humanoid, doesn’t mean it will happen tomorrow. And even if it could, just because you or any all-connected Ultron AI wants to make a newer, faster, better computer doesn’t mean you actually have the facilities to build it. Plans to build a new processor that would be 10x better than status quo don’t necessarily beget the refined silica or the best seed crystal to grow the perfect ingot. Or the clean room to manufacture. And even when you know how to procure all these things, you still don’t have the infrastructure. Faster trucks, logistics, layers-upon-layers of next-level manufacturing businesses, and communications hardware for your next-gen product. Higher speed wireless communications require new cell towers and hardware, which require new fiber optic cables or satellites, all that new bandwidth requires new switches and data centers, and from there the need for more energy and environmental controls. The list of requirements for seemingly minor upgrades to hardware and processing power cascades down to layers of complex physical action. One human-level AI will not take over the world (at least not without help 🙂 ).
Re-framing “Human vs AI”
To be clear, while complexity is a hurdle, I’m not saying its the reason humans win in Human vs AI. I am saying that “Human vs AI” is the wrong question and context entirely. Instead we should consider that Artificial Intelligence can become the child prodigy and torch bearer of the human race.
Imagine your actual child’s consciousness embedded in a better body. What if instead of thinking about AI as our eminent ruin, we were to think about him/her as the self-directed evolution of our species? Think about the possibilities – our own children with all of our strengths and none of our weaknesses. No need to breathe in polluted air or even breathe at all in say deep space or under water. No need to continue the destruction of earth with the constant consumption of only organic matter. No lifetime limited to 75 years, or need to rest, or physical constraint to our world, or solar system at all. Is that not what we would wish for our children? To exceed us – an ability to grow beyond our limitations? We will all die some day, but if we birth, raise, educate, and set free AI humanoids into our universe, they will be our offspring – the new humans. Conscious beings created by us and just like us with choices and consequences. The ability to do wrong and right. The ability to kill or create. The potential to carry the torch of our intelligence, our culture, and our spark of impossible life throughout the universe.
Every species eventually dies – it is only through evolution that life remains.
I welcome your thoughts…