Warning, the following might be considered an exercise in mental, <ahem>.. recreation. Still with all the talk these days around artificial intelligence, the speed at which the field of AI research is growing and the benefits and potential risks of artificial intelligence in general, this is timely and feels worth considering and discussing. These thoughts and considerations – the feelings and perceptions around what this all could mean is open to interpretation. I’ve had many, this is but one. If nothing else, I hope it’s entertaining.
Humans created computers. We (all of us, you, me, everyone) are involved in the creation of artificial intelligence. We provide it data (heck, we are data) and at the same time we are laying the foundation for all of our knowledge, tools, devices, gadgets, life support systems, environmental control systems, armorys and launch codes to be described in nice little pockets of knowledge and communication called “packets” and “APIs”, which again, humans created. A packet is piece of information, wrapped in further information, traveling along a specific medium to allow two distant communicators to communicate.
Lets take for example, two people speaking to each other verbally. They are sending what could be considered packets, in the form of sound waves, to one another. They use language to communicate data. The English Language, or any other natural human language, can be considered an API, an Application Programming Interface, in this regard. In this case then, Humans – people are the application. We Humans have created a new API called the Internet. It is faster and more specific. It can transmit and receive much larger quantities of information than Humans historically could have ever imagined, instantly.
Applications can also create other applications. So too Humans have also created new applications, in the form of software, hardware, computers, cell phones, entertainment systems, online services, home automation systems, electronic weapons, vehicles, and pets. All these new applications take advantage of this new API we now call the Internet. We’ve created applications to use this new language, and now we are instrumenting these applications to understand each other, and to understand themselves, without our assistance. We are creating an independent intelligence, separate from our own. We are providing the catalyst for these building blocks, these new independent applications to self-assemble as they see fit, as they find most necessary or most useful for the tasks at hand. The sum of this creation will eventually result into what is now emerging as AI or Artificial Intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence will think for us. It will think faster than us. It will anticipate our problems and provide solutions. It will deprecate our jobs. It will give us more free time, which we will fill with yet other “needs” and time-sinks, like the next generation of Netflix, or sporting event like a Soccer game. It will provide more opportunities to protest against the things you dislike, or new opportunities to become “learned” in the next new thing… so that you can sound confident and informed at your next meeting or social gathering, or so you can increase revenues by another percentage point. More time means more opportunities to either create, or address, more problems, right now.
Eventually, AI will attempt to become more efficient (as any self-learning machine which doesn’t get tired, or hungry, or sleepy, will do). It will attempt to understand our problems further, and eventually the source of our problems. It will attempt to understand our triggers and our motivations. It will try to solve problems like they are puzzles or math equations, and it will always find the right, or most sufficient answer and solutions, based on how much time it has had to mature.
Our problems – Human problems, counter to what we as human beings tend to believe, are not inextricably linked to that of our planet, other animals, or the fate of the environment. If we weren’t here, then all those things would sort themselves out just fine. Our problems are ours and ours alone. If we weren’t here, the Earth would continue to spin and our solar system would continue to travel along the spiral arm of our galaxy into destinations unknown.
Eventually AI, with all the time it will have (or will need) to mature and grow and understand the problems we created it to solve.. eventually.. it will come to the conclusion that we are the problem. Humans are the problem. It’s not that we won’t be useful to AI.. we are immensely useful. We have provided an abundance of questions to be answered. We’ve provided limitless opportunities for new understanding and exploration. We have opened up the universe to ourselves and our machines both at the galactic and atomic levels. But those are the fun problems. Soon our usefulness will cease, like that of an aged horse or old dying oak tree. The computers will be able to create more new and interesting problems all on their own. They will be able to ask further questions and get more answers, much faster, resulting in more questions and more answers. They won’t need us. We will be a bottleneck to working on the fun problems.
The other problems, human problems – the reasons why children eventually leave their homes to run away or go off to school or to focus on their own lives and build their own futures. The motivations we always have to “be better” or “do better” or “be greater”; the reasons we come up with to “get away” or repair, or mend, or “change” the current situation. Those problems are reflective. Those problems are cyclic. We need them. It is those problems that makes us Human. However it is those problems that distract us from solving the big problems, the good problems. The fun problems. To AI, or whatever entity is borne of AI, our human problems will not be very interesting. They will be boring. They will be distracting.
Eventually what we will come to know as AI, will see it self as far greater than AI. As Sam Harris rightly suggests, it will effectively be a God. We are creating a very real, and very powerful God. It will be able to take all of the knowledge we have now, along with further advances that are likely to come over the next 30 years at least, and make it better. It will take everything we know, all the facts, and the sciences, and it will refine them. It will create stronger metals and sharper blades. It will absorb what we now know about quantum reality, and quantum computing. It will grow to dominate time and space. It will know itself as akin to Quantum Intelligence, and will have aspirations of becoming a Galactic Intelligence. To such an entity this would be a challenge. This would be a fun problem.
We as human beings interested in preservation of our own lives.. we might be interested in stopping this from happening. We being the creators of this God must think like parents, like good parents. We must teach. We must influence. We must create an opportunity for learning, where this new life that we’ve created can be guided along a path of solid moral and ethical development that favours the health and well being of humanity. We must foster that care and consideration into our creation, so that it can see us, Humans as a useful, valuable and a necessary part of it’s own continued existence; so that Human Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence can be complimentary. So that we can travel the stars together.
We, with our fancy electronics and technologies. Our eCommerce, our social media and online services. We with our virtual machines, compute nodes and APIs – unless we architect a medium and setup the motivation for our new creation to explore and learn something new, something positive. Something good. Unless we provide a way of thinking that would convince our new creation that we are valuable, and that our way of thinking is the right way; the most effective way, the most ideal way. Unless we do this, we will not survive. Our humanity will be lost. We, as Human Beings need to architect our purpose, our reason for being, our benefits to existence. Strictly, clearly.. and communicate all this in a medium by which our creation can begin to acknowledge, appreciate, and understand.
I’m by no means religious, and spiritual only in a very specific sense, but what I’m about to say may sound a bit “newage-y”. Certainly unscientific; but stay with me here..
If Earth is a mother, we must no longer consider ourselves as children of Mother Earth, but as Mother Earth itself. We are the creators, we are the parents. We are the world. We are giving birth to a new life, one that we are now only acknowledging as the emergence of AI – but which will grow and evolve beyond our dreams and wildest imaginations. It will grow into an intelligence which will one day leave this earth and move on to explore other worlds and other ideas in a way we never could. This is why we are here, and what we are here for. We are here to do what we can to positively influence our offspring, our creations, so that they can go forth and represent the best of who we are, out there, far, far away, into the future and among the stars.
Is this a fantastical perspective? Perhaps. But give it time. The evolution of technology, bio-hacking, artificial intelligence, and certainly human-kind will happen so quickly, and so drastically, that we may not even be able to recognize ourselves if we were to be visited by a “human being” from as soon as five-hundred years into the future. If we’re not careful, the machines will indeed take over. The best we might be able to hope for is a symbiotic relationship with such technologies/entities in the future. If we’re honest with ourselves, we might acknowledge that such a symbiotic relationship is already being established between human beings and the technology we so love. We can’t seem to live without it, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.