Don’t Worry About the Robots, Stay Anxious of the Humans

Sam Harris and Paul Bloom wrote a fine op-ed piece in the New York Times denoting the implications to humans post machine self-awareness (also known as The Singularity), particularly about what humans will become by their own hand as opposed to the current fearmongering in the media about how robots will harm humanity.

The authors’ premise of the psychology and inclination for human monstrosity in general (as detached from Westword) is sound and an amusing inquiry into morality.

Drone Host. Image: HBO

However, the premise is moot. A series like Westworld is a fine and fun escape for dramatic reasons without much bearing in reality.

That’s because AI as we know the term is based on a computational substrate that can overwrite and upgrade its own software, a feature devoid of organic, meat-based intelligence, or limitations.

That means once AI becomes self-aware or reaches the level of human intelligence (otherwise known as AGI or artificial general intelligence), it won’t likely stay that way for long or take a long time to acquire the skills to improve upon itself, then update itself in a compounded, iterative process to infinity in short order.

No matter how long it takes to upgrade itself the first time, each iteration will likely be better than the last one, and better and better.

By the third iteration, the update may be orders of magnitude more intelligent than multiples of the smartest humans that ever existed, towards a runaway update cycle that can eventually occur once a day, once an hour, once a second, a million times a second, and so on. Take this for a good time and it would be an interesting exercise to see if we can fathom the implications.

Follow this trendline and ten minutes after it will be all over the place. I can only imagine, as it accelerates and compounds, how it will look like in a year. After five.

In other words, we can worry about this for the sake of humanity, as the authors posit. But we don’t have to worry about robots and AIs. They may be far superior to keep us in charge without their permission. The only plausible solution is to merge with them as the likes of Ray Kurzweil (and Elon Musk) promote.

Experts everywhere have debated, considered and debated some more about this. The one thing everyone agrees on is that no one really knows when and what will happen next. Only that it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that artificial general intelligence happening is not something that we can definitively say will not happen.

All we know is that the control and treatment of our base desires determine who we are, and become even more acute as we move forward in a time and world where robotics and artificial intelligence have finally started to hit the mainstream.

Like the Internet in the 1990s, the real explosion, advances and really interesting things to come out of them yet sometime after, and in unpredictable ways It takes a generation or two for the real applications unbounded by legacy to shift behavior and remain for good, and the early entrants only give a taste of what’s to come, a prologue if you will, as well as serve as a springboard to give the next generation ideas to build upon. Serving like the proverbial giants with shoulders to stand on.

In the duality of humans’ penchant for greatness as well as cruelty, this may be center stage in determining who we really are more than the psychologists and philosophers ever imagined.

In the age of human-level intelligent machines and beyond, this time, such traits may have a direct correlation to what will finally dictate our ultimate destiny. Or be a dubious existential point if AI surpasses human intelligence and we aren’t in charge to make the decision, no matter how dangerous, well-intended or beneficial for humanity the outcome may be.

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