- Politics and Social Issues»
- Science in Society
Artificial Intelligence - A world where humans no longer rule
Top of the food chain
Take a moment for a second to appreciate the world you live in and the role you have within it. Simply being human means you sit comfortably in the top spot of the hierarchy of living organisms. Insects are continuously destroyed in your wake, industrial agriculture means livestock is raised and destroyed emphatically for our nutritional needs, creatures are regularly destroyed based on their inconvenience to humanity and many are simply killed for sport. (the list goes on) Regardless of your stance on some of the aforementioned examples of our hierarchy, being human has enabled our species to apathetically kill living organisms with little to no remorse for convenience, growth and pleasure.
May 28, 2016 - A gorilla by the name of Harambe was shot and killed after a child climbed into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The incident was recorded by a bystander and uploaded to YouTube where the video went viral. A highly controversial incident with many people stating that it was not clear whether or not the gorilla was likely to harm the child or not. Regardless, Harambe was killed for the protection of the child. And the bottom line often made during these controversial discussions in the aftermath was that a child's life was on the line and that the risk was simply not worth it.
But lets not forget, Humans are also the only sentient creatures actively seeking ways to reduce suffering in this world beyond their own species. Like gods, we decide who gets to live and who doesn't in this delicate system of hierarchy that exists on this earth. But make no mistake, humans will destroy anything that threatens their own. Harambe found that out the hard way, as have many other creatures throughout history.
A challenger appears
Our position as number one in this hierarchy is arguably one with an expiry date. In the future, Artificial Intelligence has the opportunity to completely surpass the intelligence of its creators followed by an exponential transcendence beyond measurable proportions.
“The real risk with AI isn't malice but competence, A super intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren't aligned with ours, we're in trouble.”
“You're probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you're in charge of a hydroelectric green energy project and there's an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants. Let's not place humanity in the position of those ants.” Stephen Hawking
The words of Stephen Hawking certainly make for an interesting observation when we consider our own behaviour with other living organisms on Earth.
The Role of AI
Defining the role of AI is important if we want to discuss this concept of hierarchy displacement. If we look at the role of machinery, robotics and early AI in our lives today - so far we can say that it is all in accordance with our needs and the improvement of human life. But can we say for certain that we will always have the ability to retain control? Discussion of Machine Ethics which was once a topic of science fiction is now a serious topic and a possible way to examine the challenge of building artificial moral agents and potentially offering the first line of defence against a theoretical AI Takeover. Then what about humans that want to embrace an artificial controlled future? I'm sure there are many people on this planet that would love to jump under the rulership of a higher intelligence that can acquire knowledge at unprecedented speeds and stand immune from human emotion and corruption. What if AI is developed by these groups, who wish to witness the unprecedented capability of unregulated AI? These are serious questions that need to be asked.
The Future of Life (or FLI for short) is an organisation that is asking such questions and are supporting research and initiatives for safeguarding human life through technological advancements - notably from the prospect of the AI take-over issue. Its board of advisors includes cosmologist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk (Who has donated $10 million of his own money to the cause)
Artificial Intelligence certainly aims to change the world as we know it, that is without question. But what truly makes the AI issue so influential to me is its pivotal role in making humanity question its own ethics. Our species is literally building an intelligent entity from the resources of the earth and this creation of ours has the potential to be more powerful and intelligent than every living creature on this earth combined. This entity may decide that humanity is a problem, and that somehow our species conflicts with its own predefined purpose. And then you have to ask yourself, could you really be angry at this?
Rats and vermin are literally killed in their masses each day by humans based on this narrative. Perhaps an AI comes to such a conclusion based on a calculated analysis of humanity's current state of affairs? Creatures who worship and commit atrocious acts of killings for mythical sky gods is irrational and must be stopped. Or that the majority of the world's population is treated unfairly by a disproportionate elite who make decisions based on their own interests and not that of the earth. How godly, terrifying and exciting this whole thing is. The future will certainly be interesting...