Monday, November 12, 2012

That AI is just not into you




Rejection sucks. 
It's bad enough to get it from an average human but when the "nah thanks" comes from a cybernetic intelligence, that's another story altogether.

An essay by Tracy Atkins at Singularity Weblog discusses the very real prospect of an artificial intelligence that could become utterly indifferent to humankind.  We transhumanists tend to focus on how to create AI that will be beneficial, if not altogether gentle.  And with good reason.  There would be little to be gained from an "unfriendly" AI.  Nevertheless, it is a possibility that should be explored.

This is not the "SkyNet" scenario from Terminator or other such "scorched earth" cases from science fiction milieu.  This is an AI that, in Atkins' words:
"...may look upon humanity in the same light as we view the Australopithecus africanus, a distant predecessor or ancestor, far too primitive to be on the same cognitive level."

That's right.  An AI that looks at humans and remarks, "I can get nothing from these people.  They are unnecessary." Its intelligence might even be so advanced that we would be completely flummoxed as to how to interpret its communications.  I am experiencing something akin to this on a much smaller and far less drastic scale.  I teach college composition.  I know of a student who is having a difficult time reading even a few basic words (yes, this individual is in college and it's a long story.)  I cannot begin to work with them on larger concepts such as organizational structure and the like if I am unable to help them read.  I do not intend to make myself appear falsely hyperintelligent.  Not at all.  I am suggesting that our relationship with a highly advanced AI might be something like this...only X1000.  We might not have a hope for meaningful dialogue until our own cybernetic singularity has reached a sufficient point.

Atkins even suggests that the AI in question might, a la William Gibson's Neuromancer, just decide to discard its troth and pack up and go altogether.  Head for the stars as there just isn't intelligent life around these parts.  Again, it may be pure human arrogance to believe that even our creations would find us interesting.

I am not doing this essay justice.  Please go read it at the link.



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