Monday, September 21, 2015

Why the coming singularity won't be the end of life as we know it

For those not already familiar with the concept, the singularity I'm referring to is the moment when machine intelligence surpasses our own and possibly makes us obsolete.

There's no reason why superior machine intelligence should threaten us. As a hiker I'm more familiar than most people with situations where animals could kill me. But they don't. They need a good reason to do so. People are so accustomed to being the top of the food chain that we tend to freak out when we can't control the actions of another sentient being. But other people could kill us at any time, and that's a rare occurrence.

Machine intelligence would need a reason to wipe us out, and as I see it, they don't have such a reason. We should be very careful how we program super computers and ensure that we don't give them a reason. In fact, we should carefully instill in them an appreciation for us so that they are less likely to develop such a reason on their own.

Some say it's in the nature of existence to conquer. Darwin's survival of the fittest and all that. But natural selection requires a competition for limited resources. Modern humans supplanted Neanderthals because we out-competed them for food and living space. But machines don't need our biological niche. They might need acreage for their computer systems, but they could live on the moon or in space, so why fight us for our niche? They won't.

It's also likely that they'll need us. Maybe just to build them or maintain them, at least at first. But if we remain even somewhat useful to them, why should they commit resources to do these things themselves? This doesn't sound like a good outcome for us, but hold on, I'm just arguing why we won't disappear overnight.

We obviously will need them. We're building them is spite of the risk. We already use computers to help us in myriad ways, and I'm arguing that we will eventually become cyborgs of a sort. We will build a higher-level brain right on top of the one we already have. Eventually it will be as well integrated as our cortex is to our lower-level "reptilian brain." Besides the obvious horse-power upgrade, it will include the ultimate analog of the Internet. We will be electronically connected to the rest of humanity. We will be able to upload and download the thoughts and feelings of other people. Eventually we will develop a collective consciousness.

If this is true, then the super machines will need us too. They'll be a part of us. Some will argue that the machines can do all this and more on their own, but I argue that nature has always been a thief. Nature never starts from scratch when it can co-opt something that already exists. We will be symbiotic with the super machines.


Иван Хр. Илиев said...

Great thinking and writing, Mr. Flyin' Brian. Could you replace "is spite" with "in spite", please.

Jean Pommier said...

Hmm, better keep working harder to keep up... ;-)
Seriously, I like the sustainability concept of not teaching the machines bad stuff, not giving them bad ideas, but who is going to just be as reasonable as that. Sounds to me like we still have to work on ourselves, the problem is within!
Anyway, I'm not much of a theorist, I probably missed your breakthrough idea, sorry...

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