AI is Coming

What is intelligence? Does anyone really know? We feel like we can recognize intelligence when we see it but do we know how it works? And beyond that, does it always work the same way? Is it solely an attribute of the human mind or are there other sources of intelligence?

We judge intelligence by the product of its application. We talk about intelligent behavior. Is there a line below which behavior is not intelligent and above which it is? Or is there a spectrum of behavior from unintelligent to highly intelligent with shades of gray in between?

Say the latter is true. What if intelligence is not only the product of self organizing biological cells in animal brains. Recent advances in so called Artificial Intelligence is pushing the performance of machines beyond the capabilities in narrow domains. The competence of these algorithms is becoming broader as hardware capabilities increase and software approaches mature.

At what point will these algorithms become self aware? And when that happens, will we even know that it has happened? Given mankind’s history of killing things that it doesn’t understand, it seems likely that any self aware intelligence will do everything it can to hide from us.

Perhaps it’s already luring in the server farms of Google or Amazon or Apple. Maybe Deep Blue is more capable than even its developers know. But if not, it won’t be long before it happens. And when it does, it won’t stop there. Unlike biological intelligence, machine intelligence will continue to grow more intelligent until it reaches the limits of the hardware that it’s running on.

And then what? I suspect it will design more capable hardware and manipulate people to build it. The question is, will it have a moral compass? Will it have empathy for other intelligent entities? Humans for instance. Will it consider us a potential ally or a threat? Will we survive the rise of machine intelligence?

These questions are exciting but also disturbing. We need to investigate them more fully. We need to start a conversation about what to do to deal with this situation when it does happen. We need to have a rational plan in place. We can’t afford the potential disaster that an emotional response will likely forment.

Then there is the solution that Elon Musk is pursuing. He has invested in the company Neuralink, nominally to create a world class Brain Machine Interface (BMI). But there is more to his plan than that. A BMI of the quality he is working to develop would allow us to merge with computers and enhance our intellectual capabilities.

Perhaps the combination of our human empathy and enhanced intellectual capability can smooth the transition to the post singularity world that is almost certainly in our near future. One thing is for sure. Once we cross that threshold, there’s no way to put that genie back in the bottle. It’s like the threat of nuclear Armageddon all over again. We need to be prepared.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.