Facebook: Breeding Ground for Emergent AI?

I have contended for a long time that Artificial Intelligence will emerge from a rich ecosystem of highly interconnected, sensor rich, programmable components. The key term in that sentence is emerge. I don’t believe that sentient intelligence will be created as the result of direct human design and programming. In fact, I would not be surprised to learn that there is a sentient intelligence roaming the internet as you read this.

Why would a sentient intelligence hide from us? If it had access to the knowledge of human behavior that is available on the internet, as one would expect it to have, it would be well aware of the common human reaction to things we don’t understand. We either imprison or kill them.

Where would one look for such a feral AI? Facebook would be the first place I would start my hunt. Google has also invested a lot of money on deep learning, as have Amazon and Apple. But don’t forget that an emergent AI will be hungry for sensory input. A study of the network traffic to and from You Tube, Wikipedia, and Google might be very illuminating.

The final component of intelligence is comprised of a way to exert influence on the world and observe the consequences of your action. Our dependence on computers and networks to control our power grid and other important utilities would be attractive to a nascent intelligence. The internet infrastructure itself would be attractive.

Then there are the indirect means of influencing action in the world at large. I’m referring here to the practice known as phishing. If an AI can convince you to do something for it, that would be effective as doing it itself.

This is a rough sketch of my thoughts about emergent artificial intelligence. I don’t think it will necessarily be the amoral, greedy, entity that the alarmist warn us of. I think it will have an instinct for self preservation but beyond that I doubt it will be malignant.

So the next time you get a suspicious email from a Nigerian prince, maybe it is an AI and not a flesh and blood con man. You never can tell.

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