Mind of its own: Will “general AI” be like an alien invasion?


  • According to surveys, approximately half of artificial intelligence experts believe that general artificial intelligence will emerge by 2060. 
  • General artificial intelligence (also called AGI) describes an artificial intelligence that’s able to understand or learn any intellectual task that a human being can perform. 
  • Such an intelligence would be unlike anything humans have ever encountered, and it may pose significant dangers.

by Louis Rosenberg

An alien species is headed toward earth. Many experts predict it will get here within 20 years, while others suggest it may take a little longer. Either way, there is little doubt it will arrive before this century is out and we humans have no reason to believe it will be friendly.     

While I can’t say exactly what it will look like, I am confident it will be unlike us in almost every way, from its physiology and morphology to its psychology and sociology. Still, we will quickly determine it shares two key traits with us humans: consciousness and self-awareness. And while we may resist admitting this, we will eventually conclude that it is far more intelligent than even the smartest among us. 

No, this alien will not come from a distant planet in a fanciful ship. Instead it will be born right here on earth, hatched in a well-funded research lab at a prestigious university or multinational corporation. I am referring to the first general artificial intelligence (AGI) to demonstrate thinking capabilities that exceed our own.  

I know — there are some scientists who believe AGI will not happen for generations, while others suggest it may never be attainable. That said, researchers have surveyed large numbers of AI experts many times over the past decade and nearly half consistently predict AGI will happen before 2060. And with each passing year, the speed of advancements in the field of AI exceeds industry expectations.

Just this month, DeepMind revealed an AI engine called AlphaCode that can write original software at a skill level that exceeds 54% of human programmers. This is not AGI, and yet it took the industry by surprise, as few expected such a milestone to be reached this quickly

So here we are — at a time when AI technology is advancing faster than expected and billions are being invested directly into AGI research. In that context, it seems reasonable to assume that humanity will create an alien intelligence here on Earth in the not so distant future. 

General AI: minds of their own

That first AGI will be hailed as a remarkable creation, but it will also be a dangerous new lifeform: a thoughtful and willful intelligence that is not the slightest bit human. And like every intelligent creature we have ever encountered, from the simplest of insects to the mightiest of whales, it will make decisions and take actions that put its own self-interests first. But unlike insects and whales, this new arrival will compete to fill the same niche we humans occupy at the top of the intellectual food chain.  

Yes, we will have created a rival and yet we may not recognize the dangers right awayIn fact, we humans will most likely look upon our super-intelligent creation with overwhelming pride — one of the greatest milestones in recorded history. Some will compare it to attaining godlike powers of being able to create thinking and feeling creatures from scratch. 

But soon it will dawn on us that these new arrivals have minds of their own. They will surely use their superior intelligence to pursue their own goals and aspirations, driven by their own needs and wants. It is unlikely they will be evil or sadistic, but their actions will certainly be guided by their own values, morals, and sensibilities, which will be nothing like ours.

Many people falsely assume we will solve this problem by building AI systems in our own image, designing technologies that think and feel and behave just like we do. This is unlikely to be the case. 

Artificial minds will not be created by writing software with carefully crafted rules that make them behave like us. Instead, engineers will feed massive datasets into simple algorithms that automatically adjust their own parameters, making millions upon millions of tiny changes to its structure until an intelligence emerges — an intelligence with inner workings that are far too complex for us to comprehend. 

And no: Feeding it data about humans will not make it think and feel like us. This is a common misconception — the false belief that, by training an AI on data that describes human behaviors, we will ensure it ends up thinking and feeling very much like we do. It will not…



F. Kaskais Web Guru

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