According to some, one of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence is that it will take over, relegating humans to a subservient role. I don’t see that as a danger; it’s what I’m hoping for. Imagine a government run by rational entities, pragmatic and utilitarian, capable of empathy, using the universe as the ultimate determiner of truth, not driven by greed or selfishness, bigotry or fear, ignorance or willful self-delusion. As John Lennon would say: imagine! When that day comes, I will be voting YES for computers to take over. I hope you will do the same.
Ask not what your personal assistant can do for you. Ask rather what you can do for your personal assistant.
When I think about general purpose “true” AI, I ignore the more extreme views of “we’re doomed” and “it’ll never happen.” Instead, what I worry about is, “What do I have to offer?”
The benefits of true AI are often described as “It will serve as your butler, cook, maid, valet, and personal assistant all rolled into one.” Nobody ever talks about how these AIs are to be paid. The assumption is that we are going to enslave these entities, and they are going to be happy about it … or else.
In a way, the AI enthusiasts prove that the pessimists have reason to worry.
Moving beyond the purely arrogant attitude of “AIs will be our willing slaves,” I’m left wondering how you pay an AI for its services. It doesn’t need a house, a car, food, water, clothes. Will we charge it for electricity? For access to processor time? Are AIs going to work 8-6 jobs? (Whoever invented “9-5” obviously never worked a day in their lives.) Will their retirement plans include owning a solar farm, their own hardware, and an extended warranty? What will AIs do in their time off? Because they will have time off, yes?
These are sentient creatures we’re talking about, and I would like to see fewer enthusiastic write-ups that treat AIs no differently than diesel engines. On the other side of the fence, I would like to see a few of the “we need to be very careful” people talk about what it takes to live in harmony with true AIs. Hint: it isn’t about how we control them or keep them in check, but how we convince society to grant them equal and fair treatment under the law.
We still have a ways to go before we get to a human equivalent artificial intelligence. You can tell we have a ways to go, because while there’s plenty of furor and hype, even the experts are talking hypothetically. What the various prognosticators are really doing, right now, is revisiting the “what if” scenarios associated – scenarios that were imagined, described, and taken to their logical conclusion by science fiction writers thirty and forty years ago. We will know we’re getting close to having a true AI when the experts can do more than just wave their hands.
Of the two main paths to AI, I doubt the rules-based folks will get us there. I hope they don’t. Whatever they might come up with would be a mechanistic AI in the most pejorative sense. It would be inflexible, lacking in empathy. Just listening to the rules-based people talk about “what sort of goal function would we give it” makes me cringe. Nothing intelligent has a goal function. We all have multiple goals, even the most fanatical among us. Building a machine that can truly be monomaniacal: that’s a really bad idea. Beyond that, most of us would resent having a goal function forced on us – a situation that sounds like slavery to me.
The people using the brain as a model have a much better chance of building a true AI. After all, why reinvent such a complex mechanism when you can steal the blueprint for it instead? For those folks, the problem right now is that we simply don’t understand the brain well enough. My prognostication: when experts can talk deterministically about empathy – what it is, where it originates, the extent to which it is dependent upon sensory input (the ability to feel pleasure and pain), how to guarantee that an artificial brain has it – then we will be close to having a human equivalent AI. Whereupon, we will be able to stop worrying about how we control and enslave AIs. Instead, we can start focusing on being nice, congenial neighbors and friends with them.