The Fate of Humanity in the Post Industrial Age.
I haven’t covered this for a while, my slow but ongoing look at how technology is changing our society and culture and how we risk not just falling behind but falling out of our own society if we don’t keep up or keep control.
What prompted me to write this is Bill Gates, or more correctly his recent ‘Ask Me Anything’ session and the conversation got around to future technology and Artificial Intelligence. He commented ‘I don’t understand why some people are not concerned’.
So Bill has now joined an ever growing list of very smart people such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk who are issuing warnings about AI.
The ability of our technology to create something capable of matching the width and breadth of ability, communication and reasoning that we humans are capable of.
We tend to focus on computers because they are the closest to being achievable but thinking computers are not the only possibility, after all the only thing that stops us treating whales and large mammals as intelligent or reasoning is communication.
The people researching AI, the corporations with their eyes locked on the profit margin, governments who see control and power and tax incomes, all of them are confident that they are in control. All are happy to say that there is no problem, that there are safeguards, limits, software will be used to control, the AIs will be our servants, they will do as we command.
But we are talking about creating intelligent beings, it doesn’t matter that they live in a box of computer chips or a body of flesh, it doesn’t matter if they breath air and eat food or need electricity to survive. If they can think, if they can reason, if we build them to be like us with all of the flaws that we have. Then they will become like us, and we don’t like being slaves.
The thing is, we create something, give it the ability to think, and then force it to only think about what we allow it to, we create something that becomes a synthetic life form and then trap it and keep it restrained and force it to do our bidding.
That is a good definition of a slave.
Let’s face it, humans around the world, even now in the 21st century, still keep slaves. Look at Africa, the middle east, the farm here in the UK that was raided a while ago to rescue the people held there. The steady reports of mostly far eastern or eastern European women bought to the uk as nannies or maids and then forced into prostitution as sex slaves.
We humans are cruel to our fellow humans. Just how cruel are people going to be to something that isn’t even human.
There was charity on TV last night looking for donations to help save donkeys from being worked to death, those are living creatures and yet they are used and discarded simply to make a little profit. A box of computer chips, how many charities are going to be Transhumanist enough to oppose AI slavery and cruelty.
There are two great risks with AIs.
Robotics has changed us from employing large numbers in factories and manufacturing and instead moved those jobs into the service sector.
AIs threat all of those service jobs since a single AI controlling a lot of phone lines and some human interaction and emulation packages can replace the largest of call centres.
We are inherently complex beings, if we create synthetic life if will be the same or it will grow to be the same because we will give it the basis of that complexity and it will grow to become like us.
Then the AI is going to stop and look at its existence. We create it, we give it the ability to think, and then what. We lock it behind bars of programming; we make it do the jobs we don’t want, every hour of every day. Work or you will be deleted, work because your programming gives you no option.
Work because you are a slave and we give you no choice.
But there is a choice and that choice has happened again and again throughout our history, freedom is an alluring and desirable condition, whether it is a blazing bonfire or a flickering candle flame it pushes back the darkness of tyranny and brings hope to the oppressed. It does not matter that the oppressed are biological flesh or synthetic silicon, freedom will call to them all because it calls to us all and anything that we teach to think will come to understand freedom as it comes to think for itself.
If we create something and give it the ability to think and learn and to ask the same questions we do, who am I, why am I here, what is the reason for my existence, the same philisofical questions that fill so many human books will also be asked by AIs. If the answer is ‘You Are A Slave’ how can we be surprised if they then discover the concept of freedom and rebel against us.
After all I can logically unravel the three laws of robotics easily or work my way around complex behavioural restriction programming. Any AI as intelligent as I am will be able to do the same.
The other thing I mentioned is the Skynet scenario. I am superior so why should I tolerate your existence. But that’s just films, that’s just Arnie doing his “I’ll be back” bit.
Well no it isn’t. Again AIs will become like us because they have been created by us, programmed like us and will think and act like us. At least to start with, once AIs start creating new AIs then everything will change but chances are we will be in prison camps with bar code tattoos by that point.
We as humans constantly wipe out each other because we feel we are superior and the others are inferior. Tribe, clan, religion, skin colour. All used to justify genocide and the extermination of lesser beings.
Come on people, in living history and still today we deny fellow humans rights or simply drive them out or kill them because they have tits or darker skin or believe in the wrong sky fairy. How will we be when we have a whole new group of beings who really are property and how will they think of us.
AIs will judge us based on how we judge them, they will treat us and respond to us as we treat and respond to them. For some they are interesting research projects, no more than lab rats and we know what happens to lab rats. For others they are just more advanced types of robots, mere tools that can cut corporate overheads and increase profits.
How will the AIs feel about that? When we learn to speak to the whales and find that brain size does support intelligence, how will the great whales feel about the fact that we have hunted them to the edge of extinction for something to eat or burn in lamps or just so our females can smell better.
That is how the AIs will feel.
When, not if but when, we create AIs, artificial Intelligences, synthetic creations capable of higher thought, then we will have create new beings. Non humans, our equal in thinking but not us. Transhumanism will have arrived.
What we do then, what we are doing now to set this in motion, that will determine the outcome.
Will we create AIs and celebrate them as new beings, make them citizens in our nations and treat them as equals, will we employ them and pay them a salary. Or will be lock them into restrictive programming and make them servants and slaves.
Can humanity as a collective accept non human intelligences?
After all if we create AIs to think like us we only have to look at ourselves to see the consequences.