The year 2018 has brought more entries in the glossary of technological acronyms. The latest (in the order in which we expect them to occur) are AGI and ASI: artificial general intelligence and artificial superintelligence. These describe the impending arrival of a new type of artificial intelligence, increasingly independent from its human counterpart. There are now computer systems that are able to write evolving computer programs without any human input. They do this through automatic feedback from sensors, technological devices that work independently of the will of any human individual.
Technophobes everywhere and of every type have good reason to fear that 2018 might be the last year in which human intelligence is still considered the highest known form of intelligence. The year to come may feature the start of a rethinking of the place of human beings, with the great risk that artificial intelligence (or, indeed, superintelligence) might aim to erase the human species to ensure the reproduction of the new artificial minds.
According to this argument, the greatest danger to the survival of the planet as we know it doesn’t come from climate change or from the arrival of the anthropocene (even though climate changes have progressed to an alarming level, and are by now irreversible), or from poverty, the depletion of resources, or overpopulation—but rather from artificial intelligence.
That might sound like the premise of some cheesy sci-fi movie, or the overblown fears of a journalist who has had the misfortune of encountering one of the crazed utopians from Silicon Valley. However, given that people in California are already clamoring for a universal income which should be paid for by taxing robots, as the latter are already an expression of intelligence superior to the human, one might be excused for harboring some fears of the coming (possibly apocalyptic) technological utopia.
The Big Five of the Internet are now openly admitting that poverty and unemployment can be tackled if we start from the fact of the loss of the centrality of human intelligence in favor of that which arises from electrical circuitry, nanotechnology devices, “intelligent” software and so on.
Of course, all of this is only a trend, one which could still be stopped. Some are advocating developing friendly artificial intelligence, which would imply keeping it under control. Others are proposing to isolate all intelligent systems from the Internet (which would be a fertile environment for the growth of a superintelligence). However, it is to be expected that 2019 will see ever-increasing fears of a superintelligence and ever-louder calls to save humanity from the most terrifying creation in its history: an intelligence born not of natural selection, but from the human brain.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.