Humans have always been interested in learning about their surroundings, to try and find ways to improve life on earth. Through the genius of the human imagination, we have created tools and technologies that have allowed us to create smarter and smarter machines.
Mankind has been on a long journey to create a world where machines think, feel and communicate like humans. Today, our species is approaching a critical junction in human evolution.
The relationship between humans and technology is growing exponentially and we will continue to merge with these technologies and devices faster and faster as we move forward into the future.
But how do we teach super-intelligent machines to have the same core values as humans such as love, non-violence, peace, right conduct, and truth? What happens if we can’t? Let’s take a closer look on how we lay the ground work for a super-intelligent machine.
If we want to build the perfect human, it needs a brain, right? The technological way of doing this is through Artificial Intelligence (AI). IBM Watson is arguably the smartest AI in the world. They coin it as “…cognitive technology that can think like a human“. It is being built (trained) to understand, reason, learn and interact just like a human. IBM is not alone in the race to build the most advanced AI. Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon are only a handful of known tech giants that are researching and testing AI. And of course there’s Apple. They just hired a new director for their AI research department.
With any discussion about AI and transhumanism, one must talk about the work of Ray Kurzweil. He is “…an American author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist.”¹
He introduced the term singularity into main stream society. The singularity is described as “…the hypothesis that the invention of artificial super-intelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.”²
His most recent work, How to Create a Mind, takes you through the process of “…reverse-engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works, then applying that knowledge to create vastly intelligent machines.”³
He is currently the Chief Futurist of Google.
Having an advanced AI that helps you get around and search information online is one thing but, integrating it with a physical machine that is capable of processing this wealth of information is another. This where robotics comes in. One of the leading companies in this field is X. They are a “…an American semi-secret research-and-development facility founded by Google in January 2010.”
They have some crazy advanced robots, like SpotMini.
And then there is the more human like robot Atlas, the Next Generation.
I don’t know about you but if you look just 20 years into the future when Google X robots have evolved exponentially, coupled with a more advanced IBM Watson, we could have a very dangerous machine. Vice Motherboard produced a great short documentary The Dawn of Killer Robots, which explores the possibilities of such dangerous machines (unfortunately, this looks like the future of warfare).
I’m not scared
On the other hand, there are great initiatives to ensure that advanced AI is used responsibly and ethically. Take for example the non-profit AI research company OpenAI (led by Elon Musk). Their mission is to “…build safe AI, and ensure AI’s benefits are as widely and evenly distributed as possible.”
It is imperative that we have ethical people leading us into an unknown era of advanced technological capabilities.
Speaking of ethics, there is some great technical research being done to help us better understand how to approach the construction of a super-intelligent machine. For example, you have the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) who are doing “…foundational mathematical research to ensure smarter-than-human artificial intelligence has a positive impact.”
In 2014, MIRI released a very thought provoking research paper entitled Agent Foundations for Aligning Machine Intelligence with Human Interests: A Technical Research Agenda. This document “…discusses six research areas where they think foundational research today could make it easier in the future to develop super-intelligent systems that are reliably aligned with human interests.”
Whether we like it or not, we are heading towards a world in which technology will be so far advanced that we cannot even fathom their implications today. Think of what society was like before the internet was born. In 1985 we couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to go onto a computer and have access to a wealth of information and to interact with people all across the world using tools like social media. Now we have self-driving cars and drones being sold in Walmarts. We have advanced AIs in our pockets.
As technology continues to grow exponentially, new ‘unfathomable’ inventions will be born and force us to evolve and deepen our relationship with technology. Just like the internet deepened our relationship with the computer.
What do you think a super-intelligent machine will look and behave like? To help us, look no further than the science fiction. It has always given us a glimpse of what future technologies will be like. A recent example of this is the film Ex Machina.