The Basic A.I. Drives – Understanding the threat of Artificial General Intelligence

If you have often wondered about the threat of Artificial Intelligence, the movie Ex-Machina, does nothing to dispel you fears. Prior to movie’s release, I had the opportunity to read Prof. Nick Bostrom’s “SuperIntelligence”, which also warns about the threat of AI and forces the reader to contemplate on the effect these technologies will have on the human condition. With these macarbe senarios in retrospect, it becomes pertinent to understand the subject of Artificial Intelligence in a bit more detail to come up with an educated opinion. In this respect, I have found Dr.Steve Omohundro‘s recent paper to be a source of guidance and an invitation to contemplation.

Computer Intelligence is divided into 2 categories – Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) is generally attributed to task-specific computation, such as a computer driving a car, Artificial General intelligence (AGI) is the capability of a  machine to perform a variety of intellectual tasks, similar to what humans can perform, such as recognizing patterns, coming up with a theory or even being able to learn. While this topic was generally left to science fiction writers and futurists in the past, the work done by academics and researchers such as Dr. Ben Goertzel and Demis Hassabis (founder of DeepMind) have paved the path to achieving this level of ingenuity.

This transition marks a fundamental turning point in the history of human evolution and is going to change the very basis of society and the definition of what it is to be human in the long run. The reason for this is simple. Lets say that a machine achieves human level intelligence.  What happens after that?

Human beings, for all our attributes, have not undergone an evolutionary increase in mental computation for a very long time. We have gotten more intelligent as a species by leveraging the technology that we have created. But at a physiological level, the brain has not had an upgrade for quite some time. And one look at the world around us reminds us that for all our our progress and technological ingenuity, we haven’t really been improving the state of our home. Instead we choose to bask in the glory of a false sense of intellectual rectitude.

This dichotomy presents our species with a formidable challenge, as this intellectual limitation will not be faced by a machine or a program that achieves AGI. An entity of such intelligence would be able to make exponential leaps in computational prowess that we may not even be able to comprehend, in the same way that a gnat does not understand what we are saying. And just as we swat a gnat for getting in our way without a moments hesitation, based on the premise that we as a superior species have the right of way, an intelligence of this level could very likely look at us as an irritation, in the same way we look at a pesky mosquito.

An entity with AGI would recognize the limits of its own intelligence and the need to prepare for the unanticipated, just as intelligent humans are concerned that resource depletion, climate change and loss of biodiversity  will ultimately impoverish our future selves and our descendants. These super intelligent beings will be reluctant to impoverish themselves with similar actions and will seek to enhance their existence for their own benefit. As a result of these potential impacts, in the past few months, notable intellectuals such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and  Steve Wozniak have often spoken about the threat of Artificial Intelligence. But for the large part, it has been difficult to categorize the transition in terms of what factors will actually motivate entities with AGI.

To respond to these questions, Steve Omohundro, a Artificial Intelligence scientist and well known intellectual, recently released a paper titled, The Basic AI Drives, in which he explains 6 basic drives that will push an AI to motivate itself and achieve independence. This paper is noteworthy not only because of the author’s name and the contributors involved in the construction of the paper, but more importantly because of the simplicity in which it has been explained.

As we move ahead in forging a new future, we need to pause and ask ourselves questions that are pregnant with purpose. Understanding the nature of what we are creating is a step in that direction and this paper is a source of guidance in that respect. Enjoy the read and the introspection that follows:

The Basic AI Drives


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