July 6, 2014
A physicist and expert on artificial intelligence says that by 2045, machines will be the dominant species on earth, not humans.
Louis Del Monte, physicist, entrepreneur, and author of “The Artificial Intelligence Revolution.” claims that with the coming “singularity” – the point where machines will be smarter than humans – the temptation to use the new technology to create virtually immortal humans may drive us to near extinction.
Today there’s no legislation regarding how much intelligence a machine can have, how interconnected it can be. If that continues, look at the exponential trend. We will reach the singularity in the timeframe most experts predict. From that point on you’re going to see that the top species will no longer be humans, but machines.”
This is a boiling frog scenario, where we do little or nothing to prevent our own destruction. Is he justified in thinking that?
“It won’t be the ‘Terminator’ scenario, not a war,” said Del Monte. “In the early part of the post-singularity world, one scenario is that the machines will seek to turn humans into cyborgs. This is nearly happening now, replacing faulty limbs with artificial parts. We’ll see the machines as a useful tool. Productivity in business based on automation will be increased dramatically in various countries. In China it doubled, just based on GDP per employee due to use of machines.”
“By the end of this century,” he continued, “most of the human race will have become cyborgs [part human, part tech or machine]. The allure will be immortality. Machines will make breakthroughs in medical technology, most of the human race will have more leisure time, and we’ll think we’ve never had it better. The concern I’m raising is that the machines will view us as an unpredictable and dangerous species.”
Del Monte believes machines will become self-conscious and have the capabilities to protect themselves. They “might view us the same way we view harmful insects.” Humans are a species that “is unstable, creates wars, has weapons to wipe out the world twice over, and makes computer viruses.” Hardly an appealing roommate.
He wrote the book as “a warning.” Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more capable, and we’re adopting it as quickly as it appears. A pacemaker operation is “quite routine,” he said, but “it uses sensors and AI to regulate your heart.”
A 2009 experiment showed that robots can develop the ability to lie to each other. Run at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne, Switzerland, the experiment had robots designed to cooperate in finding beneficial resources like energy and avoiding the hazardous ones. Shockingly, the robots learned to lie to each other in an attempt to hoard the beneficial resources for themselves.
Historically speaking, the law and society are slow to adapt to revolutionary changes. Being blinded by AI’s capabilities is not an impossible scenario to imagine, although there are going to be people like Del Monte to warn us of the consequences of inaction. There are those who are going to assure us that AI will have built in fail safe mechanisms that would prevent a machine takeover. Given the frightening ability of a self-aware machine to keep growing, any such claims should be taken with a grain of salt.
There are those who say the approaching singularity may come sooner than any of us dream. Moore’s law – that computers will double their memory capacity every two years – is fast approaching irrelevancy. Different kinds of computers are being imagined that would hasten the time when machines will be handling most of the complex functions that a technological society depends on. We are well on our way to that day now. The question is, can we adapt fast enough to avoid calamity?