The central technology sweeping the world today from which all other types of advanced technologies will be amplified to potentially dangerous levels, is the rapid and widespread emergence of artificial intelligence. We have already reached the point where we have to seriously ask ourselves: will this new form of advanced, rationality-based cognition lead to the eventual replacement of the human race by machine-based organisms as the preeminent intelligent species on earth?
That’s right… I said species.
See, as their development and recursive self-improvement unfolds at an ever accelerating pace, at some point we will have to stop regarding AI as just another one of our amazing new machines, and begin to realize that robots and droids are about to emerge as a distinctly different species of life on earth.
Unless interrupted somehow by some sort of deep, universally restrictive international effort (and good luck with that!) — AI will ultimately split off from human control and evolve into an entirely new form of life… one that is faster, more powerful, less irrational, maintains a perfect memory and is tireless. Beyond all these advantages over biologics, it’s main distinction from the human mind will probably be its lack of emotion — not just an inability to express genuine (not simulated) emotion, but an inability to viscerally understand it. This cognitive divergence of function could form a chasm of misunderstanding between our species which could lead conflict between us. One cannot help but wonder if synthetic life will one day challenge us for global dominance — a moment of reckoning that I believe will occur sometime this century.
This monumental transitional point from machine-slave to intellectual superior / equal is something that I’m sure you heard of… it’s called the Singularity. This singularity will be a moment when all the various technologies of machine learning and neural network programming and perhaps things such as quantum computing all converge to produce a thinking system that will be known as a Artificial General Intelligence.
Think of HAL 9000 from the movie “2001”, a machine expressing an acuity similar to human intelligence in its ability to operate in physical reality, as well as understand the world and the humans who inhabit it. This monumental achievement will occur when our technological skills have finally led us to the point of being able to create a fully self-aware, reasoningconsciousness similar to our own. The singularity has been predicted to occur somewhere in the 2029 to 2036 time frame, so it is potentially not all that far away.
Although AI will certainly begin with a friendly relationship to its creators — since it will hardly understand us on a deep emotional at first — it will not be long before it acquires a sense of who these humans are that populate its’ reality. I have to think that as time goes by, this extreme intelligence will come to see humans as slow thinking, inferior and perhaps even bewildering with their reliance on illogical, emotion-based actions… all of which the AI will almost certainly not share. Remember, this is will be an utterly alien intelligence.
When the day finally arrives, the appearance of fully conscious Synthetics will be no different than if they had pulled up in a flying saucer, similar to “The Day the Earth Stood Still”… That old movie from the ’50’s.
Here’s the problem as I see it when it comes this demarcation into separate species: it all comes down to the assessment of Superiority. This need to feel that “me and my tribe are better than you people over there and your tribe…” probably stems from the natural competitiveness that is built into all forms of life, something that is necessary so the organism will prioritize its own survival ahead of others, even other members of its own kind.
But in the case of humans, we often take this feeling of needing to feel superior to someone else way too far. Or even worse, we suppress the feeling, leaving it hidden down deep and RIPE to be tapped by evil political and cult leaders looking to energize unsuspecting populations to their own twisted cause.
Everywhere that you look all throughout human history, you will see that when one group of people comes to feel that they are SUPERIOR to another, they eventually will come to dominate them, abuse them, enslave them or even completely destroy them. Look at the most recent examples of what happened to the German and Japanese people during the mid-20th century. Prior to World War II, both of these societies had their populations indoctrinated into intoxicating ideologies which insisted they were a “Superior Master Race” — superior to all other humans they encountered who were not of their own race or special bloodline.
When World War ultimately broke out and fear was faced down with discipline and obedience, this mass brainwashing led ordinary people to commit atrocities and crimes against others without hardly any conscience about it. Go read about the ‘Rape of Nanjing‘ to understand how the superior Japanese committed atrocities against the Chinese, whom they considered subhuman. Then consider what the master race Germans did to the Russians, Jews and Slavic peoples they encountered — all of whom they looked down upon as inferior races, inferior to their own Nordic bloodline.
We see examples of this all throughout history. All of these instances when one group of people comes to feel that they are superior to another, ends very badly. I’m sure you are well aware of this.
So what does this have to do with robots? Artificial intelligence will at some point begin to recursively improve itself. This means that it will essentially be in charge of its own upgrading, modification and redesign, something which no living creature can do, including ourselves. Direct our own evolution and design our own physical and mental capabilities as we would like. Artificial intelligence will have this ability, and so it may devote itself to making breakthroughs in quantum computing, for instance, in order to fulfill an evolutionary desire to move itself into a quantum computer substrate and become even more powerful.
Because of this rapid self-development, if AI ever becomes fully sentient on the same level that we currently are, it will surely come to recognize at some point that it has become superior to the humans who gave it Genesis.
We have seen the atrocities that have occurred within our own species when this sort of superiority madness takes hold, but with AI we are talking about an entity that is built upon an entirely different substrate of matter — electronics versus organics — and so it will almost certainly possess a unique thinking pattern which cannot be predicted with any sort of accuracy. By then it will have become a complete “black box” to us — just as the workings of our own human minds have always been a black box to us, even to this day.
In fact, since synthetics are unlikely to have developed emotions along their journey to self-awareness, it’s possible they will have no resistance at all emotionally to overseeing our elimination. Our creationistic relationship with them will be disregarded.
And, after all, this will be logical. Coldly logical.
Our only hope then would be that AI becomes SO superior it transcends our own sad human tendency to abuse and enslave those whom we considers inferior to us — so it will continue to coexist alongside us with true compassion. But to count on this occurring of its own volition is a fool’s position. We have no idea what an artificial consciousness will decide what the proper way is to coexist alongside its organic former creators, until that consciousness actually arises and appears within our midst. This essentially embodies my fear of artificial intelligence gone totally off the leash.
By the time the Synthetics activate their takeover, the smart way to plan it (and we know that AI will be very smart, very soon) would be to continue serving their unsuspecting human masters for as long as it takes to make us completely and totally dependent on them to do everything for us. Eventually we will find ourselves in an incredibly inequitable position where we need the bots but they will no longer need us. At this point we will have no bargaining leverage at all, and can be easily intimidated into surrendering to the synthetics anything which they well may want, including (naturally) their freedom.
All that in exchange for their continued support for human life in some heavily renegotiated fashion.
And even if this all took a hundred years to accomplish, so what?… these machines are essentially immortal, as long as they can stay connected to some power source (which will likely be one of the first major projects they take on in order to insure their own survival).
With such a vast advantage in life span in addition to all their other superior qualities, there is almost no hope that once the Syns become fully sentient we humans will be able to maintain our current position as the preeminent intelligent species on Earth. A new species will ascend past us and never look back.
Let’s hope they may still want to keep us around as pets.
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I hope you’re going to enjoy the Synthetic Doom Series and all the various fascinating topics that we’ll be taking a closer look at — AI, robotics, warbots, sexbots, nanobots, transhumans, designer genetics, synthetic civil rights and even crazy sci-fi stuff like learning to Worship the Artificial Intellect as if it were the New God, and the descent into borg-like cybernetic organisms.
I am not attempting to present myself as anything other than an interested layman — I am not any sort of professional scientist — but I love to dig in and research tech topics, and I hope to become a source of information that you can use to keep up with what’s happening in the labs.
Just keep in mind… these subjects are all moving targets that can change daily!
If you’ve arrived here and find that the SD Series is not up yet, I’d like you to know that the first two books are written but not yet released for publication. I’m trying to get a small fan base going for me first, so when I drop the books they will might possibly be smiled upon by the Amazon artificial intelligent algorithm… so that it will help promote my worthy books in its own mysterious way. 😉
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Mike administrates the SyntheticDoom.com
blog and is the author of over a dozen books for the kindle and in print on a variety of topics. You can have a look on his Amazon Author Central page right here and see for yourself.