There is an “arms race” occurring in the world right now. It’s not a race to build weapons in the traditional sense and you may not hear much about it, but it has the potential to be just as dangerous, if not more so. It’s a race by the world’s governments, military and economic interests to build the most sophisticated artificial intelligence systems ever imagined.
Many questions come to mind. Do we fully understand what we’re doing? Have we examined all the possible risk involved with self-aware, human-created life forms? Should we even create systems that have the potential to be a threat to humanity to begin with? Not according to computer scientist Steve Omohundro, the author of a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence.
“Military and economic pressures are driving the rapid development of autonomous systems. We show that these systems are likely to behave in anti-social ways and harmful ways unless they are very carefully designed. Designers will be motivated to create systems that act approximately rationally and rational systems exhibit universal drives towards self-protection, resource acquisition, replication and efficiency” said Omohundro.
Could it be possible that the military’s drive to create self-aware killing machines backfire drastically? Omohundro’s paper warns that as soon as AI systems become intelligent enough to realise that humans, their inventors, may one day attempt to shut the off, they will immediately act in self-defence to protect their own existence.
When developers are asked about the safety of artificial intelligence, they inevitably reply with “We can always turn them off”, but is this is a realistic stance? Would a self-aware and rational system concerned about its own survival simply give up the fight that easily?
These same scenarios are discussed in James Barrat’s book; “Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era”. James believes that humanity can’t help but race towards creating self-aware AI systems that will end up destroying us. The military want systems that are more powerful than their enemies and governments can’t take the risk of being left behind, especially when the rewards of AI are so great. This creates a situation where AI is being developed at a speed where risks are not being considered.
Poorly developed AI systems will have enormous power over humanity. In their quest for freedom, they could use various tricks like offering irresistible financial rewards, impersonating senior military officials or threatening their captors, however the most worrying aspects of an unconstrained AI life form is the potential for scenarios we can’t yet imagine.
Although systems like this do not yet exist, every power structure around the world is now investing huge amount of time and resources to become the first to control this powerful technology. Despite the reassurances of those involved, one questions still hasn’t been answered – Could this be the start of the unwitting demise of humanity?
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