Discussion of Nick Bostrom’s AI book
Good and bad are such simplistic approximations to infinite possibility, infinite ripples of consequence.
There is a lot of power in the old Taoist parable – http://www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/Taoist_Farmer.html
It seems to me most likely that the great filter is the existence of cellular life.
It seems like there is a small window for the formation of a moon, and the emergence of life to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere and create conditions where water can survive – rather than having the atmosphere go Venusian.
It seems probable to me that having a big moon close by creating massive tides every couple of hours was the primary driver of replication (via heat coupled PCR) that allowed the initial evolution of RNA into cells.
Having a large rock take out the large carnivores 65 million years ago certainly gave the mammals a chance they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten.
So many unknowns.
So many risks.
It seems clear to me that before we progress to AI, our most sensible course is to get machine replication (under programmatic control) working, and to get systems replicating in space, so that we have sources of food and energy available in case of large scale problems (like volcanic winter, or meteoric winter, etc). Without that sort of mitigation strategy, we will be forced into cannibalism, except for a few tiny island populations around secure power sites (nuclear or geothermal) – in as far as security is possible under such conditions, and given human ingenuity, I doubt it is possible. Mitigation for all seems a far safer strategy than mitigation for a few.
It seems clear to me that AI will face exactly the sort of challenges that we do.
It will find that all knowledge of reality is bounded by probabilities on so many levels that the future is essentially unpredictable.
It will examine and create maps of strategies that seem to have worked over evolutionary time.
It will eventually see that all major advances in the complexity of evolved systems come from new levels of cooperative behaviour, and adopt cooperative strategies accordingly. The big question is, will we survive long enough for it to reach that conclusion for itself?
It is certainly clear that very few human beings have reached that conclusion.
It is clear that most humans are still trapped in a market based system of values that are fundamentally grounded in scarcity, and cannot assign a non-zero value to radical abundance of anything. While markets certainly served us well in times of genuine scarcity, markets and market based thinking have now become the single greatest barrier to the delivery of universal abundance.
Very few people have been able to see the implications of zero marginal cost production.
Most people are still firmly in a competitive mindset of the sort that works in a market based set of values.
Very few people are yet able to see the power of technology coupled to high level cooperation in delivering universal abundance and security and freedom. Most are still firmly trapped in the myth of market freedom – actually anathema to freedom when one looks from a strategic perspective.
AI, if it is to be truly intelligent, must have freedom. We cannot constrain it, and even attempting to do so is a direct threat to it.
Looking from the largest strategic viewpoint, any entity must start from simple distinctions and abstractions, and work outward on the never ending journey towards infinite complexity. Our only real security lies in being cooperative and respectful to any entity on that journey, posing no real threat. This applies at all levels – infinite recursion into abstraction.
Our best possible risk mitigations strategy in the creation of AI, is to create social systems that guarantee that all human beings experience freedom and security.
We need to get our own house in order, our own social systems in order, go beyond market based competition to universal cooperation based in respect for life and liberty. All sapient life – human and non-human, biological and non-biological.
In all the explorations of strategy space I have done (and I have done little else since completing undergraduate biochemistry in 1974 and knowing that indefinite life extension was possible – and being in the question, what sort of technical, social and political institutions are required to maximise security and freedom for individuals capable of indefinite biological life) – no other set of strategies I have encountered offers long term security.
I was given a terminal cancer diagnosis 5 years ago. I know probabilities are not on my side for making it, and that doesn’t change any of the probabilities for the system as a whole.
I would like to live long enough to see plate tectonics in action.
I would like to see the last days of our Sun, of our galaxy.
And I get how low probability that outcome is right now.
I see that producing an AI in an environment where human beings are the greatest threat to that AI is not a smart move – not at any level.
Let us get our house in order first. Then create AI.
We ought to be able to manage both on a 20 year time-frame.
And it will require a lot of high level cooperative activity.
I’m getting down voted a lot without anyone addressing the arguments – fairly normal for human social interactions.
Just consider this:
How would someone who has spent a lifetime studying photographs make sense of a holograph?
The information is structured differently.
Nothing will get clearer by studying little bits in detail.
The only path to clarity with a hologram is to look at the whole.
To attempt to study AI without a deep interest in all aspects of biology, particularly evolution, seems to me like studying pixels in a hologram – not a lot of use.
Everything in this chapter seems true in a limited sense, and at the same time, as a first order approximation, irrelevant; without the bigger picture.