The danger of too much artificial intelligence

The danger of too much artificial intelligence

Gary Gocek, software engineer, 2015-02-03, @garygocek,

What would be worse: for humans to be wiped out by artificial intelligence, or relegated to a lower position on the food chain?

Microsoft's Bill Gates participated in a "Ask Me Anything" session on January 28 in which he related some concerns about machine super-intelligence. The general notion is, today's smart machines can learn, such as to become better and better at predicting the weather; what happens when they learn how to make smarter machines? Well, those evolved machines will be even better at making even smarter machines. If we humans don't figure out how to control that progression, machines will quickly become too smart for humans to understand.

There is a widespread belief that, unchecked, we'll see a self-evolving machine within several decades. Moshe Vardi, editor of Communications of the ACM (the leading computer-related professional society) wonders if artificial intelligence already destroys more jobs than it creates (CACM, July, 2013). They don't need to create art; they just need to be good at a lot of things, like answer phones and fly planes. Oh wait, they already do those things.

We can't talk about this enough. When billions of humans are using some resource needed by machines, and those machines are smarter and more physically capable than the humans, the machines will take control of that resource. Let's hope machines don't develop a taste for chocolate.

Given the imminence of the onslaught of the self-evolving machine, we might as well stop worrying about nuclear wars and drug-resistant bacteria.

The reincarnated "Battlestar Galactica" got it right; little green men won't kill us. Machines that evolved from human-built machines will kill us. Or, maybe the killers will be machines built by aliens, but the point is, it will be machines.

Then again, maybe they won't kill us. Maybe they'll love us, and do everything for us. There we'll be, standing around on street corners, smoking cigarettes, because that's all there is for us to do.

We software developers need to keep working to make the world a better place, but maybe, not too much better.