It’s Already Too Late to Stop the Singularity – Big Think

Posted: February 12, 2017 at 6:41 am

Ben Goertzel: Some people are gravely worried about the uncertainty and the negative potential associated with transhuman, superhuman AGI. And indeed we are stepping into a great unknown realm.

Its almost like a Rorschach type of thing really. I mean we fundamentally dont know what a superhuman AI is going to do and thats the truth of it, right. And then if you tend to be an optimist you will focus on the good possibilities. If you tend to be a worried person whos pessimistic youll focus on the bad possibilities. If you tend to be a Hollywood movie maker you focus on scary possibilities maybe with a happy ending because thats what sells movies. We dont know whats going to happen.

I do think however this is the situation humanity has been in for a very long time. When the cavemen stepped out of their caves and began agriculture we really had no idea that was going to lead to cities and space flight and so forth. And when the first early humans created language to carry out simple communication about the moose they had just killed over there they did not envision Facebook, differential calculus and MC Hammer and all the rest, right. I mean theres so much that has come about out of early inventions which humans couldnt have ever foreseen. And I think were just in the same situation. I mean the invention of language or civilization could have led to everyones death, right. And in a way it still could. And the creation of superhuman AI it could kill everyone and I dont want it to. Almost none of us do.

Of course the way we got to this point as a species and a culture has been to keep doing amazing new things that we didnt fully understand. And thats what were going to keep on doing. Nick Bostroms book was influential but I felt that in some ways it was a bit deceptive the way he phrased things. If you read his precise philosophical arguments which are very logically drawn what Bostrom says in his book, Superintelligence, is that we cannot rule out the possibility that a superintelligence will do some very bad things. And thats true. On the other hand some of the associated rhetoric makes it sound like its very likely a superintelligence will do these bad things. And if you follow his philosophical arguments closely he doesnt show that. What he just shows is that you cant rule it out and we dont know whats going on.

I dont think Nick Bostrom or anyone else is going to stop the human race from developing advanced AI because its a source of tremendous intellectual curiosity but also of tremendous economic advantage. So if lets say President Trump decided to ban artificial intelligence research I dont think hes going to but suppose he did. China will keep doing artificial intelligence research. If U.S. and China ban it, you know, Africa will do it. Everywhere around the world has AI textbooks and computers. And everyone now knows you can make peoples lives better and make money from developing more advanced AI. So theres no possibility in practice to halt AI development. What we can do is try to direct it in the most beneficial direction according to our best judgment. And thats part of what leads me to pursue AGI via an open source project such as OpenCog. I respect very much what Google, Baidu, Facebook, Microsoft and these other big companies are doing in AI. Theres many good people there doing good research and with good hearted motivations. But I guess Im enough of an old leftist raised by socialists and I sort of Im skeptical that a company whose main motive is to maximize shareholder value is really going to do the best thing for the human race if they create a human level AI.

I mean they might. On the other hand theres a lot of other motivations there and a public company in the end has a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders. All in all I think the odds are better if AI is developed in a way that is owned by the whole human race and can be developed by all of humanity for its own good. And open source software is sort of the closest approximation that we have to that now. So our aspiration is to grow OpenCog into sort of the Linux of AGI and have people all around the world developing it to serve their own local needs and putting their own values and understanding into it as it becomes more and more intelligent.

Certainly this doesnt give us any guarantee. We can observe things like Linux has fewer bugs than Windows or OSX and its open source. So more eyeballs on something sometimes can make it more reliable. But theres no solid guarantee that making an AGI open source will make the singularity come out well. But my gut feel is that theres enough hard problems with creating a superhuman AI and having it respect human values and have a relationship of empathy with people as it grows. Theres enough problems there without the young AGI getting wrapped up in competition of country versus country and company versus company and internal politics within companies or militaries. I feel like we dont want to add these problems of sort of human slash primate social status competition dynamics. We dont want to add those problems into the challenges that are faced in AGI development.

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It's Already Too Late to Stop the Singularity - Big Think

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