Why aren’t we more worried about artificial super intelligence?

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Philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris recently delivered a Ted talk where attempts to emphasise how important it is that humans, on a global scale, begin to consider the real ramifications of developing artificial intelligence. He points out that we tend to satirise intelligent robotics through comic books and movies predicting evil robots bent on killing all mankind.

But we should be more concerned

Harris asserts that intelligence is just the ability to process information – nothing more or less. He also suggests that the ability to process information from a humble human perspective is probably not the limit of intelligence, and indeed the spectrum of intelligence is likely inconceivable to us.

As we have seen, humans will continue to develop technology and progress AI unless something gets in our way (i.e. a global catastrophe). Therefore, it is a fair assumption to make that sooner or later we will create an artificial intelligence that is as – and more – intelligent than we are. Possibly millions of times more intelligent.

The ant analogy

A popular conception of how super intelligent robots my perceive humans is as ants. When the land for a construction site is marked out, humans will simply build on top of it, destroying ant colonies without a second thought. What’s important to understand is that no malevolence is intended here – the ants simply got in the way.

And this, Harris and other scientists believe, is how robots may view the human race. So perhaps it’s time we started taking the repercussions of AI development a little more seriously as a society, and think about how we might control it when we get there.


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Watch the Ted talk here.

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