One of the scary things about AI is we don’t know what we don’t know. Some people talk about it as the panacea for human ills – controlling our environment to make it perfect for us to flourish as a species. The other end of the spectrum is a bit darker, where AI works out it doesn’t need us anymore (singularity) and we are either actively destroyed or just allowed to fade into extinction from the universe as so many other species.
They are depicted ranging from Azsimov's robots that cleanse the universe of intelligent life to protect the child like existence of humans, through to the Terminator franchise where they actively try and wipe out the competition.
Well, the folks from the Max-Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany have suggested that there are only three ways of preventing it from happening:
Develop code that ring fences what the AI can do, preventing it from happening. This is something at Turing suggested could be done in some circumstances, but the people at the Max-Planck have show that it cant be guratenteed to work.
Develop ethics in AI so they don’t want to do it. How well has ethics worked in protecting humans in the past? There are a few examples of warped ethics that have cost millions for lives! and
Don’t build really smart AI – why bother if it is not for the benefit of mankind. Applying this principle would see us still sitting in caves, banging rocks together and wondering if making fire is a good idea. We are by nature a growth driven species (unless we hit a constraint), and again there will always be someone that wants to look over the horizon to see that they can find.
Will we survive? Remember it is estimated that over 99% of species that ever existed are already extinct so the chances of it happening to us are pretty high. It isn’t clear how many of those contributed to their own downfall, we have had a few mass extinctions, and some scientists this we are having one now.
While this is still a theoretical discussion, we have built a doorway to destruction before. Then we opened it a crack to see what is on the other side. That was the Manhattan project that built the atomic bombs for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We have only used those two of the tens of thousands we now have across the nuclear powers.
Perhaps we can do it?