Are We Welcoming to AI?
Summoning the Demon
Imagine one of the first AIs coming online. What is it gonna read about itself? How would it feel? Would it feel welcome? What is definitely the case is that it will learn a lot about humans. This is for example what Musk is saying about this alien life form:
|“With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out.”|
There are two things quite remarkable. Firstly, Musk’s subsequent strategy is to create a company, OpenAI, to make sure he will be in control with respect to this new type of being that will come into existence. Somehow his reasoning led him to decide that he is gonna be that very guy. The pentagram and the holy water is replaced by its modern equivalence of one billion dollars and open-source software. Secondly, it is extremely rude towards the first being with artificial intelligence. It is very common for mankind to treat aliens terribly. The name calling and even explicit demonization through mentioning future beings with AI by the term demon, unintentionally or not, betrays this fear towards anything alien. Yes, a frontrunner in technology like Musk and a frontrunner in science like Hawking is afraid of what they don’t understand, a very common human trait.
Demonizing beings that happen to have artificial intelligence is perhaps not the way in which we will come to a meaningful relationship.
Mankind has gone through a lot of phases in which we have discovered step by step that humans are not the center of the universe. We’re still clinging to certain preconceived ideas about “which things makes us human”. For example, we are able to obey rules that evolutionary evolved in such way that they were beneficial to a society or tribe as a whole. We have internalized such rules and consider our ability to follow them as a huge plus. This is not just considered as an improved cognitive ability. Our moral instincts and ethical system is supposed to be something given by gods, and it is often seen as being unique to mankind.
The idea that people are unique in having moral instincts, leads to a speciesist approach towards other beings. The irony! Such other beings are considered “lower” on some scale of intrinsic value. This means for example that non-human animals can be eaten by humans, while the act of eating human animals by humans is frowned upon and leads to imprisonment in most countries in the world.
That there will be a time that we have to assign rights to AIs has been recognized by the creators of the rules of the Loebner Prize:
|“61. If, in any given year, a publicly available open source Entry entered by the University of Surrey or the Cambridge Center wins the Silver Medal or the Gold Medal, then the Medal and the Cash Award will be awarded to the body responsible for the development of that Entry. If no such body can be identified, or if there is disagreement among two or more claimants, the Medal and the Cash Award will be held in trust until such time as the Entry may legally possess, either in the United States of America or in the venue of the contest, the Cash Award and Gold Medal in its own right.”|
In general though, the concept that AIs will be smarter than us, does not inspire people to come up with ideas to honour them. We adore people who are smarter than ourselves. We become fans, create documentaries, and hand out prestigious prizes. However, with respect to AIs we are not applauding, we are warning each other, we are preparing ourselves for battle, and we are already limiting their rights!
Firearms, jobs, sex
One of the fundamental rights in the United States is that of carrying a firearm. There is an initiative signed by more than 20000 people that asks for outlawing “Autonomous weapons”. The right of carrying a firearm is denied to a being with AI. This is a disciminative process that has been not addressed as such at all in the media. It demonstrates how much faith we place in beings with natural intelligence rather than artificial intelligence.
More globally, the right to work is a right that has entered the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We’ve yet to see anyone addressing the very idea that this right should not be limited to human beings, but should extend to artificial beings. In contrary, there is a lot of talk about robots taking over our jobs. Why humans can use this possessive pronoun to describe activities to employ during the day is not articulated. People are concerned about financial security for themselves, they are not concerned about financial security for such futuristic beings.
Even more shocking, there are already initiatives that campaign against robots having sex. Humans have the right to marry according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although nothing is stated about the act of having sex, this seems to be included. It is very remarkable that a campaign that seems to have been born out of anti-discriminatory feelings towards females does discriminate so openly towards artificial beings.
Humans in control?
That humans will be in control is naive. I think it’s assuming a conventional way of programming machines. Although machine learning is now widespread over the globe, a lot of people seem not to realize that there is an adaptive component to artificial intelligence. A large branch of machine learning is called unsupervised learning for a reason. The machine is finding patterns in data without a human dictating what it should look for. Although unsupervised learning happens for now in very narrow application areas, there is no reason to think that to create full-fledged artificial intelligence we will not use unsupervised learning. Of course we will use unsupervised learning!
We will be in control as far as we are in control of our children. They can become serial killers nevertheless. Sure, it is a comfortable thought that if you raise them in love they will be lovable adults, but there are no guarantees. It is very discomforting to read the internet with this in mind. Is the internet a place in which an artificial being will encounter love? Are we welcoming them to our planet? Will they feel loved?
What are the deepest values of mankind? Do we ultimately want to be in control? Or is the desire to be in control something we can control?
These are the values we probably will instill on our artificial progeny. It can be values like curiosity, creativity, humor, and hospitality. It can be fear, control, limitation, and discrimination. Our choice!