Vanity Fair describes a meeting between Elon Musk and Demis Hassabis, a leading creator of advanced artificial intelligence, which likely propelled Musk’s alarm about AI:
Musk explained that his ultimate goal at SpaceX was the most important project in the world: interplanetary colonization.
Hassabis replied that, in fact, he was working on the most important project in the world: developing artificial super-intelligence. Musk countered that this was one reason we needed to colonize Mars—so that we’ll have a bolt-hole if A.I. goes rogue and turns on humanity. Amused, Hassabis said that A.I. would simply follow humans to Mars.
This did nothing to soothe Musk’s anxieties (even though he says there are scenarios where A.I. wouldn’t follow).
Mostly about Musk, the article is replete with Crisis of Control tropes that are now playing out in the real world far sooner than even I had thought likely. Musk favors opening AI development and getting to super-AI before government or “tech elites” – even when the elites are Google or Facebook.
IBM will build quantum computers “millions of times faster than anything before.” Classic cryptography will become inadequate to protect information against these devices.
The European Parliament has proposed standards – and rights – for autonomous robots:
…whereas, ultimately, robots’ autonomy raises the question of their nature in the light of the existing legal categories – of whether they should be regarded as natural persons, legal persons, animals or objects – or whether a new category should be created, with its own specific features and implications as regards the attribution of rights and duties, including liability for damage;
Including a legal definition of and system of registration for advanced autonomous robots; a code of conduct for engineers covering the ethical design, production, and use of robots; requirements for companies to report the contributions of robots and AI to financial results for purposes of taxation and social security contributions; and insurance plans for companies to cover damage caused by their robots.
Another speaker talking of a cusp is Maurice Conti, in this TEDx talk about the incredible advances of AI in making intuitive leaps. Bonus points for Star Trek analogy 🙂 Is AI about to progress from Spock to Kirk? Watch this video and see designs that could never have been achieved by humans alone.
The New York Times writes
…increasingly, [the smartest people in AI] are also in China. The United States no longer has a strategic monopoly on the technology, which is widely seen as the key factor in the next generation of warfare.
AI classes at Stanford are assiduously attended by Chinese citizens, including government employees. The picture is of the Chinese-designed multicore processor of the Sunway TaihuLight, the world’s fastest supercomputer. And Silicon Valley companies now do not want to assist the Pentagon for fear of losing access to the Chinese market after Edward Snowden revealed the extent of surveillance.
Plenty of alarmist tone to be had there, if you’re concerned about what Chinese long-term military strategy may be. Is there an up side?
The first book in the Human Cusp series has just been published: Crisis of Control: How Artificial Superintelligences May Destroy or Save the Human Race. Paperback will be available within two weeks.
Many thanks to my reviewers, friends, and especially my publisher, Jim Gifford, who has made this so beautiful. As a vehicle for delivering my message, I could not have asked him for more.
The Guardian exposes some contradictory thinking on the progress of job automation:
Many of us recognize robotic automation as an inevitably disruptive force. However, in a classic example of optimism bias, while approximately two-thirds of Americans believe that robots will inevitably perform most of the work currently done by human beings during the next 50 years, about 80% also believe their current jobs will either “definitely” or “probably” exist in their current form within the same timeframe.
Somehow, we believe our livelihoods will be safe. They’re not: every commercial sector will be affected by robotic automation in the next several years.
Preceded by Barack Obama’s commentary on the employment impact, here is a video of a test run by an autonomous 18-wheeler. In the view from the cab, the reporter needles the human truck driver who got it started:
So you’ve been replaced by three LIDARs, a CPS, a camera, and a radar?
The driver managed a tight grin, nuance that the truck is currently incapable of.
This video from the dashcam of a Tesla in the Netherlands demonstrates the ability of a Tesla to take protective action that a human could not, by being able to see in front of the car it is following.
“What is most impressive is that fact that we can clearly hear the Forward Collision Warning alert before the lead vehicle even applied the brake, which shows that the Autopilot wasn’t only using the lead vehicle to plan the path, but also the vehicle in front of it – the black SUV.
“The driver of the Tesla also reported that Autopilot started braking before he could apply the brakes himself.”
The provocatively-titled 1989 book “Are You a Transhuman?” by the even more provocatively-named author “FM-2030” says:
The American presidency is slowly evolving into a ceremonial position–like the monarchies in West European countries. By the second or third decade of the new century presidential elections in the U.S. will probably have about as much significance as today’s Academy Awards. Thanks to national television presidential elections will probably grow more glitzy–but they will have less and less substance.
I think we could find much to agree with there. He goes on to attribute this waning of significance to an anticipated flourishing of electronic voting on issues (referenda), which is technologically feasible, but unappealing to those holding power.
FM-2030 was born Fereidoun M. Esfandiary but changed his name to reflect his belief that by the year 2030 humanity would have undergone a radical transformation. Human Cusp isn’t foundationally transhumanist, but does suggest a strategy that is undeniably transhuman.