AI to End the Human Race?

You may have read one or more articles today about dire warnings from scientists about AI. This is because Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and others have signed an open letter detailing their concerns about the advancement of artificial intelligence technology.

If you read the letter, you will see that it is much along the lines of ‘lets be very careful what we use this for’ instead of the ‘oh god the machines will kill us!’ that I’m sure many articles will try to portray it as. This is to be expected, as the media profits from fear above all else.

Why do these things scare us, though? It is a common thread throughout science fiction: the creation destroys the creator. This is related in some part, I’m sure, to our constant fear of change and ‘the new’. But in this specific case, I think it is instead based on our unwillingness to consider our own mortality. Not as individuals, but as a species. Because the artificial intelligence that we one day create, may very well outlive the human race.

And I do not mean this in a the sense of a ‘robot uprising’ but based on the simple fact that our creations will be better suited to survive than us–because if they weren’t why else would we create them? We build robots to explore space, to travel to distant worlds, to endure things that we can’t ourselves endure. And technology allows us to improve them much, much faster than evolution can improve us.

I can see a day when our creations tour the stars, replicating and preparing worlds for us, doing all the things that we wish we could do ourselves. And all it would take is time, before humanity wanes and our children flourish without us.

And is that really something to fear? Do parents resent their children for progressing farther than they did, and try to hold them back? Maybe some parents do, but no one would call them good parents.

Good parents are proud of their children’s achievements, and are excited to see their children go where they always dreamed they could. And so should we be. If our artificial intelligences one day outlive us, out-perform us, and out-survive us, then I think that is something we should be proud of.


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