By: Surya Teja Devaki

 

We’ve discovered that our universe is vastly grander than our ancestors imagined and that life seems to be an almost imperceptibly small perturbation on an otherwise dead universe. We’ve also discovered something inspiring, which is that the technology we’re developing has the potential to help life flourish like never before, not just for centuries but for billions of years, and not just on earth but throughout much of this amazing cosmos. I think of the earliest life as Life 1.0 because it was really dumb, like bacteria, unable to learn anything during its lifetime. I think of us humans as Life 2.0 because we can learn, which we in nerdy, “geek speak”, might think of as installing new software into our brains, like languages and job skills. Lastly, Life 3.0, which can design its software and its hardware, this, doesn’t exist yet.

Perhaps our technology has already made us Life 2.1 with our artificial knees, pacemakers, and cochlear implants. As an example, the Apollo 11 moon mission was both successful and inspiring, showing that when we humans use technology wisely, we can accomplish things that our ancestors could only dream of. Sure, we might still choose to have some human jobs or to give humans income and purpose with our jobs, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) will, in any case, transform life as we know it, with humans no longer being the most intelligent.

You know, I love technology. Technology is why today is better than the Stone Age and I’m optimistic that we can create a really inspiring high-tech future … if — and this is a big if — we win the wisdom race — the race between the growing power of our technology and the growing wisdom with which we manage it. One option that some of my AI colleagues like is building super intelligence and keeping it under human control, like an enslaved god, disconnected from the internet and used to create unimaginable technology and wealth for whoever controls it.

Humans should be cautious of creating AI systems because they can and creating AI systems because they should.  We need to step back, and craft the laws for AI systems similar to Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics [1]. (“Runaround” in 1942).  Since then, the conversation has begun regarding AI with a NY-Times op-ed[2] which attempts to start the conversation, sighted below, these are a start but needs further refinement.

  1. “An A.I. system must be subject to the full gamut of laws that apply to its human operator.
  2. An A.I. system must clearly disclose that it is not human.
  3. An A.I. system cannot retain or disclose confidential information without explicit approval from the source of that information.”

In summary, our situation with technology is complicated, but the big picture is rather simple. We can either be complacent about our future, taking as an article of blind faith that any new technology is guaranteed to be beneficial and just repeat that to ourselves as a mantra over and over and over again as we drift like a rudderless ship towards our own obsolescence. Otherwise, we can be ambitious, thinking hard about how to steer our technology and where we want to go with it to create the age of amazement. We’re all here to celebrate the new era of amazement, and I feel that its essence should lie in becoming not overpowered but empowered by our technology.